India-West’s Exclusive Interview: Ambassador Richard Verma Says He Will Work Hard to Deepen U.S.-India Relationship


India-West is proud to present to our readers our exclusive interview of U.S. Ambassador to India Richard Verma after President Barack Obama’s historic visit to India for the Republic Day ceremonies. In this interview, Verma addresses the accomplishments of the President’s visit, the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement, defense collaborations between the U.S. and India, his action items as ambassador, U.S.-India-China relations, and his personal feelings about becoming the first Indian American ambassador to India. – Ed.

India-West: As you look back at the President’s trip to India, what were the most substantive accomplishments?

Ambassador Richard Verma: President Obama’s second visit to India was historic in many ways. He was the first sitting U.S. President to visit India twice, and the first U.S. President to attend Republic Day. These are not merely symbolic gestures — the visit reflects the commitment of a President who called the U.S.-India relationship a “defining partnership of the 21st century.” Here in Delhi, the President said the United States and India were not merely natural partners, but could bebest partners. You can see the manifestation of that sentiment in the various joint statements, declarations, and a first-ever joint op-ed we’ve penned with India in the last six months. It’s especially clear in the Declaration of Friendship the President and Prime Minister signed. That’s just not something we do with everyone, and it’s a clear demonstration of our commitment to advancing out extensive strategic and global partnership aimed at improving the lives of our citizens and the global community.

I-W: What is the next step regarding the nuclear liability issue? What role will the working group that you are leading play?

R.V: In January, we achieved a breakthrough on a few key issues —clearing the way for civil-nuclear cooperation between the United States to move forward. Following the three meetings of the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Contact Group, the United States and India reached an understanding on an Administrative Arrangement (AA) for implementing the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation (or “123”) Agreement. The information we will receive through the AA, including through information exchanges and a consultative mechanism, will enable us to implement the provisions of the 123 Agreement as well as prepare the necessary certifications to Congress as required under U.S. law. Completion of an AA is a key step in allowing civil nuclear trade between India and the United States to commence, and we expect to sign this Arrangement in the near future.

The Government of India also demonstrated a genuine commitment to alleviate concerns of U.S. vendors regarding supplier liability. During our discussions, the Indian government explained their view that the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act of 2010 provides a no-fault liability regime that channels liability to the operator.

Based on the Indian representations, the U.S. government believes the Indian law can be viewed as generally consistent with the principles of the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage and other international liability conventions.

The Contact Group and other bilateral mechanisms will continue to meet to resolve outstanding issues. We believe the breakthroughs on these issues will help strengthen our bilateral civil nuclear efforts including trade, research and development, nuclear security, and nuclear safety.

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