Government willing to discuss any matter with allies: PM

May 6th, 2008 - 1:10 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, May 5 (IANS) Ahead of a crucial meeting between the ruling UPA coalition and the Left parties on the nuclear deal, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Monday the government was willing to discuss any matter that its allies would like to raise. “We will discuss whatever issue that our colleagues will like to raise,” Singh told journalists at the Rashtrapati Bhawan after the Civil Investiture Ceremony.

The eighth round of meeting between the UPA and its Left allies on the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal would be held Tuesday.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee will represent the government at Tuesday’s nuclear panel meeting. He held “consultations” with India’s ambassador to the United States, Ronen Sen, Monday to apprise himself on the latest developments in Washington, particularly those pertaining to the nuclear deal.

The meeting Tuesday between the two sides is crucial as the Left parties would decide whether it should support India to sign the safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The draft of the agreement has been finalized between India and the IAEA, but the UPA government has decided not to sign the agreement without the final nod from the Left parties.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) politburo member Sitaram Yechury said: “At this stage, we don’t know formally whether any text (of the safeguards agreement) has been finalized. If yes, then we would want to know whether there is anything in the content of this text which can resolve our concerns.”

The Left parties concern were over the Hyde Act that is linked to the 123 agreement that India and the US plans to sign to operationalize their cooperation in the filed of civil nuclear energy. The Left parties’ fear the Hyde Act would impinge on India’s sovereign rights. But the government has argued that it was meant for the US president and does not impact on India and its sovereign rights.

The safeguards agreement with the IAEA, once signed by India, would be placed before the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers’ Group. The group would bring about amendments in its existing guidelines which in turn would help the US government to place the 123 agreement before the US Congress for an “up-down” vote for approval. Once all these procedures are complete, India and the US would be ready to sign the 123 agreement to begin cooperation on civil nuclear energy cooperation.

But in reference to India’s “sovereign foreign policy” the Left parties have also spoken about the proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline. The Communist Party of India leader A.B.Bardhan had told IANS that if the proposed gas pipeline project goes through then it would be a big step in proving the UPA government’s sovereign foreign policy.

The Left’s attempt to link India’s foreign policy to the pipeline stems from the strong opposition that the US has shown towards it. The George W. Bush administration has tried several times to discourage New Delhi from getting into any economic or commercial arrangement that involves Iran.

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