Page last updated at 14:25 GMT, Wednesday, 25 June 2008 15:25 UK

Indian impasse over nuclear deal

Protests against the nuclear deal in India
The Communists have opposed the deal

India's governing coalition and its communist allies have failed to break the deadlock over a delayed civilian nuclear co-operation deal with the US.

Leaders discussed the impasse in Delhi and said they would meet again, although no date has been set.

The talks came amid reports that the Congress-led coalition could go ahead with the deal and risk early elections.

India is under pressure from Washington to sign the deal before the US presidential elections in November.

"[The talks] will be held in due course," said Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee - representing the Congress party - after his meeting with Communist Party of India (Marxist, CPI-M) representative Sitaram Yechury.

Under the terms of the controversial deal, India would get access to US civilian nuclear technology and fuel.

In return, Delhi would open its civilian nuclear facilities to inspection - but its nuclear weapons sites would remain off-limits.

Objections from the Indian government's communist allies have delayed the signing. The left-wing parties argue that it would give the US undue influence over India's foreign and nuclear policy.

The communists, who have 59 members in parliament, say they will withdraw support for the government if it goes ahead with the deal.


This would lead to early polls - general elections are due to be held by next May.

Allies of the Congress-led coalition have said early elections would go against them at a time of double-digit inflation fuelled by rising oil and food prices.

Reports before Wednesday's meeting said that the Congress Party was backing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is widely believed to be the architect of the deal.

India nuclear station
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

But some senior Congress party members appear to have misgivings about it.

"I can't understand why the deal cannot be renegotiated at a later stage, maybe one year down the line," former junior foreign minister and party member Salman Khursheed told The Indian Express newspaper.

US President George W Bush finalised the nuclear agreement with Indian 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.

With President Bush's second and final term in office drawing to a close and presidential elections set for November, the Bush administration is growing increasingly keen to wrap up the deal.

Many analysts and some within the Bush administration believe a failure to conclude the agreement could create a setback for the current momentum in US-India relations.

Any deal would also eventually need to be approved by the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as well as by the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, which regulates global civilian nuclear trade.

The IAEA's board of governors and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) must approve India-specific exemptions before the deal is sent back to the US Congress for its final seal of approval.

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