Left adamant on n-deal, blames government for uranium shortage (Lead)

May 23rd, 2008 - 10:45 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, May 23 (IANS) Asserting that their opposition to the Indo-US civil nuclear deal remains unchanged, India’s Left parties Friday alleged that the government was trying to create a “temporary uranium shortage” in order to push the contentious pact. “Our stand that we are not for operationalisation of the 123 agreement (with Washington) remains the same,” Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) general secretary Prakash Karat told reporters after a one-and-a-half-hour-long meeting of the four Left parties here.

The CPI-M-led Left parties, which prop up Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s coalition government, have been vehemently opposing the nuclear agreement saying that it would adversely affect the country’s indigenous nuclear programme and independent foreign policy.

The Left leaders, who met here to discuss their strategy against the Congress-led government’s “wrong” policies”, alleged that the government was trying to “paint the temporary shortage” of uranium for its nuclear programme as a “permanent scarcity in order to push the India-US nuclear deal”.

Karat and his communist colleagues asked the government to clarify what steps it has taken to address the gap between demand for uranium and supply.

“The government should also explain why the plan expenditure of the Department of Atomic Energy has been reduced by Rs.188 crore (Rs.1.8 billion) between 2007-08 and 2008-09,” Karat asked.

“The current shortage of uranium is certainly not because the India-US deal has not come through, since the 10,000 MW plan was finalized purely on the basis of proven Indian uranium reserves, long before any deal with the US was on the horizon,” a statement released by the Left parties said.

Scientists have said the country has a known reserve of uranium to sustain a nuclear energy programme of at least 10,000 MW.

“A temporary mismatch between the national uranium supply and demand cannot be the basis to plunge the country into an India-US deal with far reaching adverse implications,” the statement said.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who heads a 15-member United Progressive Alliance-Left nuclear committee that was formed to address the concerns raised by the communists over the deal, has told the Left leaders that the pact with Washington could bail New Delhi out of the shortage.

The communists asked if the shortage of uranium was due to lack of proper planning or “deliberately”.

Karat also said at the May 28 meeting of the UPA-Left nuclear committee, the communists will be discussing provisions in the India-specific safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

“Discussions on the safeguards agreement are not over as we have not seen the final text of the agreement,” Karat said.

Leaders of Communist Party of India, Forward Bloc and Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) also attended the meeting that was held at the CPI-M headquarters here.

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