The UPA-Left mechanism to address the communists’ concerns over the impact of the Hyde Act on India’s foreign policy would be put in place in a few days.
The decision to set up a mechanism was taken after the Congress leadership followed up its intensive backchannel efforts to defuse the crisis by holding consultations first with the CPI and then with the CPM’s Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury on Monday. After an hour-long discussion with the Congress’s Pranab Mukherjee, AK Antony and Ahmed Patel on the modalities and mandate of the mechanism, Yechury said it would be set up in a few days.
“It will take at least two days for the discussions on the mechanism to be completed,” Yechury said. Left sources spoke of a possible meeting with the UPA on Wednesday for firming up the mechanism.
The CPM leader added that he cannot reveal the terms of reference of the proposed panel. Yechury also did not answer the question whether the Congress agreed to put the 123 agreement on hold till the panel came to a conclusion on the scope and import of the Hyde Act for India.
Well-placed sources said that the final decision regarding the mechanism and the ticklish issue of withholding operationalisation of the deal would be taken by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi once the consultative exercise is completed.
According to a leader who attended the meeting, there was broad agreement that the proposed mechanism would be a committee of UPA and Left leaders, with experts and scientists to be called for briefings whenever required. But its composition, scope and mandate would be worked out after the Congress leadership has completed the consultations with the Left and discussed it at the highest level within the party and the government. The Mukherjee-led team, which has not yet discussed the issue with the RSP and the Forward Bloc, will be doing so on Tuesday.
Once a political panel of UPA and Left leaders is formally announced by month-end, it would pave the way for a debate on the nuclear deal in Parliament next week.
If the Left was forthcoming about the mechanism, Mukherjee refused to talk about his discussions with the communists. “My job is to ascertain their views and convey them to the Prime Minister and the Congress president,” he said. He also refused to comment on the issue of operationalisation of the deal.
Sources said the party was aware of the CPM politburo and central committee demand that the deal should be put on hold until their concerns about the Hyde Act were addressed.
Unlike Yechury, who sidestepped the question on the future of the deal, CPI's A B Bardhan, Gurudas Das Gupta and D Raja said that the government maintained a scrupulous silence on the Left's demand that the deal be put on hold pending the panel's report.
“The government has not told us that it would not operationalise the agreement,” they later told reporters. Bardhan warned that if the government begins the process by signing an agreement with the IAEA on India-specific safeguards, it would signal the end of Left support to the UPA. “It would mean the end of the cooperation,” he said. Added Raja: “What is the point of having a mechanism if the government simultaneously proceeds with the negotiations on India-specific safeguards.”
(with inputs from Saroj Nagi)