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UPA, Left buy time as talks remain inconclusive

The inconclusive talks between the UPA and the Left have effectively delayed the operationalising of the Indo-US civil nuclear deal, reports Sutirtho Patranobis.
Hindustan Times | By Sutirtho Patranobis, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 18, 2008 04:34 AM IST

The inconclusive seventh round of talks between the UPA and the Left on Monday have effectively delayed the operationalising of the Indo-US civil nuclear deal. The government instead of presenting a draft of the safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) verbally explained to the Communists the salient features of the pact in the making with the international nuclear watchdog.

The verbal explanations given to the Left instead of a written one did two things: firstly, it expectedly allowed the Communists to ask for more time to list the clarifications they would need on the government’s explanation. And second, it triggered speculation whether a tacit understanding had been reached between the UPA and the Left to keep delaying the deal till the lame duck Bush administration gets closer to the end of its tenure.

CPI general secretary AB Bardhan told HT that the government said at the meeting that though the IAEA is a monitoring agency, and not a fuel supplying one, it has provisions about uninterrupted fuel supply. “Now, that is the government’s opinion. We will need clarifications on that,” Bardhan said. “The government might give us a written report on the relevant portions of negotiations. They might not necessarily show us the entire text because of confidentiality clauses as it involves many countries,” he added.

At the end of the 75-minute meeting of the UPA-Left political committee, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and CPM politburo member Sitaram Yechury read out a statement that clearly was an exercise in buying time. “The outcome of the negotiations between India and IAEA on India-specific safeguards agreement was presented to the members of the committee… who felt that further discussions were needed. It was decided to hold the next meeting of the committee in April,” Mukherjee said. Earlier, he briefed the Left leaders along with P Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal on the talks with the IAEA.

The Left’s stand on the issue continued to be firm. Its objections to the Hyde Act and its implications on the 123 agreement with the US hasn’t softened a bit, a senior leader said. Forward Bloc general secretary Debabrata Biswas said both sides have decided to do away with any deadline for implementing the deal.

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