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PM says India can't miss bus over nuclear energy

PM says India can't miss bus over nuclear energy

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said yesterday that the country could not afford to be left behind on nuclear energy, amid a political crisis over a nuclear deal with the United States that has threatened his government.
Singh's comments came a day after the government and its communist allies agreed to form a panel to study the controversial deal to address objections of the left parties, who have threatened to end support to the coalition over it.
Energy security was critical to sustaining the long-term economic growth of India, Asia's third largest economy, and the country could not pick between different fuel sources, he said.
"Nuclear power is recognized as an important and environmentally benign constituent of the overall energy mix," Singh said at an event to dedicate two new nuclear power reactors in western India.
"There is today talk the world over of a nuclear renaissance and we cannot afford to miss the bus or lag behind those global developments," he said.
"India is now too important a country to remain outside the international mainstream in this critical area. We need to pave the way for India to benefit from nuclear commerce without restrictions."
New Delhi finalized the text of the civilian nuclear energy cooperation deal with Washington last month but has since faced vocal opposition from its communist allies, who shore up Singh's coalition from outside.
The civilian nuclear cooperation deal aims to lift a three-decade ban on sales of U.S. nuclear fuel and reactors to India, imposed after it conducted a nuclear test in 1974 while staying out of non-proliferation agreements.
While the deal has been hailed as historic by Washington and New Delhi, the communists say it compromises India's sovereignty and imposes American hegemony.
Although Singh did not name the communists or explicitly refer to the crisis gripping his three-year-old coalition, he sought to allay criticism that the deal would make India a "client-state" of the U.S.
"This cooperation will not be dependent on any one country and we will source supplies from many of the countries ... including the United States, Russia and France," he said.
"This will signal the end of our international isolation of the past few decades."
India needs to conclude a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, get unanimous backing of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the approval of the U.S. Congress before the deal can come into force.
The Indian panel appointed on Thursday to study the deal is expected to submit its report by the end of September, giving the government time to convince the communists.