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There are no irritants in ties with US: Dr Singh

By Saisuresh Sivaswamy
Last updated on: November 18, 2011 11:27 IST
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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President Barack Obama met at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Bali on Friday and declared their intention to push the Indo-US cooperation both at bilateral and at multilateral forums.

Dr Singh and Obama, who met on the sidelines of ASEAN and East Asia Summits, talked about strengthening the bonds of strategic ties put in place during the historic visit of the US President to India in November last year.

Recalling the "historic visit" of Obama to India during the same time last year, Dr Singh said, "In the last one year, we have made progress in every direction, strengthening our bilateral cooperation -- in the economy, investment, trade, in the field of higher education, in the field of clean energy, and strategy and defence relations."

"Today, there are no irritants whatsoever in our working together on a multiplicity of areas, both bilateral and regional, and global issues. It is a privilege for India to find you (Obama) and your administration as deeply invested in ensuring that India makes a success of its historic journey to have the social and economic transformation carried out in the framework of an open society, a democratic polity, committed to the rule of law, and respect for full human freedoms."

Dr Singh, who is meeting Obama for the first time after the US president's trip to India last November, noted "we have strengthened in many ways the path set out during the historic visit, whether it's civil nuclear cooperation, whether it's humanitarian relief, in disaster management, or maritime security, all the issues which unite us in our quest for a world free from war."

Both leaders were accompanied by their top officials. Dr Singh had National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon and others by his side while Obama was accompanied by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others.

Their inability to meet despite being present on the same fora had led to the speculation that there has been a cooling off in ties. However, senior officials in the government of India rubbished such reports and said that things were just fine.

The vexed nuclear deal between the two nations, stuck over what each side perceives to be unreasonableness on the part of the other, figured in the talks.

Emerging out of his parleys, Dr Singh said he explained to Obama the law of the land on liability issue regarding the civil nuclear deal.

"I explained to him that we have a law in place. Rules have been formulated. These rules will lie before our Parliament for 30 days. Therefore, we have gone some way to respond to the concerns of American companies and within the four corners of the law of the land we are ready to address any specific grievances," Dr Singh told media persons after his meeting with Obama.

In his opening remarks, the US president recolelcted his "extraordinary" trip to India during which the two sides strengthened the bonds of friendship, commercial links and security cooperation.

"Last year around this time, I embarked on what was an extraordinary trip to India, in which we continued to strengthen the bonds, both commercial, on the security side, and strategic between the world's two largest democracies. And since that time, we have continued to make progress on a wide range of issues," he said 

He further said, "The bonds between our countries are not just at the leadership level, but they are, obviously, at the person-to-person level given the extraordinary contributions of Indian Americans to our culture, our politics, and our economy."

"This will be a outstanding opportunity for us to continue to explore how we can work together, not only on bilateral issues but also in multilateral fora, like the East Asia Summit, which we believe can be the premiere arena for us to be able to work together on a wide range of issues, such as maritime security or non-proliferation, as well as expanding the kind of cooperation on disaster relief and humanitarian aid that's so important."

The two leaders exchanged pleasantries while expressing immense happiness on meeting each other once again.

Among the issues expected to be discussed was the implementation of civil nuclear deal against the backdrop of apprehensions among American companies over the liability aspect.

Ahead of the meeting, India asserted that its domestic laws with regard to nuclear liability and compensation will have to prevail and any contention otherwise would not be realistic after the Fukushima incident.

The sources said the rules should address concerns that any foreign company could have as these make it clear that liability cannot be unlimited or unending.

They underlined that law of the land will have to apply and the notification of the rules only clarifies the situation with regard to payment of compensation to victims in the case of a nuclear accident without waiting for the legal procedures to come into play.

The rules make it clear that a supplier will be liable in the case of a mishap on account of faulty material but the liability cannot be unlimited and for an unending period.

Noting that these rules deal with the contract with regard to liability, the sources said that to the extent that these do not permit unlimited and unending liability, it "addresses the concerns" that any foreign company might have.

"We don't see it putting obstacles in the path of doing (nuclear) business in India," an official source said while referring to the provision on supplier liability, taken in the context of Clause 17(a) of the Civil Nuclear Liability Act.

The sources noted that foreign companies were already happily engaged in nuclear business in India within the ambit of existing laws and if they have no problem, the new players should also have no difficulties.

After Obama, Dr Singh met Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Additional Inputs: Agencies


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