NEW DELHI -- Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called the recent passage of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damages bill the end of "the nuclear apartheid that the world had imposed on India." The language was meant to appeal to a domestic audience; for most international observers, the law simply marks India's return to the international nuclear market. But in its final form, the liability law has left few on either side of the debate entirely satisfied.
The contentious legislation, introduced this April in parliament, was steered through by the Congress-led government with help from the largest opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The BJP had initially opposed the bill, which ultimately required 18 amendments to pass, as inadequate in terms of accident compensation and being too soft on private firms.
Consequently, after months of inter-party wrangling, the Congress-led ruling government had to eschew the bill's controversial provision of "intent," which required proof that suppliers had intent to cause nuclear damage to be liable for recourse.