08/20/2007, 00.00
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Government crisis over nuclear deal with United States

by Nirmala Carvalho
Leftwing parties in ruling coalition insist on stalling the nuclear agreement with the United States. Opposition parties call for elections. Prime Minister Singh reiterates that the agreement is “historic” and “essential” for the country.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – The nuclear co-operation agreement with the United States reached three weeks ago after a year of negotiations might cause a government crisis in India. Under India’s constitution, parliament does not need to ratify an international agreement or treaty for it to take effect—the cabinet's approval is enough—but leftwing parties in the ruling coalition have voiced their opposition to the deal because it gives the United States too much leverage on India’s foreign policy. In the meantime the main opposition grouping, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), is considering moving a no confidence motion against the government and getting ready for elections.

United Progressive Alliance Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh has called the deal “historic”  saying that civilian nuclear power was a supreme national necessity because “nuclear power is critical to our energy security if we want to be a world power” and that “in a globalised world, Indo-US relations were the key.”

The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) has made it clear that its larger political objection to the deal lies in the fact that it is part of a strategic alliance with the U.S. encompassing political, economic, and military aspects; and therefore would have “adverse consequences for an independent foreign policy, sovereignty, and the economic interests of the people.”

A flurry of meetings over the week-end failed to solve the impasse, despite the government’s proposal to set up a committee to probe the agreement.

“The government must first tell us whether it is prepared not to proceed with the implementation of the deal,” said Prakash Karat, a CPI-M leader said.

Still despite its opposition Mr Karat’s party will not stop backing the government

Others argue that Indian foreign policy has shown that even when the country was much weaker than it is today, it withstood pressures. The tough negotiations that preceded the nuclear deal are enough proof of India’s ability to bargain hard.

The communists want the government to stall the upcoming meetings with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). India is not a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT).

The 40-year agreement, extendable by 10 years, commits the US to ensure uninterrupted fuel supplies to Indian reactors even if it terminates its cooperation and to help create strategic fuel reserve for Indian safeguarded nuclear reactors.

The deal would also allow India to break its current isolation in the nuclear field. Last week Australia agreed to sell uranium, overturning its long-standing policy of not selling to countries who have not signed the NPT.

For analysts, although the relationship between Congress and its communist allies was always uneasy, the current crisis is the worst since the current government came to power in 2004.

As the world’s largest democracy, with English as a major language and a young population, India can be a strategic ally of the United States and benefit in a world that is no longer bipolar. Rejection of the accord might instead lead to the country’s international isolation.

At present, the United States has refused to sell nuclear technology to Pakistan despite being a US ally because it fears the latter might use it.

Islamabad relies instead on India’s traditional adversary China for weapons.

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See also
Iran to reopen nuclear facility
Russia and India strike deal for four more nuclear reactors
Washington trying to save nuclear deal with New Delhi
Atomic Agency calls on Pyongyang to again allow inspections
China fails moral test in its deals with Pakistan


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