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UPA-Left N-deal panel to meet next week
September 05, 2007 13:32 IST
The 15-member United Progressive alliance-Left panel on the Indo-US nuclear deal will have its first meeting early next week as part of the exercise to address concerns raised by the four Left parties regarding the implications of the India-specific Hyde Act of the US on the country's independent foreign policy, sovereignty and its future weapons programmes.
"We may meet early next week," said a member of the committee, which was given a final shape late Tuesday night with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, whose mediation with the Left helped to avert a crisis to the government on the nuclear deal issue, as its convener.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi [Images] late Tuesday night cleared six members from the party to represent in the panel, which will have three senior leaders each from the powerful UPA constituents, besides the six representatives from the Left parties.
The Congress has chosen Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal, Defence Minister A K Antony, Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz and Minister of State Prithviraj Chavan as its representatives.
The composition of the Congress team clearly indicates that the party is prepared to argue the matter forcefully and minutely.
Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav (Rashtriya Janata Dal), Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar [Images] (Nationalist Congress Party) and Shipping Minister T R Baalu (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) will be on the panel as ruling coalition nominees.
The Left had already announced its nominees -- Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury (both Communist Party of India-Marxist), A B Bardhan and D Raja (both CPI), Debabrata Biswas (Forward Bloc) and T J Chandrachoodan (Revolutionary Socialist Party).
The first meeting is likely to be held after September 8 when the anti-nuclear deal rallies of the Left parties will culminate in Visakhapatnam [Images] in Andhra Pradesh, the member said.
The 15-member 'committee' is seen more as a political mechanism between the ruling UPA and the Left parties, whose outside support is crucial for the survival of the 39-month-old government, to avert an immediate crisis as both the sides continue to remain firm on their known positions.
Even after the announcement of the constitution of the UPA-Left mechanism last week, the Left parties continued with their saber-rattling against the government in general and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] in particular.
The continuing intransigence of the Left is also evident from the fact that the CPI-M had, two days ago, issued four pamphlets attacking the government and the prime minister for India's growing 'strategic embrace' with the US on various fronts.
Amid the running Left threat against the government in the event of it proceeding towards operationalising the 123 agreement on Indo-US nuclear deal, the strong position of the Congress in favour of the agreement was made public by none other than Sonia herself when she had said in a message in party's mouthpiece Sandesh that the deal was in the long term interests of the nation.
In a clear indication that the Congress is ready to face any situation but will not go back on its commitment to the deal, Sonia had also stressed that the Left and the Opposition had been kept informed about all the developments leading to signing of the deal.
Though there were reports that the Indo-US nuclear deal will be debated in Parliament, both the Left and the government seemed to be not interested in such an exercise at this point of time, especially in the context of the constitution of the Left-UPA committee to deal with the same issue.
Without giving a specific date, the government has been maintaining that the issue will be debated in Parliament depending on the convenience of the prime minister and the external affairs minister.
In fact, the Congress had been dodging official briefings during the past 15 days apparently to avoid embarrassing questions on the deteriorating relationship between the Congress and the Left.