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MPs slam Govt over US nuclear deal

MPs opposed to a landmark nuclear energy deal with the US slammed the government in parliament on Wednesday, saying it was misleading the country and compromising national interest.

india Updated: Nov 28, 2007 16:59 IST
YP Rajesh

MPs opposed to a landmark nuclear energy deal with the United States slammed the government in parliament on Wednesday, saying it was misleading the country and compromising national interest.

The fresh criticism came during a long-awaited debate in parliament on the controversial deal, which brought Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's three-and-a-half year coalition to the brink of collapse last month.

The debate will not lead to a vote on the deal. Nor will it resolve the controversy one way or the other, amid fears time is running out for the agreement as President George W Bush's term in office nears its end.

But analysts say it could give more insight into the strategies of the ruling Congress party and its communist allies. The latter have rejected the deal, threatened to end support to the coalition and raised the prospect of early elections.

"Please take the sense of the house, don't proceed further, because a majority of this sovereign house is against this," said Rupchand Pal, an MP of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the largest of four left parties in parliament.

"The prime minister's assurances with regard to all the reservations we have made ... most have been trampled ... our apprehensions have been proved true repeatedly," he said.

The nuclear pact aims to end more than three decades of sanctions against nuclear commerce between New Delhi and Washington even though India has stayed out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and tested nuclear weapons.

"Shadow-boxing"

Proponents of the pact say it will help meet India's soaring energy needs and is a sign of a growing strategic friendship between New Delhi and Washington.

But communist allies of Singh, known for their traditional anti-Americanism, have rejected it saying it compromises sovereignty and imposes US influence.

The communists had threatened to end support of the government if it pursued key global approvals needed to clinch the deal, but relented this month to give a conditional go-ahead.

The Hindu nationalist opposition, which supports close ties with Washington, is also opposed to the pact, saying it compromises India's nuclear weapons programme as it indirectly prevents New Delhi from conducting nuclear tests.

"We are being pushed into this non-proliferation regime because we need nuclear energy," said L.K. Advani, leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). "They are taking advantage of this."

"This is deeply detrimental to India's vital and long-term interests," he said.

After India secures an IAEA safeguards agreement, the deal needs the backing of the Nuclear Suppliers Group of nations and has also to be approved by the US Congress.

Indian political analysts said they did not expect much movement until elections next month in the western state of Gujarat, where the Congress party is hoping to pull off an upset win over BJP, which holds the state. "All this is shadow-boxing," said Mahesh Rangarajan, an independent analyst.

"The Congress cannot afford to step back right now from the deal. And the left is not going to come out in support."