India prime minister urged to halt United States nuclear deal


NEW DELHI, AP

Communist party leaders asked the prime minister Saturday not to move forward with a landmark nuclear energy deal with the United States because they said the pact threatens India’s sovereignty.

The much-touted nuclear deal is seen as the foundation of closer India-U.S. relations, but Indian critics argue it would give the U.S. too much influence over their country’s foreign policy and wound undermine their weapons program.

The deal allows the United States to ship nuclear fuel and technology to India, which in exchange would open its civilian nuclear reactors to international inspectors. India’s military reactors would remain off limits. After a two-day meeting, Communist party leaders Saturday released a statement that said the agreement is “not acceptable.” The leaders objected to the deal because it would have “adverse consequences for an independent foreign policy, sovereignty and the economic interests of the people,” said Prakash Karat, president of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). Karat did not threaten to withdraw support from the governing coalition, a move that could seriously threaten the stability of the ruling coalition led by the Congress party.

In a meeting Saturday with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, head of the Congress party, Karat asked them not to move ahead with the deal until further discussions are held.

“It is for the Congress leadership to decide on the matter which will have serious consequences for the government and the country,” he said.

The prime minister’s office did not immediately comment.

Karat said the four-party, Left Front alliance, which has strongly voiced its objections to the deal, will meet soon to discuss the issue.