Political tensions mount in India over US nuclear deal | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, October 09, 2007 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, October 09, 2007

Political tensions mount in India over US nuclear deal

Tensions in India over a civil nuclear pact with Washington that threatens the survival of the country's ruling coalition worsened yesterday ahead of a visit by the UN's atomic energy chief.
The head of the ruling Congress party, Sonia Gandhi, said opponents of the deal were "enemies of progress," prompting a furious response from left-wing legislative allies who could bring down the government.
The nuclear deal, if implemented, would allow energy-hungry India to buy civilian nuclear technology while possessing nuclear weapons, despite not having signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
But India's Communists say it would also pull traditionally non-aligned India uncomfortably close to the United States and compromise New Delhi's military programme.
In a public meeting on Sunday, Gandhi said opponents of the pact "are not only the enemies of Congress but they are also enemies of progress and development."
"We have to give them a strong and befitting reply," she said.
The four-party Left bloc, which props up Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government in parliament, responded Monday with a statement repeating its view that Congress was going "against the interests of India."
"Those who advocate the deal should know that India is capable of developing nuclear energy primarily on a self reliant basis," the statement said.
A 15-member panel set up to iron out differences between the two sides has had little success despite a string of meetings, and in recent days the Indian press has been brimming with speculation over the possibility of snap polls.
Analyst Yashwant Deshmukh said it now looked like "the beginning of the end" of the Congress-Left alliance.
"It is a question of when rather than if" the coalition will split, he said.
"Some Congress strategists believe that the party will be able to win more seats in parliament if there are elections now. And Gandhi's comments seem to reflect this belief."

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