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N-logjam: Cold comfort but no peace deal yet

A late night UPA resolution expresses confidence in the PM and Sonia Gandhi, report V Sharma and S Nagi.
By Vinod Sharma and Saroj Nagi | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON AUG 30, 2007 06:01 PM IST

The UPA allies rallied behind Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and coalition chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Sunday after the CPM mooted a mechanism to discuss the implications of a US act that is at the root of the Left's rejection of the Indo-US nuclear agreement.

The late night UPA resolution also expressed confidence that Singh and Sonia will be able to address all concerns raised by the Left, including those on the Hyde Act, the India-specific US law. It made no mention of the proposed mechanism.

Political sources told the Hindustan Times that the composition and mandate of a committee proposed by the Marxists would be addressed at the government's level. External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, to whom CPM's Sitaram Yechury conveyed the idea, briefed Singh, Sonia and the UPA leaders about it.

As it would not merely be the job of a politician, the committee is likely to include experts and diplomats, a top government source said. The panel will be given shape over the next couple of days in consultation with the Left parties.

At the meeting, the government explained to allies the status of the 123 Agreement and the difficulties in evolving a middle path to accommodate the Left's position on the issue. It also said that diplomacy was a continuous process and talks its integral part.

In response, some allies urged the government to find a way out of the crisis to avoid mid-term elections. The implications of early polls also figured in the talks with some participants optimistic that the Left will not cross the Rubicon as such a move would only help the BJP.

However, a senior CPM leader said: "The issue is not about setting up a panel of experts or simply expressing the wish that the government will address our concerns. The issue is about not beginning negotiations with the IAEA and the Nuclear Suppliers' Group. If they go ahead with these discussions, the panel is of no use." For their part, the UPA allies said the coalition has been consistently working for the welfare of the common man and for promoting India's national interest globally.

"We are confident that they (the prime minister and Sonia Gandhi) will be able to address all legitimate concerns, including those voiced by our Leftist colleagues, on issues of national interest," the allies said in the resolution read out by Mukherjee after the meeting.

More will be heard on the issue when the four Left parties meet on Monday to evolve a common stand on the deal.
This will be their first joint meeting after the PM's statement challenging them to withdraw support.

The CPM's proposal for a mechanism to discuss the Hyde Act did not mark any climb-down or change of stance. It was in sync with the politburo's resolution warning the government of the deal's adverse consequences while leaving room for talks. "Till all the objections are considered and the implications of the Hyde Act evaluated, the government should not take the next step with regard to negotiating a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency," the politburo had said.

Mukherjee took the proposal first to the PM before placing it for the consideration of the Congress's seven member Core group, which includes Singh and Sonia. Thereafter, it was routed to the UPA leaders meeting.

While taking forward within the government and the UPA the Left's proposal for a mechanism, senior Congress leaders were unsure whether it would spell a way out of the crisis.

Is the government still in danger? "It is difficult to say," remarked a top functionary before the UPA meeting amid speculation of early polls. "There will be elections only if this government resigns and there is no alternate government in place. It is a matter not controlled by an individual. It is a coalition government."

As the UPA and Left stood a distance apart on the deal, the Third Front has also got into the act. TDP's Chandrababu Naidu and SP's Amar Singh called up CPM general secretary Prakash Karat while CPI's D Raja discussed the crisis with Karunanidhi, PMK chief S Ramadoss and Lalu Yadav.

Inputs from Aloke Tikku & Sutirtho Patranobis

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