Page last updated at 16:30 GMT, Tuesday, 22 July 2008 17:30 UK

Q&A: India confidence vote

India's Congress party-led government has won a vote of confidence over its proposed civilian nuclear deal with the US. It came after the government's left-wing allies opposed to the deal withdrew their support from the government.

Who is opposed to nuclear deal and why?

Under the accord, India, which has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, would gain access to US civilian nuclear technology and fuel.

A man in India watches the parliamentary debate leading up to the vote of confidence on television
The Indian media predicted a close finish

In return its civilian nuclear facilities would be opened to inspection. Nuclear weapons sites would remain off-limits.

The communists fear the accord could give the US too much influence over Indian foreign and nuclear policy. They say it compromises the sovereignty of India.

The main opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fears that the deal could jeopardise India's ability to test nuclear weapons in the future.

The BJP says that the deal is "all about bringing India into the non-proliferation regime" and undermines "India's strategic autonomy while promising illusory energy security".

What happens now that the government has won the vote?

The Congress-led coalition government continues in office and can move ahead with the nuclear deal.

Reports suggest that it may also push through some key insurance, banking and pension fund reforms which have been stalled for the past four years because of the opposition from their former communist allies.

The Congress party also gets time to try to tame double-digit inflation and stitch up political alliances ahead of the general elections, scheduled for May 2009.

It is not certain that the nuclear deal will come to fruition.

It still has to be approved by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Nuclear Suppliers Group which regulates global civilian nuclear trade, and the US Congress before US President George W Bush's tenure expires on 19 January 2009.

Observers say the timetable is very tight.

Why does the government want the nuclear deal?

US President George W Bush finalised the nuclear agreement with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in July 2005.

It overturned three decades of US policy by allowing the sale of nuclear technology and fuel to India.

Mr Singh says that the nuclear agreement is "an honourable deal that is good for India and good for the world".

The government believes that the nuclear deal will help meet some of India's growing energy needs to sustain India's economic growth.

"India is now too important a country to remain outside the international mainstream in this critical area. We need to pave the way for India to benefit from nuclear commerce without restrictions," Mr Singh has said.

By 2050, nuclear power is expected to provide 25% of the country's electricity.

Were there problems with the vote of confidence?

Opposition MPs of the Bharatiya Janata Party alleged that they had been offered bribes to abstain in the vote. Some waved fistfuls of money during the debate. At one point the Speaker adjourned proceedings.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described it as "an extremely sad development" and said he would co-operate with any investigation into the claims by the Speaker.

There was also confusion during the actual counting of the vote. Most votes were counted electronically but the final result was delayed for some time while some 50 votes submitted on paper slips were counted.

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