The deadlock between the Congress-led UPA and the Left on the Indo-US civil nuclear deal continued on Friday. The Communists refused to be convinced by the government’s averments that the American domestic law and the Hyde Act would have no impact on the deal once the 123 agreement comes into force.
All that the Left got was an assurance from the UPA that till now, no formal talks have been initiated with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on India-specific safeguards. The committee met for the third time on Friday and is scheduled to meet again on October 9.
<b1>At the end of the two-hour discussions, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee read out a statement: “The third meeting of the UPA-Left Committee on India-US Civil Nuclear Cooperation was held today. It carried forward the earlier discussions on the basis of inputs provided by both sides. The discussions were held in a cordial atmosphere and will continue at the next meeting.’’
The Left set the tone of the discussions by submitting another note on the Hyde Act and the question of uninterrupted supply of fuel for safeguarded facilities.
The government is expected to reply to these in the meeting scheduled for next week.
Mukherjee is reported to have told the Left leadership that talks on safeguards were not on the agenda during IAEA director general Mohamed Elbaradei’s four-day visit to New Delhi. The IAEA chief arrives in the Capital on Tuesday.
Forward Bloc’s Debabrata Biswas said Mukherjee enquired whether there was any harm in beginning talks with the IAEA on safeguards without formalising an agreement. “We said we do not agree. But he categorically told us that no formal or informal talks with the IAEA have been initiated. If the government begins talks, what is the use of the committee?’’ Biswas said.
The Left parties have warned the government against holding talks with the IAEA as that would amount to operationalising the deal. They have threatened serious political implications if the UPA does so.
At the meeting, the Left parties proposed a discussion on the deal in Parliament during the winter session, beginning from the third week of November.
Biswas said: “To that, Mukherjee replied the UPA was keen to have a debate provided the BJP allows the Houses to function. According to Mukherjee, the government was ready for a debate last session as well but the BJP did not allow Parliament to function.’’
The committee is expected to submit its findings soon, and there is a possibility that it might recommend parliamentary debate on the issue. If that happens, the communists could be in a position to substantiate their claim that a majority of MPs in Parliament are against the deal.
According to sources, RJD chief and Railway Minister Lalu Prasad said at the meeting that the Left’s concerns on the deal should be addressed. He suggested that if the government failed to do so, there may not be any guarantee that the Cabinet would approve the deal. To that, the Left said the deal would be referred to the Cabinet only after agreements are formalised with the IAEA and the Nuclear Suppliers Group. In their view, that stage would not be reached at all.