India's opposition Hindu nationalists rejected a landmark nuclear cooperation agreement between New Delhi and Washington on Saturday, saying it was an assault on the country's nuclear sovereignty.
They demanded Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government set up a parliamentary panel to examine the pact and secure parliament's approval before signing it, even though it is not required by law.
The agreement, when finally approved by U.S. Congress, will end India's global nuclear isolation and allow it to buy nuclear fuel and equipment from the United States and eventually other nations to help meet its soaring energy needs.
Details of a bilateral pact that governs the deal were disclosed on Friday after it was finalized last month following several rounds of tortuous negotiations over New Delhi's objections to what it said were new conditions.
Critics in both countries have consistently accused their governments of giving away too much to clinch a deal that has been hailed by Washington and New Delhi as a benchmark of their new strategic friendship.
The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), among the chief critics of the deal in India along with the communists who shore up the ruling coalition, said Singh's government had failed to take into account its concerns.
No effort was ever made by it to evolve a national consensus on this vital issue of national concern before making commitments to the U.S., a statement from the party said.
The BJP is of the clear view that this agreement is an assault on our nuclear sovereignty and our foreign policy options. We are, therefore, unable to accept this agreement as finalized.
Ever since the deal was agreed in principle two years ago, its opponents in India have charged the government of compromising on its nuclear weapons program, mortgaging its right to conduct nuclear tests, and accepting stringent American conditions on civilian nuclear cooperation.
However, after the pact was finalized last month, top government officials said all Indian concerns had been addressed satisfactorily and nuclear scientists and analysts largely seemed to agree after the text was made public on Friday.
Although the agreement did not explicitly mention India being penalized if it conducted a nuclear test, American laws governing it mandate punitive action and this meant India could not test once it signed the agreement, the BJP said.
In other words, we are being forced to accept a bilateral CTBT with more stringent provisions than the multilateral CTBT, it said, referring to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty which India has refused to sign, saying it is discriminatory.