The UPA-Left meeting is expected to take place on March 17 to discuss the nuclear issue amid indications that the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement may be further delayed. Given this, Congress sources hinted that channels of communication have been opened with the Democracts at various levels to keep the deal alive if there is a change of regime in the US. The Democrats do not share the Republicans’ enthusiasm for the deal. “Talks with the Democrats are on at various levels,” said a Congress leader.
Last week, CPM general secretary Prakash Karat had written to External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee to call a meeting of the joint talks mechanism in the backdrop of the government’s negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). His party also struck an ominous note warning that the government’s future depended on the decision it will take on Washington’s “pressure” to conclude the deal.
CPI’s AB Bardhan was more explicit with the threat to withdraw support if the government proceeded with the deal.
That the deal is likely to get further delayed became evident when Karat on Sunday said the Left parties would take two to three months to study the government’s presentation on its talks with the IAEA for an India-specific safeguard agreement before reaching out to the nuclear suppliers group.
But the Left’s objection to the deal isn’t the only hurdle the government would need to cross. Sources said UPA allies like the NCP and the RJD – worried among other things of the impact of the deal on the minority vote – are also waiting to stand up and speak once things come to a crunch. Since the government is presently engaged in trying to get the Left on board, they see no reason to stand up and be counted right now.
In fact some weeks back it was the UPA allies that had stamped out the possibility of the government pressing ahead with the deal even as the Left withdraws support on the issue. “How can there be a deal if there is no government? So long as the government is there, there is a possibility of a deal,” a well-placed ally had then said.