India and United States will walk the talk on Sunday, says Sheela Bhatt/Rediff.com, with nuclear power, clean energy technology and renewing the Defence Trade and Technology Initiative on the table amongst other issues.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and United States President Barack Obama will meet on Sunday, January 25, at Hyderabad House a few hours after the American leader's arrival in New Delhi.
A day later, Obama will attend the Republic Day parade as chief guest, the first time an American president has done so.
According to government sources, Modi wants to make January 25 as memorable as July 18, 2005, when then prime minister Manmohan Singh and then US president George Bush agreed on the framework for the India-US nuclear agreement under which India, for the first time, agreed to separate its civil and military nuclear facilities.
India, also, agreed to place its civil nuclear establishments under the International Atomic Energy Agency.
In the last six years, the momentum to exploit the huge opportunity in the field of nuclear-reactor based energy has been wasted due to multiple reasons. One serious impediment has been the issue of liability on the part of the supplier of nuclear reactors.
Speaking about Modi’s broad approach to Obama’s visit, an important government official, who is overseeing the final prints of India-US bilateral diplomacy, told Rediff.com, “Modi is applying the same (aggressive and solution-oriented) approach to diplomatic relations which he applies in domestic politics.”
What the senior diplomat means is that Modi wants to remove the deadlock in nuclear energy and make things work to get investments, technology and ultimately impact the Indian economy. In domestic politics and in international diplomacy working for economic growth is the ultimate aim, adds the diplomat.
Unlike the Russians, multinational corporations of the American nuclear industry are wary of the liability clause under India's Civil Liability Nuclear Damage Act, 2010. The Act was passed by Parliament after much debate and resistance by the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left parties.
These parties had insisted the addition of a few clauses that made it tougher for suppliers to get away from liability in case of a nuclear accident. The issue of the Bhopal gas tragedy was a dominant factor, justifiably, on the minds of Indian lawmakers.
The deadlock, created due to the tough clauses, didn’t allow the then Congress-led government to exploit the diplomatic gains of getting an India-specific waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group. According to sources, Modi is determined to solve this issue without any political cost.
Modi has been monitoring closely the search for a solution to end the deadlock over the issue. The India-US Contact Group on nuclear cooperation met recently in London.
India wants the inflow of American investment in building nuclear-power based reactors. The Obama visit will ensure the display of political resolve from both sides. Along with lots of hype, the aim is to inject political resolve to put matters on the fast-track.
A former Indian ambassador, who has played a key role in enhancing the India-US relationship, speaking on condition that he would not be identified by name for this report, said, “This