Differences crop up in Left over IAEA agreement

May 7th, 2008 - 2:03 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of P. Chidambaram

New Delhi, May 6 (IANS) Differences surfaced Tuesday within the Left parties on allowing the UPA government to sign an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency on the Indo-US nuclear deal. “Opinion is divided among the Left parties on whether to allow the government to go ahead and sign the agreement with the IAEA or not,” sources told IANS.

A meeting between the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and the Left party leaders was held at the residence of External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee Tuesday to discuss the nuclear deal. But after the two-hour long meeting, no final decision could be taken on allowing the government to sign the agreement with the IAEA. The joint panel is to meet again on May 28.

One section of the Left leaders, including Communist Party of India general secretary A.B.Bardhan, is not averse to allowing the government to sign the safeguards agreement with the IAEA. But the other is still bent on opposing any move that will finalize it.

A draft between India and the IAEA has been agreed upon. But the UPA government has decided not to sign the agreement without the approval of its crucial ally - the Left parties.

The Left parties had earlier given its nod to allow the government to start negotiations with the IAEA. But they fear that once an agreement is signed between the two, the other stages required for operationalizing the 123 agreement for cooperation on civil nuclear energy between India and the United States would be completed without much resistance.

Sources said the issue was raised by Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) general secretary Prakash Karat at Tuesday’s meeting. But Mukherjee assured the Left leaders that there was no question of the process going into “auto-pilot” once an agreement between India and the IAEA was signed. Mukherjee re-assured the Left leaders that the government would take “the sense of the parliament” before signing its agreement with the US.

Once the safeguards agreement is signed with the IAEA, the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group would bring the required amendments in its guideline to allow commerce on civilian nuclear energy between India and the 45-member countries in the Group. It would then go to the US Congress for an “up-down” vote to change the US Atomic Act and pave the way for an agreement between India and the US on civilian nuclear energy cooperation.

Sources said the external affairs minister even told the Left party leaders that if they allow the government to sign the agreement with the IAEA, he would also prepare a draft agreement with Russia during his visit to the country later this month. This he argued would allow India and Russia to cooperate on civilian nuclear energy once the NSG changes its guidelines.

Sources said that early, Tuesday Mukherjee had met some of his senior cabinet colleagues that included Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal to decide on what line of argument the government should adopt for the meeting with the Left parties.

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