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N-deal: Left gives green signal for talks with IAEA
November 16, 2007 21:39 IST
Last Updated: November 16, 2007 23:54 IST
In a major breakthrough in the nuclear deal standoff, the Left parties on Friday relented and gave clearance to the government to approach the International Atomic Energy Agency for working out an India-specific safeguards agreement.
The thaw on the issue came during discussions between United Progressive Alliance partners and the Left parties after the government gave an assurance to them that it would come back with the draft of the safeguards treaty before the committee and would not sign any agreement with the IAEA.
"The government will proceed with the talks and the outcome will be presented to the committee for its consideration before it finalises its findings," said a statement read out by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee after a 90-minute meeting with Left leaders.
"We have come to an understanding that the government will go to the IAEA. The outcome of these talks will be brought to the committee for its consideration. The text will not be initialled before the committee considers it and gives its findings," Communist Party of India-Marxist general secretary Prakash Karat told reporters.
The forward movement for the government comes a week after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi [Images] had crucial talks with Left leaders Karat and CPI general secretary A B Bardhan last week when the government sought the allies' clearance for approaching the IAEA on the condition that it would not initial any agreement.
The safeguards agreement is one of the requirements for operationalising the civil nuclear cooperation agreement with the US, which the Left parties are still strongly opposed to.
The outside allies had been blowing hot and cold in the last few weeks, virtually threatening the government with serious consequences if it went ahead with the deal, an euphemism for withdrawal of support.
The government statement said, "The committee has discussed the implications of the Hyde Act on the 123 agreement, on foreign policy and security matters. After further discussion it was decided that the impact of the provisions of the Hyde Act and the 123 Agreement on the IAEA safeguards agreement be examined.
This will require talks with the IAEA Secretariat for working out the text of the India-specific safeguards agreement."
Left leaders appeared divided on whether their green signal to the government to approach the IAEA for a safeguards agreement was a change of stance.
While Forward Bloc leader Debabrata Biswas admitted that there was indeed a change in the Left position, CPI general secretary A B Bardhan dismissed such suggestions saying it was a stage by stage process.
Asked whether going to IAEA meant operationalisation of the agreement, Bardhan merely said "they (government) are saying it is not."
However, Karat conceded that the Left parties have made a change because of the government assurance that the text of the safeguards agreement will not be frozen before the Left-UPA committee takes a stand on the matter.
Referring to the discussion in Parliament, the CPI-M general secretary said the debate would show that the majority was against the 123 agreement with the US. "All this will help the government to take a correct decision," he added.
Karat said the bottomline remained that the Left parties are opposed to the 123 agreement and the implication of the Hyde Act on it and India's foreign and security policies.
Asked whether their "climb down" on the nuclear deal was due to the Nandigram episode, the CPI-M leader said the nuclear issue was being discussed since September whereas Nandigram happened now.
"We cannot decide on national policies on the basis of happenings in one block of West Bengal," he said.
Left sources said the government could explore the possibility of future cooperation with other Nuclear Suppliers Group countries like Russia [Images] and France [Images] while negotiating with the IAEA and the NSG.
They pointed out that India did not sign the Koodankulam reactor deal with Russia as that also required clearance of the NSG.
The sources said the UPA had agreed to expand the ambit of the terms of reference of the committee to include the impact of the provisions of the Hyde Act and the 123 Agreement on the IAEA safeguards agreement.
After the meeting, Mukherjee said, "The findings of the committee will be taken into account before the operationalisation of the India-US civil nuclear cooperation agreement."