US-India Ties Strong, But Work Needed on Nuclear Agreement

Asia Society President Emerita Vishakha N. Desai and Ambassador Nancy Powell discuss Indo-U.S. bilateral relations in Mumbai on Sept. 10, 2012. (Asia Society India Centre)

MUMBAI, September 10, 2012 — U.S. Ambassador to India Nancy Powell joined President Emerita of Asia Society Vishakha Desai at a private dinner and discussion on strengthening bilateral ties between the United States and India. The occasion also celebrated Desai's 22 years of distinguished service at Asia Society and marked the launch the Desai-Oxnam Innovation Fund in recognition of the 39-year long combined service of former Asia Society Presidents Vishakha Desai and Robert Oxnam. Powell and Desai discussed a range of issues, including Powell’s desire to focus on the bilateral economic relationship and enhanced security cooperation during her tenure.

Commenting on U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, Powell said that the U.S. would continue to maintain a diplomatic presence in the region: "Unlike 1989, the United States is not going to disappear out of Afghanistan. We are going to have a diplomatic presence… We hope that India… will play a commercial role in Afghanistan." She remarked on some of the notable changes being made by India in such avenues as power, iron mining and police training in Afghanistan.

Alluding to a recent Asia Society study on Chinese Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the United States, Desai observed that India's FDI in the U.S. is greater than that of China's.

Responding to Desai's question on the Indo-US Civil Nuclear Agreement, Powell said that a few roadblocks need to be overcome. India has not yet joined international agreements on trade in nuclear technology, which the U.S. had hoped for: "It is moving a little more slowly… but it is a part of what we would have hoped would come out of the civilian nuclear deal. The other piece is the hope that Americans would be able to compete on a level playing field for creation of nuclear energy in projects in India." Leaders of private companies in the U.S. that manage nuclear energy development are not yet comfortable with the way that current legislation imposes liability in the case of accidents. Powell said that U.S. companies believe that the legislation in its current form does not meet international liability norms.

For more on the discussion, watch our video highlights, below.

To hear Ambassdor Powell speak at Asia Society New York earlier this year, click here.

Reported by Radha Venkatraman, Programme Assistant, Asia Society India Centre

Video: Highlights from the programme (7 min., 19 sec.)



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