Indian PM Reassures Leftist Politicians About US Nuclear Deal

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is pushing for international cooperation to enhance India's nuclear energy capability. His remarks come amid a political furor over a controversial civilian nuclear energy deal concluded by his government with the United States. Anjana Pasricha reports from VOA's New Delhi bureau.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says nuclear energy is critical for India's economic development, and the country must not fall behind the rest of the world in developing this key energy source.

He spoke Friday at the commissioning of two new nuclear reactors at the Tarapur facility near Mumbai.

"We cannot afford to miss the bus or lag behind those global developments," he said. "We need to pave the way for India to benefit from nuclear commerce without restriction."

He said India can double the amount of nuclear power it can generate by opening up to international cooperation.

Mr. Singh's strong pitch for nuclear energy comes amid domestic controversy over a nuclear cooperation deal with the United States.

Thursday, the Congress Party-led government ordered a review of the deal to address objections from its communist allies.

The deal would give energy-starved India access to U.S. civilian nuclear technology in exchange for opening up its civilian nuclear facilities to inspection.

Left-wing politicians object to the conditions saying they compromise India's sovereignty and will bring India into a strategic alliance with the United States.

Mr. Singh downplayed those concerns. He says India will seek nuclear cooperation with many countries including the United States, Russia and France.

"This will signal the end of our international isolation of the past few decades," he said. "India is now too important a country to remain outside the international mainstream in this critical area."

But analysts doubt Mr. Singh's communist allies or opposition parties will be satisfied with such assurances.

During the past two weeks, parliament has been repeatedly disrupted by lawmakers who want a rethink on the pact.

The two-year-old deal - which still needs to be ratified by the U.S. Congress and approved by international nuclear agencies - surprised many. India had long been denied U.S. nuclear cooperation because it had not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.