Washington, Jan 26: The "breakthrough" understandings on the India-US nuclear cooperation are on how to resolve the issues and break a logjam for the last six years rather than a done deal, according to US officials.
But "it's ultimately up to US companies to make their own determinations about whether and when to invest in India and to move forward", he told US reporters accompanying President Barack Obama at a briefing in New Delhi.
"The two governments have reached an agreement about how to resolve the issues surrounding it and break a logjam for the last several years," he said when asked if an actual deal has been worked out over the next concrete steps of the nuclear deal.
The administrative arrangements agreed on "will provide for the necessary information sharing and contact between the two governments, for us to feel like we can move forward in implementing the 123 Agreement", he said.
On the issue of liability, Rhodes said "the Indians have put forward an approach in which they're creating an insurance pool, and committed financial resources to that pool that will mitigate risk for companies that are doing business here in India".
Westinghouse and General Electric, the two major US suppliers who have been given land in Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh to build reactors, have issued statements "welcoming this step forward", he noted.
Both the US and Indian governments will be consulting with them, Rhodes said.
"But in terms of the work that the governments have done together through a contact group the two leaders empowered here, we believe that this was a significant breakthrough and we now have the framework to move forward in implementing the 123 Agreement," he said.
Asked about the understanding on tracking the civil nuclear material coming into India, Rhodes said the US and India have discussed mechanisms for information sharing through a contact group.
The two sides will "have lines of communication open that meet our concerns that we will have a sufficient understanding of how India is approaching nuclear security, how it is managing nuclear materials", he said.
"And again, we believe that that is sufficient for us to move forward with the agreement," he added.
In response to another question, Rhodes said while the US does regularly have contact with industry to include GE and Westinghouse, they were not at the table in the negotiation.
"This was a government-to-government set of understandings," he said. "And we've made very clear that we understand that each company will make its own decisions."
Understandings on increased information-sharing and "how information will be provided, and also this insurance pool that could mitigate risk", he said were "concepts that were fleshed out over the course of the last three meetings of this contact group".
"So we appreciate the leadership that Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi showed in getting this done, building on the work of the previous government but, again, enabling us to get over the hurdle."
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)