IAEA pact ‘ready’, Mukherjee heads for Washington

March 22nd, 2008 - 1:27 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, March 21 (IANS) Ahead of his visit to Washington, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee Friday made it clear that the text of India’s safeguards agreement with the IAEA had been finalised but can only be “initialled” after a nod from the government’s Left allies. “Some text has been reached, which only needs to be initialled, and that waits for the political process,” he said told the CNN-IBN channel before heading for Washington Sunday.

Mukherjee is likely to call on US President George Bush and will meet US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and discuss the progress of the nuclear deal and the entire spectrum of bilateral and global issues.

Besides the deal, Mukherjee will also discuss cooperation in other areas, including defence, and high technology.

Allying the Left’s anxiety that the deal will be operationalised after India signs the IAEA agreement, Mukherjee clarified that the deal has three more hurdles to cross before the actual resumption of global nuclear commerce with India.

“The deal will be operationalised only after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group) and the US Congress give their approval and the Indian government then signs the agreement,” he said.

“We would like the deal to materialise. I am in the process of the dialogue (with the Left) and I don’t know what will be the outcome,” he said when asked whether the government will go ahead with the deal in the face of the relentless opposition of the Left to the deal.

He also denied there were differences between him and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the nuclear deal and said: “We echoed the same voice (in parliament). He said we are trying. I said we are trying. That’s all.”

Mukherjee also said the process of building consensus with the Left was on and it would be premature to predict the outcome of the process. “They are our supporters and have stated their opposition we are trying to convince them. If we can do it we’ll do it if we can’t do it, we can’t. The prime minister said if the deal doesn’t happen it is not the end of life. Don’t forget that.”

The United Progressive Alliance-Left nuclear panel meeting on Monday was inconclusive and both sides agreed to discuss the specifics of the pact in April.

Alluding to US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s meeting with the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, in Himachal Pradesh, where she urged all freedom lovers to speak against Chinese “oppression” in Tibet, the minister said that Pelosi was “entitled to express her views”.

This will be Mukherjee’s first visit to Washington as foreign minister.

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