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Indo-US nuclear deal: it's dead or in deep freeze?

Left is, however, cautious and will wait till the UPA-Left political committee meets on Oct 22, report Sutirtho Patranobis and S Iyer.
Hindustan Times | By Sutirtho Patranobis and Shekhar Iyer, New Delhi
UPDATED ON OCT 17, 2007 02:14 AM IST

The Left parties on Tuesday were awaiting a formal communication from the UPA about the government's decision on not initiating talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the India-US civil nuclear deal.

They said whether the deal has been put on hold or not would be clear only when the UPA-Left political committee, set up to resolve differences on the agreement, meets on October 22. Till then, there was no question of assuming the deal was dead or merely suspended temporarily, they said.

CPM politburo member Sitaram Yechury told HT that he was expecting the UPA to clearly state its position on October 22. "We have to wait till that date, and till the UPA states its position formally," he said, adding that multiple factors would have contributed to the government's change of posture.

On Monday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called up US President George W Bush and is understood to have told him about the difficulties in operationalising the deal and that currently it was not in a position to go to the IAEA.

CPI general secretary AB Bardhan said the government should categorically inform the Left that the deal had been put on hold.

Forward Bloc's Debabrata Biswas raised a question about why Singh called up Bush from a third country (Nigeria) to convey the message: "What was the need to do so? The same phone call could have been made from here."

Biswas added that the change of posture seemed tactical. "The Gujarat election is in December. If the nuclear debate carries on till then, it would send a wrong message to the Congress's voters. The Muslim community in Gujarat would be in two minds about India's increasing closeness to the US."

RSP's Abani Roy said it was clear the deal had been suspended only temporarily. "The decision was taken following sustained pressure from the Left and from the allies within the UPA. But how long will the suspension last? We don't know."

Polls still a possibility: BJP

The BJP will remain in election mode for it believes the crisis over the nuclear deal is yet to blow over. There are doubts whether the government has abandoned the agreement altogether.

"The last word has not been said on the deal even if Prime Minister Manmohan Singh may have conveyed to US President George Bush about difficulties in implementing the deal," party chief Rajnath Singh said on Tuesday.

He refused to read much into the conversation between Singh and Bush on Monday. "Mid-term polls are still a possibility. It cannot be ruled out."

Party leaders believe the UPA is buying time and will push through the deal, leading to withdrawal of support by the Left. Senior BJP leaders have been asking MPs, MLAs and functionaries to mobilise youth to take charge of the party work.

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