Thursday, August 19, 2010

US Accused of Pressuring India to Drop Bhopal Claims

The Obama administration is being accused of leveraging millions in development aid to pressure the Indian government for leniency on the company responsible the 1984 Bhopal industrial gas disaster that left an estimated 15,000 people dead. The company, Union Carbide, is now a subsidiary of Dow Chemical. Dow has faced calls to clean up the contaminated site, increase compensation for victims, and fund studies to assess damages to the environment and public health. India has also demanded the extradition of former Union Carbide CEO Warren Anderson, who fled India shortly after his arrest in the disaster’s aftermath. In a newly disclosed letter to an Indian government official, White House Deputy National Security Adviser Michael Froman appears to link US support for World Bank loans to India with India’s cooperation in easing up on Dow. Froman writes, "We are hearing a lot of noise about the Dow Chemical issue. I trust that you are monitoring it carefully. I am not familiar with all the details, but I think we want to avoid developments which put a chilling effect on our investment relationship." The White House hasn’t denied the email’s authenticity, but says it sees the two issues as unrelated.

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