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Politics

Indian communists reject U.S. nuclear pact

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Indian communist parties, which shore up the government, rejected a landmark nuclear pact between New Delhi and Washington on Tuesday saying it compromised India’s sovereignty and imposed U.S. influence.

In views that almost mirrored those of the right-wing Hindu nationalist opposition, the four main left parties called upon Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s coalition not to pursue the controversial deal, details of which were disclosed last week.

But the parties, whose support is key to the survival of the coalition, stopped short of spelling out their strategy if the government pressed ahead, as it is not required by law to seek parliamentary approval.

“The bilateral nuclear agreement must be seen as a crucial step to lock in India into the U.S. global strategic designs,” the parties said in a joint statement.

“The flawed nuclear cooperation agreement cannot be justified on the debatable basis of augmenting our energy resources, or achieving energy security.”

The comments by the communists came as the Indian Foreign Ministry said Singh had accepted an invitation to visit President George W. Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, but dates were yet to be fixed.

The nuclear agreement, when finally approved by the U.S. Congress, will end India’s global nuclear isolation and allow it to buy nuclear fuel and equipment from the United States, and eventually other nations, to help meet its soaring energy needs.

Details of a bilateral pact that governs the deal were disclosed on Friday following several rounds of tortuous negotiations over New Delhi’s objections to what it said were new conditions.

“PROMISES NOT FULFILLED”

Opponents of the deal in both countries have accused their governments of giving away too much to clinch a pact that has been hailed by Washington and New Delhi as a benchmark of their new strategic friendship.

While the opposition Hindu nationalists had accused the government of compromising on its nuclear weapons program and mortgaging its right to conduct nuclear tests, the communists charged it with accepting American hegemony through the deal.

However, after the pact was finalized last month, top government officials said all Indian concerns had been addressed satisfactorily, while nuclear scientists and analysts largely seemed to agree after the text was made public.

But the communist parties said they did not agree with those arguments.

The pact did not offer full civilian nuclear cooperation as promised, was unclear about permanent fuel supplies, had a broad termination clause and imposed curbs on India’s right to conduct nuclear tests.

The left parties said the provisions of the agreement did not protect India from a tougher American law that mandates stringent penalties if India conducts a nuclear test and imposes other conditions.

“So which provision will reign supreme? Obviously the national law of the United States will reign supreme,” Prakash Karat, general-secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), told a news conference.

Asked what the left parties would do if the government did not bow to them, he said it would be discussed later and in the “broader context” of their ties with Singh’s government.

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