FICCI Bats for Nuclear Liability Bill to Win 'Next Frontier'

By Arun Kumar

Washington, March 21 (IANS) Calling nuclear power as the "next frontier" where investments in India will come, the FICCI chief hopes the controversial civil nuclear liability bill goes through Indian parliament to bring in more foreign companies.

"Issue is India is power starved," Rajan Bharti Mittal, president of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), said in an interaction here with select media. "Our power needs are only growing and over a period of time that will become unmanageable."

The US companies "also look forward to how this civil nuclear liability bill goes through, because that's the next frontier where investments in India will come", the head of India's largest apex business organisation said.

Asked to comment on left critics suggestion that the nuclear liability bill would amount to subsidising US companies, Mittal pointed out that while the Indian bill set the limit at about $100 million, even in China it comes to some $20 odd million.

"I don't get into what should be the liability amount, that's for the government to decide," he said. "And it's not only for US it's going to be universal for everybody," Mittal said noting that India had already signed nuclear deals with France and Russia.

"Everybody is going to build reactors. From a nuclear power point of view India could be vastly ahead," he said. "That's the bottom line now," Mittal said hoping that the "government will find a way to mange all the constituents".

Asked if the US companies were disappointed at the delay in the passage of the bill, Mittal said: "They understand India's issues, and they realise in a democracy they have to be careful. Yet they know that once it goes thorough it's a long-term proposition."

"India is just out of the cusp. It's not that they are far behind in that sense and they know there will be a long-term solution," he said noting the US had pushed the nuclear power agenda very strongly. "They may feel they are left a little behind but I am sure things will settle."

Defence could be another area of enhanced cooperation between India and the US as India now sits on the high table as far as defence spending is concerned, he said noting the industry is now seeking manufacturing, which is not allowed as per policy now.

At last week's meeting of the India-US High Technology Cooperation Group (HTCG) here "good work has started, but a definitive position has not been taken," Mittal said expecting the build up to start happening when President Barack Obama visits India later this year. "Probably there would be another round of discussion before the president goes."

On the issue of technology transfer, the Indian side had pushed for removal of Indian companies from the barred entity list. While there was such a close alliance that the two nations were launching satellite together, many companies including government owned were on the entity list, he said. "That needs to be corrected."

"They need to take a more pragmatic view. If Indian companies can move out of that list, I think there is enough technology transfer that can take place and enhance the industry output."

The discussions at HTCG have been fruitful and healthy, "but next steps need to be boldly taken on transfer of technology, especially dual use technology," Mittal said. "We have pushed our case, but I think it needs a little more political will to take this forward."



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