Britain to ease nuclear trade with India

New Delhi/Bangalore, July 28 (IANS) Britain is gearing up to give licenses to its civil nuclear firms to do business with India and does not see the lack of a nuclear liability legislation a hindrance.

Civil nuclear cooperation will figure in talks British Premier David Cameron will have with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi Thursday, said official sources.

Britain’s Business secretary Vince Cable, accompanying Cameron in his maiden India visit, Wednesday indicated that the two countries can expect good progress in the area of civil nuclear cooperation.

‘There are British companies like Rolls Royce, Serco and others which potentially could do a large amount of business in India,’ Cable told reporters in Bangalore.

‘There are obvious security sensitivities. We are conscious of those, as are the Indians. But within those constraints we really want to push ahead with civil nuclear cooperation. That would be quite a big sector within which we could really make progress,’ she said.

Cable was referring to a change in policy on export licenses to British nuclear firms. The export licenses will be granted on a case-by-case basis, sources said.

India and Britain had signed a civil nuclear cooperation pact early this year, months after similar deals India had inked with countries like the US, France and Russia.

With India’s nuclear energy market estimated to be about $150 billion, British companies are keen not to be left behind while the French and Russian firms walked away with lucrative Indian contracts.

Most British nuclear firms will, however, not be setting up turnkey nuclear projects in India, but are pitching to supply vital components like turbines and are exploring tie-ups in areas of research and nuclear safety.

Sources pointed out that unlike the US, the new British government does not see the enactment of a civil nuclear liability legislation necessary for doing atomic business with India as British firms are only suppliers of parts of the nuclear value chain.

The nuclear liability legislation, which provides for compensation in case of nuclear accidents, is embroiled in a bitterly divisive political debate in India.

India has inked civil nuclear energy pacts with eight countries, led by the US, which led the initiative in the Nuclear Suppliers Group to end the 34-year-old global atomic embargo against New Delhi.

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