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N-deal panel meet may be delayed

india Updated: Nov 05, 2007 11:28 IST
Liz Mathew
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The sixth meeting of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-Left committee on the contentious India-US civil nuclear deal is likely to be delayed as both sides are adamant on their stance and it will be impossible for the panel to come out with its findings, say sources in the know on both sides.

The Nov 16 meeting will coincide with the winter session of Parliament and there is no likelihood of a consensus between the two sides on the findings, say sources in the Left and the Congress.

A source told IANS: "The Nov 16 meeting could be postponed because it is not possible to reach a conclusion on the discussions when the Parliament session is on."

"It is improper to make any commitment on such an important agreement outside Parliament when it is in session," said a minister in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's council of ministers on condition of anonymity.

Parliament's winter session beginning Nov 15 is expected to discuss the nuclear deal. Both the communists and the third grouping, United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA), have asked the government to take the 'sense of the house' before going ahead with negotiations on the deal.

Sources also pointed out that it is difficult for the committee, comprising UPA leaders including senior ministers and leaders of the four-party Left, to come out with a conclusion as both sides remain adamant on their respective stands.

While the communists have repeatedly said they were "firm" on their stand that the nuclear deal was not in the country's interests, the ruling Congress insists that it was the best deal for India.

"There is no scope for a consensus unless the government decides to scrap the deal. So a final conclusion is almost impossible," a communist leader told IANS.

The 15-member nuclear committee, headed by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, was formed to address the concerns raised by the Left parties over the implication of the 123 agreement on India's foreign policy and its indigenous nuclear programme. The UPA has assured that the findings of the committee would be taken into account before the implementation of the agreement.

According to Communist Party of India (CPI) general secretary AB Bardhan, the committee has to come out with common findings. "The findings have to be of the committee, not of the UPA," he said.

Although the government is keen to end the discussions over the deal and go ahead with the India-specific safeguard negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Left is no mood to give the green signal.

The communists have also pointed out that the majority in Parliament, including main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the UNPA, would oppose the deal.

But the government is reportedly under pressure from the US to honour the deal. Washington is said to be keen that this process is completed before it gets busy with the presidential and Congress election campaign next year.

The Left has, however, questioned the Manmohan Singh government as to why it was in a hurry to operationalise the deal, citing a statement by former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger that there was time till July to go to Congress.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist politburo, which is meeting on Nov 11 and 12, is expected to reiterate the Left's stance on the deal.

An All India Congress Committee (AICC) session, being convened on Nov 17, is also expected to pass a resolution supporting the nuclear deal.