Vol. 5 Num 1137 Fri. August 10, 2007  

Manmohan stands firm against left veto of US nuclear deal

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is standing firm in the face of opposition from his government's communist partners, insisting that a key civilian nuclear deal with Washington will not be renegotiated.

Singh's unequivocal "no" to the left parties' call not to make the complex "123 agreement" operational came after the communists said they were "unable to accept the agreement," the Times of India reported Thursday.

The accord, which covers civil nuclear technology and seeks to bring India into the loop of global atomic commerce after a gap of three decades, has also been rejected by India's main opposition Hindu nationalists.

The Hindu newspaper said Singh made his views clear to top leaders of the four parties making up the Communist bloc late Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for Singh's Congress party said she was "confident that the prime minister and the government would be able to convince the left that the steps were taken in the best interest of the nation."

The deal clinched in Washington last month allows India to buy civilian nuclear technology while possessing nuclear weapons despite not adhering to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Singh is to defend the deal in a statement to India's parliament on Monday.

The accord has to be approved by the US Congress, while India needs a clearance from the Nuclear Suppliers Group of nations and also reach an agreement to place its civilian reactors under international safeguards before the deal can be operationalised.

The accord does not require parliamentary approval but Singh's failure to secure the backing of key allies would cause embarrassment and make the administration's continuation in office difficult, political analyst Rasheed Kidwai said.