U.S. Ambassador to India, Richard Verma (l) and Pramit Jhaveri, CEO of Citi India during an interactive session organized by Asia Society India in Mumbai, Feb. 10. (Mitesh Bhuvad | PTI)

The U.S. said the onus of leveraging on the civil nuclear deal with India, that figured prominently during President Barack Obama’s visit last month, now lies with private companies and promised all necessary help to them from both Governments. A Press Trust of India report.

“Private companies have to now assess the assurances given to make sure that they are comfortable with the legal environment and the commitment to international practices,” newly-appointed U.S. Ambassador to India Richard Verma said while speaking at an event in Mumbai, Feb. 10.

He said the Governments of both countries will help the companies looking to leverage on the possibilities thrown open by the agreement sealed during Obama’s visit to India last month that paved the way for operationalization of the historic civil nuclear agreement signed nearly a decade ago.

Verma said the contact group on nuclear partnership, established after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington last September, which ironed out the differences to arrive at the consensus during Obama’s visit, will help the companies in these efforts.

“We are going to continue to have those discussions with the companies, and the contact group will continue to meet. It isn’t over with the president’s visit,” he said, adding the U.S. will work “very hard” at operationalizing this.

Addressing the event organized by Asia Society, Verma said it is in both countries’ interests to “make sure the legal environment created is acceptable to the companies.”

New Delhi had come out with detailed answers on the deal Feb. 9, making it clear that foreign suppliers of nuclear reactors cannot be sued by the victims in case of a mishap, but operators can. Following this, Washington had said it was hopeful of investing in civil nuclear projects in India, an energy-starved country.

Verma, who has been in New Delhi for only six weeks, said he would like to leave behind a legacy where the U.S. turns into India’s “best partner” from the current one where both sides see each other as “natural partners.”

He said there is a strong bi-partisan support in Washington for the Indo-American relationship and a transition in power (in the U.S.) two years from now will not impact it.

On Obama’s controversial speech at Delhi’s Siri Fort auditorium, where he flagged the issue of religious intolerance here, the envoy pointed out that the President also illustrated the problems he faced back home.

The “powerful” words were a “conversation between two friends” and very a honest one, he added.

Verma said the improvement in Indo-U.S. ties indicate the “dawn of a new era” and the biggest democracies in the world can have a powerful impact on other countries as well.

Highlighting the deepening relations between the two nations, he said, “both countries are making a strategic bet on each other.”

On the strained Indo-Pak relations, which came to fore after cancellation of Foreign Secretary-level talks last year, he said the U.S. will work with both New Delhi and Islamabad for resumption of a constructive dialog between the neighbors.

Allaying fears of Beijing over strengthening bond between New Delhi and Washington, Verma said “this (ties with India) should not be seen as a strategy that is confrontational to our relationship with China.”

The Ambassador, however, asserted the U.S. will use its “position of strength” to make sure Beijing upholds international rules on issues like maritime security, trade and human rights.

Using strong words, he flagged cyber security as an area of concern and asked Chinese state and non-state actors not to indulge in data thefts.

“We will take necessary actions to protect our businesses and defend our networks against cyber thefts and trade secrets for commercial gains whether by private actors or by Chinese Government.”

Verma said the Modi Government’s ‘Act East’ policy and America’s ‘rebalance Asia’ strategy are in fact complimentary and have the potential to create a meaningful impact in the region.