Indian leaders to discuss future of controversial US nuclear deal

Deal would allow shipment of atomic fuel to India in return for New Delhi opening its civilian reactors to international inspections.

india nuclear deal (photo credit: AP)
india nuclear deal
(photo credit: AP)
Indian leaders prepared Wednesday for talks with their ruling coalition's communist partners who oppose a landmark nuclear deal with the United States, in what could be one of the government's last chances of sealing the accord. Jayanti Natrajan, a Congress party spokeswoman, told reporters the Communist party leaders and Congress officials planned to discuss the nuclear impasse Wednesday. The communists are not part of India's governing coalition, led by the Congress party, but their support props up the government. The nuclear deal would reverse three decades of American policy by allowing the shipment of atomic fuel and technology to India, which has not signed international nonproliferation accords and has tested nuclear weapons. India, in exchange, would open its civilian reactors to international inspections. The deal has faced stiff opposition from India's communist parties, which don't want to see New Delhi drawn closer to Washington. Communist leaders have threatened to withdraw their support for the government if the current administration presses on with the nuclear pact, a move that could topple the government and lead to early elections. Communist party leaders have signaled that they are unwilling to make any concessions on the deal, which would force Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to either move forward without their support - a risky political move - or abandon the much touted nuclear agreement. The deal has been seen as a cornerstone in the strengthening partnership between New Delhi and Washington. For US President George W. Bush, the deal would be a major foreign policy success amid the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. For India, it would provide much-needed nuclear fuel for its energy-hungry economy. US officials said earlier this year that with American elections coming up - and no guarantee the next American administration will keep the deal on the table - India needed to complete its end of the pact before the US Congress starts its summer break in July because many lawmakers will be busy campaigning in the fall.