Indian PM calls for US nuclear pact support

Premier Manmohan Singh appeals for gov't to drop objections to nuclear energy pact.
Indian PM calls for US nuclear pact support
By AFP
Thu 12 Jun 2008 09:32 AM

Indian Premier Manmohan Singh Wednesday made a fresh appeal to his government's left-wing allies and the opposition to drop objections to an endangered nuclear energy pact with Washington.

Singh, who has been pushing the deal that would allow India to buy technology and power plants without signing global non-proliferation pacts, said he was hopeful it would be finalised soon, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

Wednesday's appeal is being seen as a last ditch effort by Singh to get the deal through before US President George Bush, a staunch supporter of the pact, leaves office at the end of the year and India holds national polls by May 2009 at the latest.

"Our domestic politics has prevented us from going ahead. I will still continue to hope that we will make progress in the months ahead," the agency quoted Singh as saying.

The pact, which has to be passed by the US Congress before the November presidential polls, would end India's three-decade long exclusion from global nuclear commerce, Singh said.

"This agreement, if it materialises, if sees the light of the day, will open new possibilities of cooperation not only with the US but also with other nuclear powers like Russia and France," he said.

The pact, agreed to in 2006, has failed to win the support of the Communists and the opposition Hindu nationalists, who say it will compromise New Delhi's military programme and ally it more closely with Washington.

Singh, who says the deal will help India meet its energy requirements needed to power its fast-growing economy, on Wednesday tried again to allay such fears.

The agreement "protects India's national interest, protects its capacity to use nuclear power, protects its strategic interests and at the same time opens up new opportunities for civilian cooperation," Singh said.

Besides clearance from the US Congress, the pact needs approval from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to place India's civilian nuclear reactors under UN safeguards.

India also requires the green light from the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which regulates global civilian nuclear trade, before it can begin buying nuclear reactors and fuel.

Key US senators and top officials have been stepping up pressure on New Delhi to speed up these steps at latest by early July so the pact can get final approval from the US Congress, where it currently has bipartisan support.

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