New Delhi: Having clinched crucial political support, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh left for Japan on Monday for a G8 summit where he may formally press ahead with a civilian nuclear deal with the United States.
Singh appears to have secured a parliamentary majority for his government to replace his communist allies, who say they will withdraw their support if the deal goes ahead. The left criticises the deal as making India subservient of Washington.
The deal would be one of Singh’s most important achievements in four years of office, giving India access to U.S. nuclear fuel and technology and moving the Asian giant’s trade and diplomatic relations closer to the West.
It is potentially worth billions of dollars to U.S. and European nuclear supplier companies and would give India more energy alternatives to drive its booming economy.
To secure both the deal and his government’s survival, Singh has realigned his four-year-old coalition by securing the support of the Samajwadi Party. Their support should ensure that Singh avoids having to hold an early election this year just as the government is suffering from 13-year high inflation and signs of economic slowdown.
The four communist parties that give the ruling coalition a majority in parliament have set a Monday deadline for the government to tell them if they are going ahead with the deal.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, has called for a vote of confidence in the government. It is almost certain that the vote will be called if the left withdraw their support.
The Samajwadi Party has 39 seats in parliament, compared with 59 for the communist parties. The Congress-led ruling coalition needs the support of 44 lawmakers to reach a majority. It would try to win the other five seats from smaller parties.