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India nuclear deal sparks debate

Bob Moon Jul 22, 2008

India nuclear deal sparks debate

Bob Moon Jul 22, 2008


Bob Moon: There’s been a raucous debate playing out the past several hours at the Indian parliament in New Delhi:

Indian Official: Would you keep quiet! Your leader will be speaking, let him take up his points!

Critics are pushing for a no-confidence vote against the Indian government sparked by a controversial nuclear deal with the Bush Administration. The pending deal would open India’s potentially lucrative reactor market to American companies.

Reporter Mehul Srivastava joins us from the Indian capital. Why has this risen to the level of a no-confidence vote for the government?

Mehul Srivastava: Well, the government here in India was a coalition government. It was joined by its communist allies, who had about a tenth of the seats in Parliament. And the communists in India decried this as a way for the Indian government to fall into what they call American imperialism. The Indian government would be dependent on the American government for continued uranium for its nuclear reactor — something that they opposed.

Moon: Do they see this as American companies trying to monopolize the nuclear trade with India?

Srivastava: Well, they definitely see this as an opportunity for American companies to get involved in something that’s incredibly sensitive and very central to India’s energy and national security. So that’s part of the distrust.

Moon: Is there a chance that U.S. companies might be shut out if this vote turns out to be a no-confidence vote?

Srivastava: Well, if the vote turns out to be a no-confidence vote, there won’t be a U.S.-India nuclear deal for any time soon, and then there’s no question of any business that India will do overseas. If the vote goes through, there’s about $100 billion of business up in grabs in the next 10 years, and American companies hope to get a serious part of that.

Moon: And the debate so far has been pretty colorful, huh?

Srivastava: Oh, colorful’s a very mild word for this. There was a lot of yelling and screaming in Parliament today. Right around 4:30 in the evening, an hour before the vote, three members of Parliament walked in with about a million dollars in Indian money and claimed it was bribes offered to them to abstain from voting. They cut off television feeds after that, but there probably won’t be a vote until this evening or maybe tomorrow.

Moon: Mehul Srivastava in New Delhi. Thanks for joining us.

Srivastava: Yeah, thanks for having me.

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