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Modi, Obama bilateral meet to precede Republic Day parade

US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi are going to have their second bilateral meeting on January 25 that will see both leaders taking head on some of priority areas in the ties from trade to terrorism. It is likely that the stalled civil nuclear deal might see some movement this time.  

The meeting, which is scheduled to take place for about an hour and a half, is expected to move the stalled civil nuclear cooperation agreement forward that was signed in 2008. 

The contact group on advancing the implementation of the pact, which was established during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to US, had their first meeting this month. It is going to meet again early next month to take stock of the progress made before US President lands here. 

“Some mechanism will be worked this time out within our parameters,” a senior official, involved in the talks, told Business Standard. The official said the deal is stuck between both parties on matters related to “monetizing the pact”. 

The deal, which is also known as 123-agreement bill, had been stuck ever since it was signed because US had reservations about India’s Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage (CLND) Act of 2010. 

Large conglomerates such as GE-Hitachi and Toshiba’s Westinghouse Electric Company, which are eyeing the deal with state-run Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL), are trying to smoothen out the differences and trying to “arrive at a solution,” said another official. 

The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage (CLND) Act of 2010 stipulates that if ever an accident occurs at the nuclear power plants the equipment suppliers will be liable to cover the damages for a period of five years. As a result, the companies have shied away from making any large scale investments. 

But, according to the official, the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) is working an insurance plan that will give the companies some leeway. But the firms are also apprehensive of the fact that since this will be major change in their business strategy it should not hamper their other global business units. 

Apparently, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has also sought a list of pending items from the Ministry of the Commerce and Industry. The main ones among those are issues related to work done in intellectual property rights (IPR) and patents, progress in talks for a bilateral trade and investment treaty and ways to boost two-way trade. 

All these issues will also feature during the meeting between Modi and US Secretary of State John Kerry.  

Kerry, who is coming here to participate in ‘Vibrant Gujarat’, will be meeting the Prime Minister Modi on January 12. 

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