Yes to making efforts, no to predicting outcomes. That was External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee's repeated response to questions from the Hindustan Times whether the civil nuclear deal with the United States could be salvaged in the face of stiff opposition from the Left parties.
"What else can I say except that we are working to reconcile the positions (between the government and the Left). Five rounds of discussions have taken place with the Left," he said during a refuelling halt at Chengdu airport in Sichuan province en route to New Delhi.
"The next meeting with the Left will be held on November 16 and I don't think it would be desirable to comment on the (possible) outcome," Mukherjee, the government's negotiator with the Left, told correspondents accompanying him on Thursday.
The Minister said the government was "trying to see" if the civil nuclear deal could become possible. But, he was clear, that predicting the outcome on talks with the Left was altogether another issue.
Mukherjee said the media was free to write that the deal was dead or in cold storage. "That is your comment," he shot back when asked for a response on the status of the deal.
What was his sense? "I cannot share my sense. I'm in the job of finding a solution. I cannot air my views publicly. I don't have that liberty."
Was he hopeful that the deal might still go through? "It's not a question of remaining hopeful or hopeless, I don't believe in that type of value judgement. We are trying to resolve these issues. We are engaged in dialogue and let us see what the outcome of it (will be)."
Mukherjee also rejected the notion that India's foreign policy would be impacted in case the deal fell through given the time and energy spent by our diplomats in lobbying different countries since the July 2005 civil nuclear initiative with the US took concrete shape. "Our foreign policy has various elements – from the day of our independence – and for the last 60 years. If somebody wants to point out that it (the nuclear deal) is 'the' issue…and this is the entire foreign policy gamut, we can't help (it)."