NEW DELHI (AP) | Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Communist Party allies withdrew their support for his four-year-old coalition government on Tuesday to protest the government’s plan to push forward with a controversial nuclear deal with the United States.
Prakash Karat, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) chief, announced the decision after more than a week of frenzied political activity as Mr. Singh tried to cobble together alternative support for the deal ahead of his Wednesday meeting with President Bush on the sidelines of the Group of Eight summit in Japan.
The four Communist parties that withdrew their support were not part of the coalition, but the government counted on their 59 lawmakers to ensure they won a majority in parliamentary votes.
On Saturday, Mr. Singh’s Congress Party lined up a new socialist ally, the Samajwadi Party, to shore up the coalition’s backing in Parliament should the Communists withdraw their support. Samajwadi has 39 lawmakers, and Mr. Singh said Monday he was confident he had at least the seven more votes he needed to secure a majority and push the nuclear deal through Parliament.
The nuclear deal has been hailed as the cornerstone of a new strategic relationship between the U.S. and India, but India’s main Communist Party leaders say it would undermine India’s weapons program and give Washington too much influence over Indian foreign policy.
Mr. Karat said his party’s move was inevitable after Mr. Singh said the government would be meeting with the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency soon. India needs to sign a separate deal with the IAEA before the U.S. Congress can approve the nuclear pact.
“The time has come” for the Communists to withdraw support for the government, Mr. Karat said.
Mr. Karat said Communist leaders would meet Indian President Pratibha Patil on Wednesday to hand her a formal letter ending their support. Parliamentary elections are scheduled in May of next year.
The Indian government says there is nothing in the agreement with the U.S. that would place a ban on future Indian nuclear tests or affect Indian decision-making in foreign policy.
If ratified, the agreement with Washington would reverse three decades of U.S. policy by allowing the sale of atomic fuel and technology to India, which has not signed international nonproliferation accords but has tested nuclear weapons. India, in exchange, would open its civilian reactors to international inspections.
However, with U.S. elections scheduled in November, time is running short to ratify the agreement before a new U.S. administration comes to power.