Oil Report

Indian parliament to debate U.S. nuclear deal row

NEW DELHI, Nov 10 (Reuters) - The Indian government and its communist allies agreed on Saturday to a parliament debate on a controversial nuclear deal with the United States, hoping to build consensus on a pact that has destabilised the coalition.

The decision came at talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and senior communist party leaders ahead of parliament’s winter session which is due to begin on Nov. 15, a government statement said.

A Nov. 16 meeting of a joint panel formed to resolve the crisis, triggered by communist opposition to the deal, would now be held at a later date, it added.

The India-U.S. civilian nuclear cooperation agreement aims to reverse a three-decade ban on New Delhi’s access to American nuclear fuel and equipment to help one of the world’s fastest growing economies meet its soaring energy needs.

It has been hailed as the symbol of a new strategic friendship between the once-estranged democracies. But Singh’s communist allies have opposed it saying it compromises India’s sovereignty and imposes U.S. hegemony.

They have threatened to withdraw support to the coalition if it pushes the pact, forcing the government to pause its progress and try and build wider support for the deal.

While Washington is keen that the deal secure the approval of U.S. Congress before campaigning for presidential elections picks up next year, few Indian analysts expect the communists to relent, raising serious doubts over the fate of the deal. (Reporting by Y.P. Rajesh)