Page last updated at 12:00 GMT, Thursday, 17 July 2008 13:00 UK

Gandhi defends US nuclear accord

By Chris Morris
BBC News, Delhi

Sonia Gandhi in Hyderabad
Mrs Gandhi says Indian interests will be safeguarded

The president of India's governing Congress party, Sonia Gandhi, has issued a strong public defence of the controversial nuclear deal with the US.

Mrs Gandhi was addressing her first public rally since left wing parties withdrew support for the government because of opposition to the deal.

The government has been forced to seek a confidence vote over the issue in parliament next week.

The accord would give India access to US civilian nuclear technology.

But the results of the parliamentary vote could be close - the nuclear deal with the US is a new dividing line in Indian politics.


Sonia Gandhi said it would help give India energy security in years to come and she dismissed accusations that the Congress party is selling out India's national interest.

"Let me state before you, let me state before the whole country categorically there is no question, there is no question of compromising on our security on our nuclear programme and on our independence in foreign policy," she said.

Congress now has to prove that it still has a majority in parliament giving it the authority to push ahead with the nuclear deal.

The government and the opposition have been trying desperately to entice smaller parties and independents who hold the balance of power.

Every vote will count.

India's Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, located 30km from Mumbai (Bombay)
Nuclear energy is needed to fuel a growing economy, say supporters

Six members of parliament are currently in prison and will be allowed out to participate in next week's debate and the Indian cabinet has approved a proposal to rename an airport after the father of the leader of one small party which is being wooed by both camps.

A few days ago it looked like a safe bet that the government would survive next week's confidence vote but the margins are getting smaller all the time.

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