The UPA did not give any assurance on Monday to the Left that the Indo-US civil nuclear deal has been indefinitely put on hold. It, however, agreed not to operationalise the pact till the political panel formed to resolve their differences finalised its report.
The next meeting of the UPA-Left panel will take place on November 16 — a week before the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is slated to meet.
The UPA and the Left met for their fifth round of talks amid reports, denied subsequently by the Congress and the PMO, that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told UPA allies at a meeting earlier in the day that he felt let down by their turnaround on the deal. Speaking to reporters on his way home from South Africa on October 18, Singh had said that the UPA allies (some of whom by then had distanced themselves from the deal) were "part and parcel of the Cabinet process" that approved it.
Minister of State in the PMO Prithviraj Chavan debunked reports about Singh's "embarrassment" as "absolutely baseless and unfounded." AICC spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said: "There is no question of embarrassment when there is engagement," in a reference to the ongoing talks.
Monday's talks failed to break the logjam on the deal. "Things continue to remain as they are," said a leader, noting that the two sides continue to differ even on what operationalisation means.
After the 135-minute meeting, CPI general secretary AB Bardhan said that the deal will not be operationalised (till November 16). But when asked whether the deal has been put on hold, Bardhan shot back: "how do you come to that conclusion?" Forward Bloc's Debabrata Biswas said there was no talk of a special Parliament session on the issue.
The agenda for Monday's meeting was the implications of the bilateral agreement and the Hyde Act on India's foreign policy and indigenous nuclear programme. But the meeting began with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee reading out transcripts of the statements made by the PM and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi at the HT Leadership Summit on October 12. Both had ruled out mid-term polls with the PM emphasising that his was not a one-issue government.
After reading out the statements, Mukherjee followed by Lalu Prasad, Sharad Pawar and TR Balu again pitched for New Delhi initiating talks with the IAEA for India-specific safeguards. But the Left reiterated its opposition, claiming that this would amount to taking the first step towards operationalising the deal.
Referring to the morning meeting of the UPA and its allies, a Left leader said that the effort to convince the Left once again about talking with the IAEA seemed to be a result of what the PM is understood to have told the allies.
Subsequently, according to the Left leader, Lalu emphasised that the government should complete its full term. He then said that the Congress and the Left parties should discuss and resolve all differences to ensure a full-term for the Congress-led UPA — a point also made by Pawar.
Before the next meeting, the UPA would give a reply to a note on foreign policy that was given by the Left on Saturday.
Earlier in the day, the four Left parties met and decided to convey to the UPA that they were not keen to have more meetings of the panel.
"Though it has not been formally declared that the committee's November 16 meeting would be the last, it is understood that it would wrap up its agenda on that day," the Left leader said.
(inputs from Saroj Nagi)