During Hillary Clinton's India visit, nuclear power is front and center
With Secretary of State Clinton in India this week, the US and India are attempting to make up for decades of estrangement. However, disagreements about a 2005 nuclear deal threaten progress.
A high-level US delegation led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is visiting India this week to hammer out details on a big list of joint efforts, pushing onward despite troubles with one deal that once was at the center of India-US ties.Skip to next paragraph
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Such a downpour of reports on different topics – ranging from counterterrorism to building e-governance software to training farmers in Africa – came during Ms. Clinton’s two-and-a-half hour meeting with Foreign Secretary S. M. Krishna that “it felt like we were in a monsoon,” she told reporters.
The US and India are making up for decades of estrangement by undertaking initiatives across many departments of the two governments. However, the landmark deal that started the new era of friendship – the civil nuclear deal of 2005 – has become a source of discord that has dampened some of the enthusiasm surrounding closer bilateral relations.
“The Americans have reasons to be peeved about how this worked out,” says Ashley Tellis, one of the US negotiators on the nuclear deal. “But the broader trend toward a deepening relationship will continue.”
Civil nuclear deal
Because of its off-limits status within nuclear industry after testing nuclear weapons in 1998, India could not turn to foreign companies to help expand its nuclear power sector in the face of massive energy needs. The deal with the US, struck in 2005, was meant to open India to foreign investment in its nuclear power sector.
The US had offered to ease international restrictions on nuclear trade with India in an effort to draw the two countries closer together and find a market for the US nuclear industry.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and then-President George W. Bush struck the deal, heralding a new era of US-India relations after decades of a cold war frost. However, the deal barely made it through India’s Parliament, which eventually insisted that foreign suppliers of nuclear technology share liability in the case of a nuclear mishap. US nuclear firms, in turn, have been unwilling to come to India under that liability law.
So India has looked to lure European vendors, instead.
Did the US go back on a deal?
Enter a recent meeting of the international Nuclear Suppliers Group.