Page last updated at 05:27 GMT, Wednesday, 24 September 2008 06:27 UK

US panel backs India nuclear deal

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

The Foreign Relations Committee of the US Senate has voted in favour of the India-US civil nuclear deal.

Indian officials say it is an important development for the agreement, which must now be passed by the full Senate and the House of Representatives.

The deal will then have to be signed by the US president before it becomes law.

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is in the US to attend the UN General Assembly. He is due to meet President George Bush on Thursday.

Officials hope the US Congress will approve the deal before the meeting.

Earlier this month, the Nuclear Suppliers Group lifted a ban that had stopped India from getting access to the global nuclear market.


The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 19-2 to approve the deal on Tuesday.

"Enactment of this bill will help the US-India relationship grow," news agency Associated Press quoted Senator Joseph Biden as saying.

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

The chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee - and Democratic candidate for vice-president - added: "Today's committee passage is significant, but several steps remain before this bill becomes law.

"I hope the Congress can complete the job in the few days remaining before adjournment, and I'll continue fighting as hard as I can to achieve this important victory."

Meanwhile, Mr Singh, who arrived in New York on Tuesday, said he was hopeful that the deal would be approved quickly.

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.

Earlier in September, the deal crossed a crucial hurdle when the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group approved it.

Mr 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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