The first meeting of the UPA-Left panel to address the communists' concerns about the Indo-US civil nuclear deal will take place on Tuesday amid speculation whether it can resolve the differences between the two allies and stave off the possibility of early Lok Sabha polls.
The 15-member panel, led by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, is expected to work out the modalities on how to proceed with the task of evaluating the deal and its implications on the 123 agreement in the context of the Hyde Act. There is a possibility that the panel may set up a couple of subcommittees to examine the three terms of reference set for the panel.
The panel is tasked to examine certain aspects of the bilateral 123 agreement; the implications of the United States’ India-specific Hyde Act on the 123 agreement and self reliance in the nuclear sector; and the implications of the nuclear agreement on foreign policy and security cooperation.
Ahead of the meeting, CPM general secretary Prakash Karat rejected Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s suggestion that India should not miss the bus of nuclear renaissance as the vehicle’s destination would be ``Dhritarashtra alingan’’ (stranglehold of the US, in this case).
``We will try to put our point of view across, try to make them understand about our objections (and that of a wide spectrum of public opinion)… about foreign policy, our strategic autonomy and energy security…. But nobody will be able to convince us that the Hyde Act has no effect on this bilateral agreeement. I know they will put very eminent lawyers from their side. But this is not a matter to be argued in a court of law," he said in a strongly worded statement at a convention on the nuclear issue in the Capital.
Tuesday’s meeting could also discuss the manner in which the panel can seek advise from experts and scientists Though a time frame may not be specified, sources said the committee of six members each from the Congress and the Left and three from the UPA would complete its work ``expeditiously.’’
According to CPM’s Sitaram Yechury: ``Our effort will be to see whether any common ground can be worked out between the stands of the Left and the government and also whether some steps can be taken to safeguard India's sovereignty and national interests.’’ He said as per its terms of reference, the committee would deliberate on the 123 agreement and the Prime Minister's assurances in Parliament. "We feel two or three of his assurances are not being fulfilled in the agreement," he said.
The panel was announced on August 30 and constituted on September 4 to deal with the differences between the UPA and the Left. The communists warned the government not to operationalise the deal by negotiating India-specific safeguards with the IAEA or seek the NSG’s waiver for fuel supplies until its concerns are met. The government claimed that talks do not amount to operationalisation. As part of a rapprochement, a joint statement was hammered out in which the government assured that it would take into account the panel’s findings while operationalising the deal.
Besides Mukherjee, Karat and Yechury, the panel includes P Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal, Saifuddin Soz and Prithviraj Chavan (all Congress), AB Bardhan, D Raja (CPI), Debabrata Biswas (FB) and TJ Chandrachoodan (RSP), Sharad Pawar (NCP), Lalu Yadav (RJD) and DMK’s TR Baalu.