The stalemate between the UPA government and its Left allies over the nuclear deal with the US is expected to be broken when the two sides meet for a fresh round of talks on Friday, government and political sources said.
<b1>They said the Left has agreed to let the UPA start talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for a India-specific safeguards agreement provided it does not commit itself to anything in writing. They also said the Marxists want the government to return to the UPA-Left committee on any steps it proposes to take with the IAEA.
Talks with the IAEA are to lead up to negotiations with the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the ratification of the bilateral 123 Agreement by the US Congress.
As on earlier occasions, the meeting, to be chaired by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, will come out with a formal statement.
The UPA-Left understanding on the nuclear question comes in the backdrop of an impending parliamentary debate on the issue. Political analysts also believe that both the Congress and Left are interested to strike a temporary truce ahead of next month’s assembly elections in Gujarat where they want to present a united face against the BJP. Besides, the Nandigram developments could have also put the Left on the backfoot, they said.
In letting the government talk to the IAEA, the Left seems to be endorsing a proposal Mukherjee first mooted when he met senior CPM leader Jyoti Basu a few weeks ago. At that time, CPM general secretary Prakash Karat had shot down the proposal.
The first indication of rapprochement came after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s luncheon meeting with Left leaders Prakash Karat and AB Bardhan on Saturday where Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Mukherjee were also present.
Subsequently, Karat hoped that something would come out of the UPA-Left talks as neither side was adamant. Bardhan told a TV channel that the Left might let the government begin talks with the IAEA.
Asked about the future of the deal, Mukherjee said, "I am positive." He said he was hopeful something good would come out of the November 16 meeting.
Significance is also being attached to Tuesday's hour-long meeting between Karat and Mukherjee where the duo is believed to have discussed the agenda for Friday's talks. The Nandigram crisis and the upcoming assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal are also understood to have figured in the talks.
On his part, Bardhan said the Left considered the 123 Agreement as harmful to national interest.