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Indo-US Nuclear Deal, No Breakthrough

November 21, 2007 by  


By Nilofar Suhrawardy, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

NEW DELHI – The so-called “breakthrough” is green signal given by the Left bloc to the government approaching the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for working on India-specific safeguards agreement, regarding the India-United States civilian nuclear deal. The decision was reached at the United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-Left committee meeting last week (November 16). “The committee discussed implications of the Hyde Act on the 123 agreement on foreign policy and security matters. After further discussions it was decided that the impact of the provisions of the Hyde Act and the 123 agreement on the IAEA safeguards agreement be examined,” External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said after the meeting. “This will require talks with the IAEA Secretariat for working out the text of the India-specific safeguards agreement. The government will proceed with the talks and the outcome will be presented to the committee for its consideration before it finalizes its findings,” he said. “The findings of the committee will be taken into account before the operationalisation of the India-US civil nuclear cooperation agreement,” Mukherjee said.

Though the Left’s nod for talks with IAEA cannot be equated with their giving the green signal to the deal itself, the Congress-led government seems fairly upbeat that at least they can proceed with needed talks at the international level. Not surprisingly, a visibly pleased Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi talked optimistically about the deal, the next day (November 17) at the All India Congress Committee (AICC) session. Dismissing “doubts and misgivings in many minds” about the deal, Singh said: “I would like to say that the propaganda that is being made about this nuclear dear will any way hurt our strategic program is totally false.” “I have stated repeatedly on several occasions that this agreement concerns only civilian side of nuclear energy and that it will have no bearing on the strategic and security program, which will remain intact without any international interference,” he said. He described the deal as an effort to obtain nuclea r fuel and technology from countries such as US, Russia and France. Given the pace at which the country’s economy was growing, India needed to expand its power generation capacity at a massive scale and nuclear energy was one possible source, he said.

Supporting the Prime Minister’s stand on the deal, Gandhi said that it would facilitate India to access fuel and new technologies to fulfill its requirements in the energy sector. Admitting that there remained differences on the deal with UPA’s allies, she said that efforts were on to reach a consensus.

Notwithstanding the optimism displayed by Congress leaders, the Left bloc leaders have reiterated that they have not shifted from their earlier stand on the deal. Asserting that talks with the government will continue to sort out the issue, the Left leaders said that they have not permitted “operationalization” of the deal. Dismissing the opinion that softening of the Left’s stand regarding talks with IAEA would enable the government to get the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) clearance and then take the nuclear deal to the US Congress, Prakash Karat (Communist Party of India-Marxist) said: “As far as we are concerned, the UPA-Left committee meeting on Friday decided that after the government goes to the IAEA for safeguards negotiations, it will come back with the results to the committee, which will draw its findings and come to some conclusion on the text finalized but not initialed with the IAEA.”

“The Left is determined to oppose this deal and we think it is bad for our country,” Karat said.

Pointing out that the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was a coalition government, Karat said that it has to come to terms with the fact that “majority” of political parties and parliamentarians are against the deal. Dismissing the notion of India having an international commitment to ensure the deal’s implementation, Karat said: “No agreement can be put above Parliament and the interest of the country.”

“Our opposition to the deal, which will adversely affect country’s foreign policy, remains,” said D. Raja (Communist Party of India). “Allowing the government to proceed with the talks does not mean that Left parties have softened their stand on the deal,” he said.

Interestingly, while the Congress leaders are pleased about the green signal from the Left for talks with IAEA, even though the latter have reiterated that there has been no change in their stand towards the deal, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has its own opinion. Viewing the Left’s nod as a politically motivated decision, BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said: “The Left will help the UPA government continue at all costs. For this, it is prepared to make compromise after compromise.” With the Left having never been serious in its opposition to the India-US nuclear deal, it is not going to disturb the UPA government, he said. “Fear of the BJP will continue to keep the opportunistic alliance going,” Prasad said.

Expressing his party’s stand against the deal, BJP President Rajnath Singh said: “The UPA government’s progress towards signing of the deal is wrong…it is not good for the future of the country.”

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