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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 June 2006, 16:54 GMT 17:54 UK
Senate panel backs nuclear deal
Kakrapar nuclear power station, Gujarat
Energy-hungry India needs nuclear power
A US Senate committee has backed a controversial plan to share civilian nuclear technology with India.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee took an hour to endorse the legislation by 16-2. It was cleared by a House of Representatives panel on Tuesday.

The deal offers US nuclear technology to India in exchange for inspectors' access to Indian civilian reactors.

The accord has been hailed as historic by some, but critics say it will damage non-proliferation efforts.

The BBC's Shahzeb Jillani in Washington says the bill is on target to be ratified by the full House and Senate in July.

Comfortable majority

The plans were described by Senator Richard Lugar, the Senate committee's Republican chairman, as "the most important strategic diplomatic initiative undertaken by President Bush".

President Bush in India
The deal was signed during President Bush's visit to India

The proposed agreement reverses US policy to restrict nuclear co-operation with Delhi because it has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and has twice tested nuclear weapons in 1974 and 1998.

On Tuesday, the International Relations Committee of the House of Representatives voted 37-5 in support of Mr Bush's initiative.

Mr Bush finalised the agreement during a landmark trip to India in March.

Under the deal, energy-hungry India will get access to US civil nuclear technology and fuel, in return for opening its civilian nuclear facilities to inspection.

But its nuclear weapons sites will remain off-limits.

NUCLEAR POWER IN INDIA
India has 14 reactors in commercial operation and nine under construction
Nuclear power supplies about 3% of India's electricity
By 2050, nuclear power is expected to provide 25% of the country's electricity
India has limited coal and uranium reserves
Its huge thorium reserves - about 25% of the world's total - are expected to fuel its nuclear power programme long-term
Source: Uranium Information Center

Critics of the deal say it could boost India's nuclear arsenal and sends the wrong message to countries like Iran, whose nuclear ambitions Washington opposes.

India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party has termed the deal as "unacceptable".

It said that it would make India "perpetually dependent" on the US for all initiatives in the application of nuclear energy.

Senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi told reporters on Thursday that the part of the deal allowing India's nuclear installations to be inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency was "very intrusive" and "immensely disruptive".

India has made clear that the final agreement must not bind it to supporting the US's Iran policy and does not prevent it from developing its own fissile material.



SEE ALSO
US panel backs India nuclear deal
28 Jun 06 |  South Asia
Cheney confident of nuclear deal
23 Jun 06 |  South Asia
Bush hails partnership with India
03 Mar 06 |  South Asia
Atomic agency hails US-India deal
02 Mar 06 |  South Asia
US and India seal nuclear accord
02 Mar 06 |  South Asia

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