More than a year after Indo-US civilian nuclear deal was signed, a Congressional report has said that several steps, including submission of required certifications by President Barack Obama, remain to be taken by both the countries before American companies can begin nuclear trade with New Delhi.
The delay in the beginning of the nuclear trade between the two countries is causing a lot of anxiety among the US companies -- which played a key role in its passage by the Congress -- and also the US lawmakers, to whom the deal was sold as the one, which would bring in economic gains to the US.
"New Delhi announced on October 16, 2009, the specific sites that it has designated for US-supplied reactors. However, several steps remain before US companies begin nuclear trade with India," said the report titled 'US Nuclear Cooperation With India: issues for Congress' by the Congressional Research Service (CRS).
Congressional Research Service is the independent bipartisan research wing of the US Congress, which prepares periodic reports on issues of interest to US lawmakers. A copy of the report dated November 5 by Paul K Kerr, analyst in non-proliferation has been obtained by the PTI.
According to the report, the civilian nuclear act requires that, before the licenses can be issued for nuclear exports to India, the US President must determine and certify to the Congress that New Delhi's IAEA safeguards agreement has entered into force.
It also requires that India's declaration of its nuclear facilities to the agency 'is not materially inconsistent with the facilities and schedule' described in a separation plan that New Delhi has provided to Washington.
India signed its safeguards agreement February 2, 2009, and it entered into force May 11, 2009. New Delhi filed the declaration with the IAEA in October.
"The President, however, has not submitted the required certifications to Congress," the 43-page report said.
"Furthermore, US firms will likely be very reluctant to engage in nuclear trade with India if the government does not become party to the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, which has not yet entered into force. India also is reportedly insisting that New Delhi and Washington conclude an agreement on a reprocessing facility in India before New Delhi signs contracts with US nuclear firms," it said.
The two counties are in advance stage if finalising the agreement and it could be announced during the State visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh later this month.
The CRS report says New Delhi has not yet indicated when it plans to become party to the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC), which was promised by India in September 2008.
India's decision to become a party to the convention is, according to the State Department, "an important step in ensuring that US nuclear firms can compete on a level playing field with other international competitors" because many other countries' nuclear firms "have other liability protections afforded to them by their governments."
US firms could engage in nuclear trade with India without the CSC's protections, but would likely be very reluctant to do so, the report said, adding the convention has not yet entered into force.