N-deal: It’s talk time for Left, Congress

The two sides will discuss modalities of panel on Hyde Act today, report Saroj Nagi and Sutirtho Patranobis.
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Updated on Aug 27, 2007 02:26 AM IST
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Hindustan Times | BySaroj Nagi and Sutirtho Patranobis, New Delhi

After the war of words between the Congress and the Left on the Indo-US civil nuclear deal, it is down to the brass-tacks to try and find common ground.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and the Left party leaders will meet on Monday to discuss the modalities of setting up a panel to evaluate the implications of the US’s Hyde Act on India’s foreign policy options.

“The meeting will discuss the modalities of the proposed mechanism and other related issues,” a Congress leader said.

Once the basic groundwork is prepared, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi are likely to step in to put their stamp of approval.

The decision to initiate talks with the Left on the proposed mechanism was taken after the Congress core group met on Saturday following Sonia’s return from South Africa. The issue of the nuclear deal and the Hyde Act came up in CPI leader D Raja’s meeting with Mukherjee on Sunday.

“The Minister told me that his party is going through the Hyde Act in detail in the context of the objections we have raised,” Raja told HT. He quoted Mukherjee as saying that there was a need to find a “solution” to the imbroglio.

In the back-channel discussions between the CPM and the Congress, there was a broad agreement to have representatives from both sides on the proposed mechanism for talks. The advice of scientists and diplomats will be available to them while they go through various provisions of the Hyde Act the Left has objections to.

Though Raja met Mukherjee to discuss a forthcoming programme in Kolkata, he used the occasion to reiterate the Left’s demand that the deal should not be operationalised until their concerns are addressed. The communist feel that the Hyde Act circumscribes India’s foreign policy options, as it requires the US government to present an annual update on how New Delhi's foreign policy line is in tune with Americas.

According to Left leaders, an early understanding that the operationalisation of the deal would be contingent on the decision of the panel would help in ensuring an early and meaningful debate on the issue in Parliament.

In another development, CPI (M) politburo member Brinda Karat said in Ahmedabad that the PM should value the opinion of Indian MPs on the Indo-US civil nuclear deal more than that of American lawmakers.

A news agency quoted Brinda as having said: “We (Left parties) urge the Prime Minister to value the vote of the Indian Members of Parliament above the vote of an American MP. What we are saying is not to operationalise the deal as the issue deeply concerns our future.

We hope the PM takes into account the view that majority in Parliament was against the (123) Agreement.”

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