Schism in Left ranks over pact with IAEA

March 24th, 2008 - 6:29 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Liz Mathew
New Delhi, March 24 (IANS) A split is appearing in the otherwise monolithic ranks of the Left parties over the India-specific safeguards pact the government wants to sign with the global nuclear watchdog. After being against India’s negotiations with the nuclear watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Communist Party of India (CPI) and the dominant sibling, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), now do not have any objections to an India-specific safeguards agreement.

This has infuriated the smaller constituents of the Left bloc - Forward Bloc and the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP).

Leaders of the CPI-M, which launched an onslaught against the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement and everything associated with it, are not saying their stand has changed. But it is clear that it indeed has.

The CPI-M argued earlier that any dialogue with IAEA would amount to “operationalisation of the (nuclear) agreement with the US”, which the leftists are opposed to with a passion.

Both on and off the record conversations, CPI-M leaders, including politburo member Sitaram Yechury, the chief interlocutor between the Left and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government, had said that signing the safeguards agreement would put the nuclear deal in “auto pilot”.

Now while CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat has declared that the Left’s objections were not against the safeguards agreement per se, his CPI counterpart A.B. Bardhan says his party has “no problem” with the IAEA.

“Our problem is with the nuclear agreement,” Bardhan told the CPI’s 20th party congress in Hyderabad Sunday. Bardhan’s statement came a day after Karat said the Left had not “raised any concern about the safeguards agreement with IAEA”.

The Forward Bloc and RSP, which consider themselves as ideological puritans, are not amused.

“What the CPI-M and CPI are saying is unsolicited. We do not agree with it. They did not even discuss this before changing their stance,” RSP general secretary T.J. Chandrachoodan told IANS.

“The Left’s stance has been that when India signs the IAEA agreement, its role as a government ends there. Then it is up to the IAEA to take it to the NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group) and to the US Congress,” said Chandrachoodan, a member of the 15-member United Progressive Alliance-Left nuclear committee.

He added: “(The safeguards pact) will set the ball rolling. We do not know why the CPI-M and CPI have changed their stand?”

According to Forward Bloc leader G. Devarajan, the Left’s reservations against the IAEA accord were that it was a pact created to “operationalise the India-US civil nuclear agreement”.

“For us, signing the IAEA agreement amounts to operationalise the deal, which we oppose.”

Karat is now emphasising that the Left was only against the 123 Agreement and the Hyde Act passed by the US Congress since the Communists feel they would derail India’s independence foreign policy and indigenous nuclear programmes.

Karat wants the government to ensure three things addressed in the safeguards agreement — assurance of uninterrupted fuel supply, building of strategic fuel reserve and corrective measures in case of termination of fuel supply.

A top government official told IANS that the final draft of the IAEA agreement showed the three conditions have been met.

The change in CPI’s and CPI-M’s thinking coincides with a growing feeling in official circles that there may be no early elections to parliament. The next Lok Sabha is due next year.

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