August 17, 2006

India warns US against changes in nuclear pact

By Y.P. Rajesh

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India said on Thursday it would not
accept changes to an agreement with the U.S. for use of fuel
and equipment in its nuclear programs.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh rejected charges by lawmakers
that his coalition was succumbing to U.S. pressure to cap
atomic research and weapons projects.

"We will not agree to any dilution that will prevent us
from securing full civilian nuclear benefits," Singh told the
upper house of parliament at the end of a day-long debate over
the controversial deal.

"The proposed U.S. legislation will not be allowed to
become an instrument to compromise India's sovereignty," he
said in a speech that lasted more than an hour.

If the accord, after being approved by U.S. Congress and
the Nuclear Suppliers Group of nations, did not conform to the
parameters agreed by the two countries, India would draw
"necessary conclusions," Singh said without elaborating.

The debate came weeks before the U.S. Senate is expected to
vote on the deal, after the House of Representatives gave it
overwhelming backing last month.

The agreement will require the joint approval of the two
houses after negotiations have been completed on technical
details. The Nuclear Suppliers Group of nations that regulates
global atomic trade must also give its approval.

The civilian nuclear cooperation pact gives nuclear-armed
India access to U.S. atomic fuel and equipment, despite New
Delhi not having signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

In return, New Delhi has agreed to international
inspections of its civilian nuclear reactors and the
segregation of its civilian and military programs.

Some changes proposed by U.S. lawmakers include a clause
that would make it mandatory for the U.S. administration to
certify every year that India is sticking to the deal's terms.

Other amendments proposed by Congressmen include the end of
nuclear cooperation if India conducts a nuclear test as well as
caps on using spent nuclear fuel.

(Additional reporting by Kamil Zaheer and Palash Kumar)