'Won't allow even India-specific accord with IAEA'
Brushing aside government's last-ditch efforts at persuasion ahead of Wednesday's meeting, the Left parties on Tuesday maintained that they continued to oppose the Indo-US nuclear deal, including the India-specific safeguards agreement with IAEA.
The Left's stand was conveyed to the government when CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat met External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee in the capital on Monday night.
Mukherjee, who heads the UPA-Left Committee on the nuclear deal, is understood to have urged the Left parties to allow the government seal the India-specific safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, a plea that was rejected by the Left leader.
The safeguards agreement with the IAEA is a step towards implementing the deal.
"I cannot say anything now", Mukherjee said in Dehradun on Tuesday when asked by reporters to comment on what transpired at his meeting with Karat.
In Delhi, Karat had an hour-long meeting with his CPI counterpart AB Bardhan on Tuesday, though the latter maintained that the nuclear issue did not come up for discussion.
"You know what our stand is. There is no change as far as that is concerned. We will take that stand tomorrow also," Bardhan said after the meeting.
Asked whether Mukherjee made any proposal at his meeting with Karat, the CPI leader said "there are so many proposals. We are not in favour of operationalising the deal."
To a question whether the Left would allow government to finalise a safeguards agreement if the US deal was delinked from it, he said "they have not told us anything of that sort. ... We are not against nuclear energy.
"If they are so concerned about energy security, what about the (Iran-Pakistan-India) gas pipeline. Why are you (government) dragging your feet? If you are really keen on energy security, you should be keen on the gas pipeline also," Bardhan said.
Asked about Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's remark that the deal would help India come out of the nuclear aparthied, Bardhan said "there is no question of us getting out of this apartheid, unless America, which has created this apartheid, gets us out of it."
To a question whether tomorrow's meeting, the ninth round since the UPA-Left committee was formed, would be the last one, Bardhan said "I don't know. There is no such thing that this is the last meeting."
Noting that the UPA-Left committee was yet to finalise its findings on the deal, he said "we have discussed various aspects of the deal, the Hyde Act, its foreign policy implications, the question of its (the deal's) impact on our sovereignty and what sort of safeguards are required."
Bardhan also rejected suggestions that the committee had lost its relevance.
The Left posturing came in the backdrop of the Prime Minister making a strong pitch for the nuclear deal, saying it would protect India's strategic interests and hoped progress will be made in the months ahead on the agreement which has "run into some difficulties".
The CPI(M) had last week said it was not opposed to a safeguards agreement with IAEA but maintained its objections to the nuclear deal with the US.
"Our objection is not to agreement with IAEA. Our objection is with the 123 agreement which, according to us, is very deeply anchored in the Hyde Act (of the US)," CPI(M) Politburo member Sitaram Yechury said.
In a hard-hitting editorial in its party mouthpiece, he had questioned whether the government was pursuing the agreement to "bolster" the American economy.
As far as getting the IAEA board of governors to approve the India-specific safeguards agreement, the Left parties have maintained that this was not acceptable as it was being negotiated in the context of the Indo-US nuclear deal.
The Left parties have been saying that going to the IAEA now would only be the next step to operationalise the agreement, which they cannot allow.
So far as nuclear trade with Russia and France is concerned, there was no urgency to go the IAEA now as these two countries have not even signed bilateral nuclear agreements with India.
The signing of such an agreement with Russia was deferred during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's last visit to Moscow.
Besides the safeguards agreement with IAEA, India has to seek waiver from the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group from its guidelines to participate in international atomic trade to operationalise the nuclear deal.
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