Noisy protests against a historic but controversial nuclear energy deal between India and the United States disrupted the Indian parliament on Monday as lawmakers demanded the government cancel the agreement.
Members of the regional Samajwadi Party, which is opposed to warming ties between Washington and New Delhi, shouted slogans against the deal in the centre of the lower house and refused to return to their seats. Cancel the nuclear deal, We don't want to be American stooges, the MPs shouted despite pleas by the speaker, Somnath Chatterjee, to allow the house to function.
Chatterjee said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would make a statement on the deal at 2:00 p.m. (0430 EDT) and address concerns over the landmark deal, seen as a symbol of a blossoming friendship between the two democracies.
But the angry lawmakers were unrelenting, forcing the house to be adjourned until Singh's statement.
The nuclear deal aims to give India access to U.S. nuclear fuel and equipment for the first time in 30 years to help meet its soaring energy needs, even though it has stayed out of non-proliferation pacts and tested nuclear weapons.
First agreed in principle two years ago, the framework deal was approved by the U.S. Congress last December and the pact that governs nuclear trade between the two, called the 123 agreement, was finalized last month.
The 123 agreement has to get the backing of the U.S. Congress after India secures other international approvals.
The deal has been opposed by critics in both countries who say their governments are making too many compromises in their eagerness to seal it.
India's communist parties, whose support is crucial for the survival of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government, have rejected the deal but Singh has said he would not go back on it and dared the left parties to withdraw support.
The opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which initiated a process of bringing New Delhi and Washington closer when it was in power between 1998 and 2004, has also slammed the deal.
The BJP says the deal is unfair and compromises India's nuclear sovereignty.
Analysts say much of the opposition to the deal is political rhetoric and is not expected to destabilize Singh's coalition government.