India Promises Nuke Biz With Us To Push 123 Deal

Times of India Mumbai | Sep 20, 2008

William Burns

New Delhi: As the Indo-US nuclear deal goes into its last lap in the US Congress, India is doing its bit to sweeten its passage.

“The Indian government has provided the US with a strong Letter of Intent, stating its intention to purchase reactors with at least 10,000 MWe worth of new power generation capacity from US firms. India has committed to devote at least two sites to US firms,” said William Burns, US undersecretary for political affairs.

Burns emphasised the cost to US firms if the Congress did not expeditiously clear the deal. Given an economic crisis in the US, this, the administration reckons, would be a powerful incentive for a quick passage. “International competition will, inevitably, be intense and we want to avoid exposing US firms to any unnecessary delays,” Burns said.

India’s preliminary negotiations was stated by the foreign ministry last week, when it said it had started talks with US, French and Russian firms on sourcing nuclear power or buying nuclear reactors.

Burns also revealed that India will adhere to the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage. This is an internationally recognised convention and it is a prerequisite for the participation of foreign nuclear firms in India.

Making a strong case for the nuclear deal as being an attractive economic package for the US, Burns said, “This will open up trade and investment opportunities for US firms in the multi-billion dollar Indian nuclear energy sector for the first time in over three decades. Meeting India’s demand for civilian nuclear technology, fuel, and support services holds the promise of substantial new business for the American nuclear industry, which will translate into new jobs and export income for the US.”

However, Burns was equally candid that the deal would be off if India tested another nuclear weapon. “We have been asked what would happen if India conducts a nuclear test, and the short answer is that while India maintains a sovereign right to test, we most certainly maintain a sovereign right to respond,” he said.