India's decision to sign the Convention on Supplementary Compensation -- which sets parameters on a nuclear operator's financial liability -- is 'a very positive step', according to Under Secretary of State William Burns.
According to sources, during his visit to New Delhi last week, Burns had prevailed upon India to sign the CSC to alleviate the angst of US business and industry over provisions in the Nuclear Liability Bill.
Burns, who along with other senior administration officials briefed reporters at the White House on President Barack Obama's itinerary in India, said India's signing of this Convention "is a very positive step toward ensuring that international standards apply and that US companies are going to have a level playing field on which to compete."
He noted, "The civilian nuclear agreement that was completed at the end of the last administration removed the single biggest irritant in our relationship and opened the door to wider cooperation."
"We've worked hard in this administration to follow through, completing, for example, a reprocessing agreement between the US and India six months ahead of schedule," he said.
Asked how the signing of this convention would alleviate the apprehensions of American companies intending to invest in India's nuclear energy market, Burns reiterated that the signing of the CSC was essentially a good faith effort by India since it "is the basic international standard involving this kind of cooperation."
Burns also indicated that the contentious issue of DRDO and ISRO still figuring on the Entities List is likely be sorted out soon. According to sources, Obama is likely to make an announcement in this regard during his India visit.
"That's one of the subjects we're talking about in the broad category of export controls, and we've had quite intensive discussions with the Indians about that," Burns said, and added, "So we'll see where we get."
The CSC provides for compensation in case of trans-national implications of a nuclear accident and has been signed by 14 countries, which now includes India. Only four countries -- the US, Argentina, Morocco and Romania -- have ratified the convention so far.
Upon entry into force, the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage would establish a uniform global legal regime for compensation to victims in the unlikely event of a nuclear accident.
The CSC also provides for the establishment of an international fund to increase the amount available to compensate victims and allows for compensating civil damage occurring within a state's exclusive economic zone.
The Convention also sets parameters on a nuclear operator's financial liability, time limits governing possible legal action, requires that nuclear operators maintain insurance or other financial security measures and provides for a single competent court to hear claims.
According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, all states are free to participate in the convention regardless of their involvement in existing nuclear liability conventions or the presence of nuclear installations on their territories.
Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communication Ben Rhodes, who was present at the briefing, said, "We believe that we have shared interests with India on a broad range of issues, but we also have shared values, because we're two democracies. And the kind of relationship that we have as the world's two largest democracies is relevant to our ability to have a deep, bilateral partnership, but also to work together in the region and around the world."
He pointed out that "each of the countries we are visiting are democracies and close friends with the United States. Indonesia, an emerging democracy, and then Japan and South Korea, of course, being longstanding, close allies of the United States, and I think it speaks to the strength of democracy in Asia."