India agrees to sign n-damages pact
New Delhi October 27:
India will sign the international agreement on nuclear damages, the Convention on Supplementary Compensation (CSC) for Nuclear Damage, on Wednesday. The Manmohan Singh government has informed the IAEA that it's ready for a signature, which will be done by Dinkar Khullar, India's envoy in Vienna.
The accession to the CSC is being seen as the last Indian commitment for the India-US nuclear deal to be ready for commercial agreements. It was part of a promise India had made to the US in September 2008. Though India had said it would sign on, the US had stepped up the demand for India's accession after India's nuclear liability law left US companies deeply unsatisfied.
India will be the 14th country to sign on to the CSC, and when it ratifies it, one of a handful. Along with the signature, India will also provide the IAEA with a list of reactors it plans to bring under the CSC. The treaty will take many years to come into force, because it will need 400 GW of nuclear power within its ambit, which is a long way away.
The US insisted the Indian law was non-compliant with the CSC, while India insisted it was compliant. But the US, which at one time, threatened that its companies would not participate in the Indian nuclear industry, then agreed that their companies' liability would be "managed" if India signed on to the international agreement. Indian officials maintained this had been India's intention all along.
But with the signing of the CSC, India can smooth away a deep wrinkle in bilateral ties with the US. President Barack Obama can rightfully proclaim the start of a nuclear relationship with India, which will provide jobs to Americans, a prime focus of his India visit. For its part, India can avoid being seen as "ungrateful" after all the heavy lifting by the US on the nuclear deal.
Accession to the CSC has been built into the Indian liability law, because it is the second tier of compensation in case of nuclear damage. Indian officials said India had long meant to sign on to the CSC, because of the element of cross-border damage that could happen from nuclear incidents in places like, say Kudankulam, which is very close to Sri Lanka.