The Left parties agreed on Friday to let the UPA government open talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency on India-specific safeguards in the context of the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement. The go-ahead is, however, conditional — it binds the Centre to get the Left's clearance before the negotiation is finalised.
The stalemate between the two sides ended following a series of behind-the-scene consultations in addition to the formal dialogue of the UPA-Left coordination committee.
The government is ready with a template for a facility-specific safeguards agreement with the IAEA and could begin technical negotiations with them as early as the end of next week.
This agreement will be India-specific in that it would take into account the country’s status as a “state possessing advanced nuclear technology.”
Only when the safeguards agreement is ready would the Nuclear Suppliers Group be able to change its guidelines and allow an India-specific waiver to allow the country to resume civilian nuclear trade.
The CPM and other Left parties have always held that the nuclear deal would come into effect with the signing of the IAEA safeguards that are going to be in perpetuity. To that extent, the glass is only half full for the government.
Following the UPA-Left committee’s meeting on Friday, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said, “After further discussion, it was decided that the impact of the provisions of the Hyde Act and the 123 Agreement on the IAEA safeguards should also be discussed. This will require talks with the IAEA secretariat for working out the text of the India-specific safeguards agreement. The government will proceed with the talks and the outcome will be presented to the committee for its consideration before it finalises its findings.”
CPM general secretary Prakash Karat said, “We have come to an understanding that the government can proceed to the IAEA. (However), the text that will be negotiated will not be initialed. We have brought the IAEA text within the committee's jurisdiction.” He, however, fixed no timeframe for the committee to decide on the issue.
Denying that the Left has relented in its opposition to the deal, a senior CPM leader said, “Allowing the government to go to the IAEA was a political decision taken by the Congress and the Left leadership. We will not allow the deal to be operationalised till 2009 (when the next Lok Sabha election is slated) or till the Bush regime is there.”
“The government was very keen to go for the talks. They said that it was necessary for international credibility. Our point was that as long as they come back to us (with the draft), it is okay. The text would be subject to the committee's opinion and consideration,” the leader said.