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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 August 2006, 15:47 GMT 16:47 UK
Indian PM stands by nuclear deal
By Sanjoy Majumder
BBC News, Delhi

Kakrapar nuclear power station, Gujarat
Energy-hungry India needs nuclear power
India will not accept any United States pressure to cap its atomic weapons programme, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has told parliament.

Mr Singh was addressing concerns during a heated debate on a controversial nuclear energy deal with the US.

Some in India fear Washington is trying to change the terms of the agreement which was signed last year.

The deal gives India access to civilian nuclear technology in return for having its civilian nuclear sites inspected.

Energy needs

In a heated, often emotional, debate in the upper house of parliament that lasted several hours, Mr Singh strongly defended the nuclear agreement that he signed with President George W Bush last year.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (left) and President Bush
Mr Singh (left) and President Bush see the deal as crucial

He said India would not accept any move by Washington that would impede its atomic weapons programme, nor would it allow any international scrutiny of its military facilities.

But Mr Singh also argued that the deal was in India's interests.

He said mass poverty could only be removed by a fast expanding economy, which in turn needed energy.

And with the growing price of oil, nuclear energy was a cost effective way to bridge the gap between growing demand and supply.

But Mr Singh faces opposition from both the left and the right.

While the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party says the US Congress is trying to make changes that will cap India's nuclear weapons programme, the government's Communist allies fear it will mean that in exchange, Delhi will be forced to support controversial US foreign policies such as those on Iraq and Iran.

The US House of Representatives has already passed the bill, which now has to be approved by the Senate next month.

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