Minority government too can conclude n-deal, say experts

July 8th, 2008 - 7:52 pm ICT by IANS  

By Manish Chand
New Delhi, July 8 (IANS) A minority government can conclude a pact with the IAEA and sign any international agreement, including the nuclear deal, as long as it enjoys the support of a majority in parliament, leading experts said here after the Left pulled out support from the ruling UPA coalition. “There is nothing technically that prevents a minority government from signing the nuclear deal or any other major international treaty,” a senior Indian official, privy to the government’s thinking on the issue, told IANS when asked whether a minority government can wrap up the India-US civilian nuclear deal.

“Let’s us not forget it was a minority government that initiated major economic reforms in the country,” he said while alluding to the P.V. Narasimha Rao government (1991-1996) that lasted its full term and set economic reforms rolling in the country.

However, such a question will not arise if the UPA government manages to get required support of around 55 MPs to notch up the magic number of 272 in case of a trust-vote in parliament.

Samajwadi Party, with 39 MPs in Lok Sabha, has already pledged its support to the government which is wooing other smaller political parties to plug the gap left by the Communists.

“If the president is satisfied that the government enjoys a majority in the House on the basis of letters of support by other political parties or it wins a trust vote, it will no longer be a minority government,” Shanti Bhushan, a former law minister, told IANS.

“There is, therefore, no question of a minority government doing the nuclear deal. It will be a government enjoying a clear majority in parliament provided it has the required numbers,” Bhushan said, adding that a minority government, too, has the right to enter into international treaties with any other sovereign country.

Bhushan’s remarks acquire significance in the backdrop of External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s comments last year that the government will not be interested in concluding the deal as a minority government as it will weaken India’s position when it seeks a waiver in the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Some analysts have questioned the legitimacy of a minority government concluding such a major international treaty. But leading experts dismiss such arguments as rhetorical.

Besides, if the government succeeded in getting the support of 272 MPs or more, this argument simply vanishes.

“The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is concerned only whether a safeguards agreement is brought up by an accredited member. Whether the government is a majority government or a minority government, it doesn’t matter to the IAEA,” K. Subrahmanyam, a leading strategic expert, said.

India is part of the 35-member board of governors of the IAEA that has to ratify the India-specific safeguards agreement before the deal can go to the NSG.

Similarly, the NSG countries will go by the content of India’s safeguards pact with the IAEA and not by whether it’s a minority or majority government that is seeking a waiver, he said.

The nuclear deal is strongly placed in the NSG, top government sources said. They pointed out that over 20 members of the IAEA board are also members of the NSG.

Subrahmanyam said if the IAEA pact is ratified, India is confident that it will be that much easier for it in the NSG. He, however, admitted that there are sceptics in the NSG like Ireland and Austria, but wondered whether they can stand up to their peers if the rest of them support the deal.

“The 123 agreement is an international agreement between two sovereign nations. The Americans have made it clear that so long as they have a legitimate government in India, nothing else matters as far as signing the agreement is concerned,” Subrahmanyam stressed.

“If the 123 agreement is signed by September-October, nobody is going to say it’s not legitimate as US President George Bush will be out of the White House in the next few months,” he added.

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