The Left issued a fresh warning to the government over a controversial nuclear pact with the United States, urging it be put on hold until parliament convenes at the end of next month. <b1>
The new deadline by the CPI(M), which has opposed the landmark deal and threatened to withdraw crucial support to the government over it, came at the end of four days of talks among its top leadership.
The party had last month asked the government not to pursue the deal for six months and warned of a political crisis if it went ahead. But Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government had refused to buckle under that threat.
The government "should not proceed further on the next steps with regard to the nuclear deal till it can be discussed in the winter session of parliament", a party resolution said.
CPI(M) chief Prakash Karat said the left parties and the government were making an attempt to "grapple" with the row through a joint panel formed in August.
"Let us make that effort," he told a news conference. "I am not saying this will achieve anything. But at the same time we are very clear that they should not proceed to the next step without resolving these issues before the committee. What we will do next we will tell the country when the time comes," he said in the party's eastern stronghold of Kolkata.
The nuclear pact, first agreed in principle in 2005, aims to help India meet its soaring energy needs by giving it access to US fuel and reactors even though New Delhi has tested nuclear weapons and not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
But the left says the deal compromises India's sovereignty and seeks to weaken New Delhi's independent foreign policy. With the government refusing to give in, the crisis has raised the prospect of early elections next year.
After the crisis escalated in August, the government and the left parties formed a panel to study the deal and address communist concerns in what was largely seen as an exercise to buy time.
That panel is due to meet on October 5 and possibly on October 14.
India still needs to negotiate a safeguards agreement for its civilian reactors with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), get the Nuclear Suppliers Group of nations to back the deal and the US Congress to approve it before nuclear commerce can begin.
Indian government officials have said that they need to move on the IAEA safeguards agreement by the end of this month to meet a US deadline to conclude the deal before Washington gets caught up in presidential elections next year.