Indicating that the UPA government was going ahead with the Indo-US civil nuclear deal, Union Minister Kapil Sibal wondered whether the Left, which was opposing it, had a 'hidden agenda'.
"Left's opposition to the 123 agreement is for opposition's sake. If they have a hidden agenda, the people of this country
must know," Sibal, the Union Science and Technology minister, told a press conference.
"If they are anti-America and they don't want the deal with them on that account, that also should be made clear to the people of the country," he said in a hard-hiting statement sitting in the Left's backyard here in West Bengal.
Asked if the government was going ahead with the deal, "Nobody said we are stopping the deal. We will take into account the concerns of the left before operationalising it. There is no area to renegotiate the deal."
The Left's problem, he said, was only that the Hyde Act overrode the 123 agreement. "It is on its face unacceptable. It is uninformed opinion."
He said "when the whole world is moving forward, why is the Left pulling India back? The Left should not stop us. Left parties should sit on the table and understand.
"We don't want Left to be left out. They should not confuse Bush with 'bijli' (power)," he said.
"We want to work with the Left and provide a stable government till its full term. We await their response," he said.
Criticising CPI (M) which has been insisting on ratification of all treaties and agreements by Parliament, Sibal said "that is not the law that is not the Constitution.
"If you want to bring an amendment to the Constitution, we will deal with it. Somebody has to bring it. In the history of India, has any international treaty been ratified by Parliament? Let them give just one example", he said.
Sibal said "there is a legal point. The 123 agreement has been signed by us. Now it has to go to US Congress. The US Congress is still to vote on it.
"The US Congress can't propose any amendment. Remember this time when the voting takes place, there will be no amendment. Either they accept or they don't accept it. There is no area to renegotiate. We have signed it and they have to either accept it or reject it."
Claiming that the deal was in national interest, he said "we are neither for America nor for anybody else. We are neither anti-America nor anti anybody. We will do everything to take India forward."
Before India signed the WTO, the Left had said it was against national interest, he said. "Has India become a slave now? Don't make politics out of everything," he said. "Are they going to teach us a lesson in patriotism and nationalism?"
"When the government will go and what discussions will take place you will get to know," Sibal said when asked whether India would go for talks on the India-specific safeguards agreement with IAEA at the forthcoming meeting of the international nuclear watchdog in Vienna this month.
Criticising the street campaign by Left parties against the nuclear deal and the joint naval exercises, Sibal accused them of 'double standards'.
"They are conducting public rallies. Why are they doing it? They are on the panel (the UPA-Left committee) and they are conducting public rallies even today. I want to know from you whether these are double standards or not," he told a questioner.
Asked whether it was possible to delink the civil nuclear co-operation from military co-operation with the US like joint exercises, Sibal said "joint exercise is a co-operation which should be welcomed because we learn strategies that we are not aware of. It is again an extraneous factor which was brought into this debate."
Responding to a question on India twice voting against Iran at the IAEA, he said "the argument is that NAM countries voted for Iran that is factually incorrect. Most of the NAM countries voted against Iran.
"That's what he said. I am talking about the Left's argument, Prakash Karat's argument. And he goes by the majority rule (on the nuclear deal) in Parliament. In that case, you should ask us to vote against Iran because the majority was against Iran.
"The majority rule does not apply when it comes to voting against Iran. But it applies when it comes to voting here. Why this double standard? Who is saying we will vote against Iran? We will vote according to our national interest. Iran also votes according to its national interest."
Speaking on the need to harness nuclear energy, Sibal said that at present the country generated only 2,700 MW of nuclear energy, which would go up to 33,000 MW by 2020 and 63,00 MW by 2030.
He said the country would require 4.46 lakh MW of energy by 2020 and this could not be met only by thermal and hydel power.
In a criticism of Left Front government in West Bengal, he said people in West Bengal villages did not have electricity for 14 hours at a stretch. "Let us give power to aam admi (common people). Don't block the road. Now everying revolves round electricity."