Page last updated at 13:02 GMT, Thursday, 11 September 2008 14:02 UK

India negotiating nuclear deals

India's Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, located 30km from Mumbai (Bombay)
India would get access to US civilian nuclear technology

India is negotiating pacts with France, Russia and other countries for the import of civilian nuclear power plants, foreign ministry officials say.

The announcement follows a move by the Nuclear Suppliers Group to lift a ban that had stopped India from getting access to the global atomic market.

Officials say that pacts will only be completed once the US Congress approves a civilian nuclear deal with India.

The deal has now been sent by President Bush to Congress for ratification.

'Dangerous precedent'

"Following the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) statement which enables civil nuclear cooperation by NSG members with India, the government is taking steps to realise commercial co-operation with foreign partners," foreign ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said.

Manmohan Singh
Indian PM Manmohan Singh has described the deal as "momentous"

He said that Delhi was moving towards bilateral agreements with "friendly partner countries such as France and Russia".

Officials say that the deals with both countries are ready for signing.

India says the deal with the US is vital for it to meet its civil energy demands.

But critics say it creates a dangerous precedent - effectively allowing India to expand its nuclear power industry without requiring it to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as other nations must.

They say the deal would undermine the arguments for isolating Iran over its nuclear programme and be a disaster for international non-proliferation efforts.

The agreement is the centrepiece of US efforts to bolster ties with India.

However, the Bush administration must attempt to rush it through Congress before legislators break to prepare for November's elections - held at the same time as the presidential vote.

'Peaceful cooperation'

Late on Wednesday, the White House said in a statement that it was sending the text of the agreement to lawmakers, who returned to work on Monday.

"The proposed agreement provides a comprehensive framework for US peaceful nuclear cooperation with India," the statement said.

Communists demonstrate against nuclear deal
India's communists have opposed the US deal

"It permits the transfer of information, non-nuclear material, nuclear material, equipment (including reactors) and components for nuclear research and nuclear power production. It does not permit transfers of any restricted data."

According to the statement, "sensitive nuclear technology, heavy-water production technology and production facilities, sensitive nuclear facilities, and major critical components of such facilities" would not be transferred under the deal.

The statement said that the agreement would remain in force for 40 years and thereafter for additional periods of 10 years unless either party gave notice to terminate it.

Last week, the deal crossed a crucial hurdle when the 45-nation NSG approved it.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the decision marked "the end of India's decades-long isolation from the nuclear mainstream and of the technology denial regime".

The US restricted nuclear co-operation with India after it tested a nuclear weapon in 1974.

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