India may face isolation if nuke deal with US fails, minister says

Business Materials 4 February 2008 13:30 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said India might face global isolation and possible "sanctions" if a civilian nuclear deal with the United States was not finalized, newspapers reported Monday.

The nuclear deal has been stalled by opposition from the left-wing partners of the ruling coalition, who said the deal would give US leverage over India's foreign and security policies.

The communist parties have threatened to withdraw support for Manmohan Singh's government over the issue, which could result in early general elections.

"We do not live in isolation. If we do not fall in line (and sign the nuclear accord) there may be sanctions. We will face problems," Mukherjee was quoted by the Telegraph daily as saying.

He was addressing a meeting of businessmen in the eastern metropolis of Kolkata on Sunday.

The deal would allow the US to provide nuclear technology and materials for Indian civilian reactors even though New Delhi has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Mukherjee said India and the International Atomic Energy Agency were still negotiating the draft safeguards agreement which was required to implement the civilian nuclear deal. Once the draft was ready, the Indian government would hold talks with its communist partners and discuss the text.

At the same time, New Delhi was looking at bilateral and multilateral pacts with countries that could supply nuclear fuel, Mukherjee said adding that the nuclear deal would pave the way for nuclear energy cooperation with not only the US, but also France, Russia and other countries.

Nuclear energy was important since the country had huge energy needs to power its economic growth.

"Our energy needs will keep growing with our projected growth rate, which for the 11th plan (2007-12) has been estimated at 9 to 10 per cent. Oil prices, averaging 100 dollars a barrel now, are a drag on our resources that could have gone into more productive purposes," Mukherjee said.