'India will have to work within its laws,' PM tells Obama on Nuclear Liability law

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Bali:  At an hour-long meeting with US President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stood firm on the contentious issue of India's nuclear liability rules.

"I explained to President Obama that we have a law in place and the rules have been formulated. These will lie in Parliament for 30 days. Therefore, we have gone some way to respond to concerns of American companies and within the four corners of the law of the land, we are willing to address any specific grievances," Dr Singh told reporters after the meeting. The two leaders met on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Bali.

Ahead of the PM-Obama meet, Government sources said India's rules may not address US concerns, but the US has to accept that Indian law will apply and that the Indian government has to address the concerns of a post-Fukushima reality and protect the rights of its citizens. (Live Blog)

Under the new rules, ordinary citizens can sue for any amount, even several years after an accident. But in a concession that could please Washington and has upset the Opposition at home, if the operator of a nuclear facility wants to claim damages from a supplier, there is a cap of  Rs. 1500 crore and a five-year limit from the date of the accident. This clause kicks in only if the supplier agrees to liability in a written contract. "This is definitely a very serious dilution in the sense that it absolves the supplier of any such responsibility beyond the initial period of five years", said the Left's Sitaram Yechury.

At a photo-op just ahead of today's meeting, the two leaders made opening remarks on the Indo-US relationship. "The two sides are working together on a multiplicity of issues. There are no irritants whatsoever in the Indo-US relations," said Dr Singh. "This is an outstanding occasion to discuss how we can work together not only bilaterally but also at a multilateral level," added President Obama.

PM meets Wen

Also on Dr Singh's agenda today was a meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

The issue of sovereignty over the South China Sea should be resolved under international law, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told his Chinese counterpart.

Dr Singh, who brought up the issue during a 55-minute meeting with the Chinese Premier, said India's decision to explore for oil in the South China Sea was "purely commercial".

China has been angered by a recent pact between India and Vietnam on oil exploration. Several south-east Asian nations including Vietnam are in a dispute with China over who has rights in these waters. But India is stressing on the freedom of navigation and right to passage in these waters.

The two sides agreed on the need for working together as there was "enough space" and areas for them to work together for mutual benefit.

"We are neighbours and also large growing economies of Asia. We should cooperate bilaterally and globally," said Dr Singh. Adding to the Prime Minister's point, the Chinese Premier said the two countries should work "hand-in-hand" to ensure that the 21st Century belongs to Asia.

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