New Delhi / Mumbai: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President George W. Bush reaffirmed their commitment to a joint nuclear energy accord that would help alleviate India’s chronic power shortages.
“We talked about the India-US nuclear deal and how important that is for our respective countries,” Bush said after meeting Singh at the Group of Eight (G-8) industrial nations summit in Toyako, Japan on Wednesday. “It was a really good meeting.”
Deal deliberations: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with US President George W. Bush on Wednesday.
India needs a renewed push from the US to win over the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to get access to technology and fuel. The 2005 US agreement, held up by political opposition in India, would allow the country to import nuclear materials without joining the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
“If you have a heavyweight superpower to shepherd the Indian nuclear deal through recalcitrant members of the IAEA and even more so the NSG, that’s the Indian hope,” said Mahesh Rangarajan, a New Delhi-based independent political analyst. “The US is crucial to get this deal through.”
While Bush called completing the deal “important” for both nations, time is running short to clear remaining hurdles before the US elections in November.
Singh said relations between the two countries had “never been in such good shape” as the two leaders also discussed space and defence cooperation. “We have made progress in all areas.”
The bilateral meeting came a day after Singh ended a year-long stalemate that has delayed the accord by obtaining the support of a rival political party.
Failure to implement the agreement would force India to slash its target for nuclear power, prolonging electricity shortages that are constraining growth.
The delay would curb $14 billion (Rs60,340 crore) of orders from suppliers, including General Electric Co. and Westinghouse Electric Co., and hamper India’s plans to increase nuclear generation almost 10-fold to end blackouts.
“India and the IAEA have already finalized the agreement about what safeguards need to be in place for this deal,” said department of atomic energy spokesman Swapnesh Kumar Malhotra. “This will be put up before the IAEA governors when they meet later this month.”
India’s goal of adding 25,000MW of nuclear capacity before 2020 by importing reactors and fuel would be delayed by two decades if the nation has to rely on indigenous designs, Shreyans Kumar Jain, chairman of the Nuclear Power Corp. of India Ltd, said in June.
India has 4,120MW of nuclear capacity, is building 3,160MW and plans to add 7,900MW outside the accord, according to Nuclear Power Corp. The agreement would bring India’s atomic generating capacity up to 40,000MW, sufficient to light up four cities the size of New York.
Power and other infrastructure shortages shave about 2 percentage points from India’s economic growth rate annually, the finance ministry estimates. India’s $912 billion economy has grown an average 8.9% a year since 2003.
Cherian Thomas in New Delhi contributed to this story.