The debate on the India-US civil nuclear deal will take place in the Lok Sabha on November 27 after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh returns from Singapore and Uganda where he is going for the East Asia summit and the CHOGM meeting, respectively.
A similar debate is expected the following day in the Rajya Sabha though a formal decision on this is yet to be taken. But as Parliamentary Affairs Minister P.R. Dasmunsi said: “The government is keen to have the discussion in the Upper House on November 28.’’
The communists, who are against the 123 Agreement, on the face of it seem to have tempered their opposition to the government holding talks with the IAEA on India-specific safeguards. But the question — whether the government would go to the IAEA — would be answered when the two sides are expected to come out with a statement at the end of the sixth round of talks of the UPA-Left panel on Friday.
On the eve of the talks, that would set the stage for the month-end parliamentary debate, the Prime Minister held a series of meetings to discuss the nuclear issue and his foreign visit next week. These included discussions with Sonia Gandhi, senior colleagues Pranab Mukherjee, A.K. Antony and Shivraj Patil and officials, including Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon and National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan. He also conferred with Dasmunsi and other floor managers on the issues that could come up in Parliament. These included the nuclear debate and the Left stand on the deal.
Last week over lunch with the Prime Minister, Sonia and Mukherjee, Left leaders Prakash Karat and A.B. Bardhan agreed to let the government talk to the nuclear watchdog, provided the negotiating team returned to the UPA-Left panel with the draft of the agreement. The veto power, sources later said, would remain with the Left.
Sources said it was also agreed that the government would ask for more concessions from the IAEA, which the top atomic agency might not have been in a position to give. This, according to them, would give the UPA a face-saver that though it tried, it could not clinch the deal.
After the luncheon meeting, Bardhan and his CPI colleague Gurudas Das Gupta had underlined that allowing the government to go to the IAEA did not mean operationalising the deal because the draft would have to be shown to the Left before it is signed. “This is not a climb-down. This is not a U-turn. The deal will not be operationalised,’’ Das Gupta had told mediapersons on Wednesday.
The Left is categorical in its decision not to allow the deal to be implemented. Nandigram or no Nandigram.