Nuclear deal with U.S. can compromise India's strategic interests

India's concessions to the United States under a landmark nuclear agreement between the two countries could compromise New Delhi's strategic interests, the country's top nuclear scientist was quoted as saying Wednesday.

The views of Atomic Energy Commission chief Anil Kakodkar, revealed just weeks before a scheduled visit to India by U.S. President George W. Bush, could further sharpen an already divisive national debate on whether India should go ahead with the agreement.

"We cannot allow India's strategic interest to be determined by others," Kakodkar was quoted as saying in the Indian Express.

The deal, which still must be approved by the U.S. Congress, requires India to separate its nuclear program into civilian and military facilities,  with civilian facilities open to international inspection and not allowed to be used for military purposes.

But India's atomic energy scientists are opposing moves, reportedly proposed by U.S. officials, to list the country's fast-breeder reactor program under the civilian nuclear umbrella, saying this would prevent them from pursuing military uses of nuclear energy and jeopardize the country's security.

"Both from the point of view of maintaining long-term energy security and for maintaining a credible deterrent, the fast-breeder program just cannot be put on the civilian list. This would amount to getting shackled and India certainly cannot compromise," said Kakodkar, who could not be reached for comment on the report, reports the AP.

I.L.