Growing opposition in the U.S. Congress to President Carter's decision to ship 38 tons of enriched uranium to India has aroused government officials and the press here.
India's foreign policy spokesman accused U.S. senators and congressmen of inconsistency for fighting the shipment of nuclear fuel to India while refusing to restrict other nations that allegedly are developing an arsenal of atomic weapons.
"We see duality of approach which has no logic," the spokesman said in an interview.
He said that India has not noticed similar U.S. criticism of "the continued increase in China's military nuclear capacity" -- a sore point here because of the cool relations between Peking and New Delhi.
India is particularly sensitive to China's growing military power since the two countries fought a border war in 1962. China's recent lauching of an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclelar warhead also aroused fears here.
The spokesman also pointed to America's failure to criticize France for its explosion last month of a neutron weapon and the lack of official U.S. "apprehension" over the "nuclear capability of South Africa and Israel."
The spokesman pointedly did not mention U.S. efforts to stop Pakistan -- India's traditional enemy with which it has fought three wars since the two countries gained independence almost 33 years ago -- from going ahead with its nuclear weapons programs.
These efforts have chilled relations between the United States and Pakistan, which denies its nuclear program is aimed at building a bomb. This all occurs at a time when it is to the United States' strategic advantage to be friendly with Pakistan to counter Soviet military expansion in the region. bProviding nuclear fuel to India is certain to worsen the friction between Washington and Islamabad.
The spokesman said India views the Carter administration's delay in approving the fuel shipment and the mounting congressional opposition as "picking on a sister democracy."
The Indian press has been even harsher. The influential Calcutta newspaper Amrita Bazar Patrika, in an editorial titled "A Prejudiced Stand," accused the Senate Foreign Relations Committee of "looking for all sorts of pretexts to block the supply of uranium to India."
Congressional opposition to Carter's June 19 decision to send the enriched uranium here arose because of India's continuing refusal to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and to accept full safeguards, which include international inspections, for all its atomic installations.
India's atomic program is also suspect because of India's 1974 underground explosion of a nuclear device. Most experts saw this test as the first step toward developing atomic weapons.
India, however, has not set off another explosion in the past six years and has not moved toward the development of a nuclear weapons delivery system.
While India refuses to allow all its nuclear facilities to be inspected, the Carter administration says that India has otherwise strictly adhered to its agreement with the United States.
India permits international inspection of the Tarapur atomic power station, where the U.S.-supplied fuel is used and has not reprocessed any of the spent fuel into plutonium, which could be used to make nuclear weapons.
Big-power rivalry in the eastern "arc of crisis," stretching from the Horn of Africa through the Middle East and Persian Gulf to India, played a large part in Carter's decision to supply the nuclear fuel and congressional opposition to the sale.
Since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Carter administration sees an increasing need to remain friendly with India -- the world's largest democracy and the premier power in south Asia.
But congressional critics point to India's recent agreement to purchase $1.6 billion in conventional arms from the Soviet Union as still another reason to halt the uranium sale.
They also see the sale to India as a signal to other countries capable of joining the nuclear club -- Argentina, Brazil, South Korea, Turkey, Spain and South Africa -- that they can ignore America's nonproliferation policy.
It is clear that if the U.S. sale does not go through, India will obtain the uranium from other sources -- possibly the Soviet Union -- and will feel free to cancel its agreement with the United States not to reprocess the spent fuel.
"Plutonium extracted from the spent fuel at Tarapur would suffice to keep the plant going until the late 1980s," the Times of India said.