India Delays Decision on Nuclear Pact

Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee says the agreement with the United States will be discussed Nov. 16.
Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee says the agreement with the United States will be discussed Nov. 16. (By Bikas Das -- Associated Press)
Tuesday, October 23, 2007

NEW DELHI, Oct. 22 -- Uncertainty over the civilian nuclear pact between India and the United States continued Monday, after a crucial two-hour meeting between political parties in New Delhi ended with an agreement to meet again in November.

A week after Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told President Bush about "difficulties" in implementing the deal, his government failed to offer an unambiguous statement about its likely fate. The deal appears to be stuck in a political logjam, with a group of six communist parties that support Singh's coalition government charging that it erodes India's sovereignty by tying the country too closely to U.S. strategic interests.

On Monday, nothing conclusive emerged after the fifth meeting of a joint political forum that was established in August to discuss the nuclear deal, and a decision was deferred until Nov. 16.

"It is an important issue that has consequences for future generations of Indians. How can we rush the process?" said D. Raja, a lawmaker from the Communist Party of India who attended.

The nuclear cooperation agreement was signed by India and the United States in July 2005. For the deal to proceed, the Indian government must first hold formal consultations on nuclear safeguards with the International Atomic Energy Agency and seek approval from the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group. If approved, the deal would then have to be ratified by the U.S. Congress.

-- Rama Lakshmi


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