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Chinese Diplomat Visits New Delhi to Discuss Nuclear Trade


China's foreign minister has made a visit to India, attempting to smooth relations with its neighboring nuclear power. Indian officials are disappointed that China attempted to scuttle a landmark international agreement ending a 34-year ban on nuclear trade with India. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from New Delhi.

Indian media are expressing the sentiment that Beijing double-crossed New Delhi. The perception is that despite Chinese President Hu Jintao's assurance Beijing would support lifting the embargo on international nuclear trade with India, China attempted to block Saturday's agreement made by the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group.

China's Foreign Minister, Yang Jiechi on Monday, held talks with his Indian counterpart, Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee. He also met India's Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh.

After discussions with Indian leaders, Yang denied that China opposed granting India a waiver that would enable it to engage in atomic commerce without signing nuclear non-proliferation agreements.

"We did not do anything to block it. We played a constructive role so I was really surprised by some reports," he said.

India had been blacklisted for decades after carrying out nuclear weapons tests and for not signing international agreements on limiting nuclear proliferation. The Vienna agreement permits nuclear trade with India even though New Delhi has not signed any such treaties.

The United States led the international campaign to end India's isolation as part of an agreement made in 2005 between Prime Minister Singh and U.S. President George Bush. India is now awaiting U.S. congressional passage of the pact.

Foreign Minister Mukherjee says American approval will open India's multi-billion dollar civil nuclear sector to foreign entities.

"After that we would be able to enter into bilateral agreements with other countries," he said.

There are plans to obtain six new nuclear reactors from France and four from Russia.

But in a setback for India's nuclear energy ambitions, Australian officials say they will not sell uranium to India, even though Canberra voted with other members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group to end the trade embargo on India. The Australians say their stance will not change unless India signs the international nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

The subject is certain to be discussed when Australia's foreign minister Stephen Smith meets with Indian government officials in New Delhi this week.

The nuclear deal has been controversial in India with opponents contending it would impinge on the country's sovereignty by limiting India's ability to carry out any future nuclear-weapons tests. Those in favor of the deal argued India could not expand the nuclear power generation sector without foreign help and such a move is critical for the country's booming economy, which is hobbled by energy shortfalls.
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