Government to seek trust vote, not approach IAEA earlier (Lead)

July 8th, 2008 - 10:13 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, July 8 (IANS) The government Tuesday said it will convene a special session of parliament to seek a trust vote as soon as the president asks it to do so and underlined it will go to the IAEA only after the vote of confidence. “We have decided we will seek a vote of confidence as soon as we receive a formal communication from Rashtrapati Bhavan,” External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters after a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA).

Mukherjee said the decision to seek a trust vote was taken after he spoke to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is currently in Toyako Hokkaido in Japan to attend the annual G8 conclave of industrialized nations and emerging economies.

The meeting was held in South Block Tuesday evening and was attended by Mukherjee, Home Minister Shivraj Patil, Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and Raiwlay Minister Lalu Prasad.

The Left parties Tuesday morning announced withdrawal of support to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government and said they would approach President Pratibha Patil Wednesday to formally convey their decision to her.

“This session will be disposing the vote of confidence. It will be a short session. As per constitutional requirements, the trust vote will be only in the Lok Sabha (upper house),” Mukherjee said.

“The exact date (of the trust vote) will be communicated soon,” said Mukherjee, the government’s chief interlocutor with erstwhile communist allies over the nuclear deal.

The special session will be followed by the monsoon session of parliament, which will be held from Aug 11 to Sep 5, he said, with Vayalar Ravi at his side.

Mukherjee also underlined that the government will go to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for signing the safeguards pact only after seeking a vote of confidence in parliament.

Indicating that the government can approach the IAEA technically anytime, he made it clear that New Delhi will approach the UN atomic watchdog only after the trust vote. “I can’t bind the (successive) government to the pact in case we lose majority,” he said.

The government is planning to send a team to Vienna by next week so that the agreement can be taken up for discussion when the IAEA board meets July 28, reliable sources said.

The signing of the IAEA pact and its ratification by the IAEA board is a must before the deal goes to the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) which has to approve a change in its guidelines for global civil nuclear commerce with India.

Mukherjee, however, sounded evasive when asked whether the government was confident of winning the trust vote and completing the nuclear deal. “The taste of the pudding lies in its eating,” was all he would say.

“Therefore, we shall have to wait till the motion is placed in the house,” he added.

Mukherjee, who headed the UPA-Left joint committee on the nuclear deal, rejected the communist parties’ contention that the government never shared the text of the IAEA safeguards agreement with them and addressed their concerns about the deal.

“This is a classified document between the IAEA and the Indian government. Unless we sign it, it can’t be circulated among even the board members of the IAEA,” he said while recalling the nine meetings the panel held since it was constituted in August last year.

The last meeting of the panel was held June 25, which set the stage for a final confrontation with the Left parties.

“We couldn’t show them the exact text, but in each of the last three meetings, confidential briefing texts summarizing the contents of the agreement and the outcome of the negotiations were circulated to all the members of the committee,” he stressed.

“In each of these meetings, we addressed their concerns about fuel supply and the separation of India’s strategic and civilian programmes,” he said in a bid to repudiate the Left’s contention that the government did not address their concerns about the IAEA pact.

Mukherjee chose not to indulge in any blame game but indicated the government’s displeasure at the Left parties withdrawing support when the prime minister was on a tour abroad and doing so before waiting for the findings of the Left-UPA committee.

“I am not entering into acrimony. We appreciate the support of the Left parties for four years to keep communal forces at bay. We do believe in keeping communal forces at bay,” Mukherjee said.

The Samajwadi Party has decided to support the government and the nuclear deal by touting the same argument - keeping “communal forces” out - that was used by Left parties for extending support to the UPA government all this time.

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