No deceit over n-deal, says Congress, as BJP and Left see red (Roundup)

July 10th, 2008 - 9:11 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Bharatiya Janata Party

New Delhi, July 10 (IANS) India’s ruling Congress party Thursday dismissed allegations of deceit over the India-US nuclear deal as the Left kept up its strident attack and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to immediately prove his parliamentary majority. Without joining hands, the BJP and Left parties separately denounced the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government for taking the text of the India-specific safeguards agreement to the IAEA while denying it to people within the country.

In his second press conference in as many days, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) general secretary Prakash Karat attacked the government for going ot the IAEA.

“It is shocking and a betrayal of not just the Left but the country and the people. It is a sad state of affairs. All sorts of concoctions are being put forward. We want the prime minister to answer.

“We will fight every step to stop this deal. We will make it impossible for the government to go ahead with the deal.”

BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Advani accused the government of adopting a “deceitful attitude” over the nuclear deal and said it had lost “all credibility” by secretly taking the safeguards pact text to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the global nuclear watchdog.

“We have a feeling that a conspiracy is afoot to present the nation with a fait accompli by rushing it through behind closed doors,” Advani said, after a meeting of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

“This is something no government should do, least of all a minority government. The UPA has made India a laughing stock. It must seek a vote of confidence immediately.”

Still in search of numbers that would help it win a trust vote in the 545-seat Lok Sabha, the Congress party remained unfazed by the barrage of criticism.

“It is wrong to interpret the request for convening the meeting of the Board of Governors of IAEA as going to IAEA,” said Congress general secretary M. Veerappa Moily.

“After the text of the IAEA was circulated to the members of the Board of Governors, it no more remained restricted. The government took prompt action to place the document on its website,” he said.

He also asserted that the government “will go for a trust vote and then go to the IAEA”.

The government is expected to soon convene a special session of parliament to prove its majority. The monsoon session of parliament is set to start Aug 11.

In a clear bid to embarrass the government, the Communists underlined that External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee had said publicly that New Delhi would first seek a trust vote and then go to the IAEA.

Mukherjee had also told Karat, the CPI-M leader said, that the text of the safeguards pact was a privileged document and could not be shared with a third party without going through the laid down procedures of IAEA.

The draft of the safeguards agreement unveiled Thursday meets three of the government’s key concerns: uninterrupted fuel supply for its reactors, strategic fuel reserve, and right to take corrective steps if fuel supply is disrupted.

The text, finalised early this year after several rounds of negotiations between Indian officials and the IAEA secretariat, provides for “reliable, uninterrupted and continuous access” to the international fuel market after New Delhi puts its identified civilian facilities under permanent safeguards.

In other developments US Ambassador David Mulford met Prime Minister Singh to discuss the future steps in the implementation of the nuclear deal.

He briefed Manmohan Singh about his meetings with envoys of nearly two dozen countries belonging to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) Wednesday, said diplomatic sources.

After India’s safeguards agreement with the IAEA is approved by the Board of Governors and signed by the two parties, the 45-member NSG will consider changing its guidelines on nuclear commerce in New Delhi’s favour.

The nuclear deal will then go for a formal US presidential determination before heading for Congressional approval.

With only 40 legislative days left in the Congressional calendar after the house returns from recess later this year, the process will have to be fast-tracked at each stage for the 123 bilateral agreement to come before the two chambers of US Congress.

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