UPA, Left buy time, defer decision on n-deal

March 18th, 2008 - 12:11 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
(Second Lead)

New Delhi, March 17 (IANS) In an obvious bid to buy time, the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and its Left allies deferred a decision on whether to go ahead with the contentious Indo-US nuclear deal and their joint panel Monday decided to meet again in April. With both the ruling UPA and its Left allies unwilling to call it quits now with the general elections slated for next year, the panel discussed the outcome of the negotiations between India and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on a safeguards agreement but ended the round of Monday’s talks without taking any decision on whether the government should proceed with the deal or not.

The 15-member panel, headed by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, met at 5.00 p.m. and continued till 6.20 p.m.

When the panel members met, Mukherjee gave a note explaining the advantages of the outcome of the negotiations with the IAEA. The UN nuclear watchdog officials and Indian negotiators have finalised a draft agreement of the India specific safeguards but the government cannot sign it due to opposition from the Left.

The communist parties, which have asked the government to get back to them before signing the deal, wanted the draft placed before them, but the government declined, saying it was an international negotiation and could not be placed for scrutiny. However, the UPA members said they would tell them the highlights of the agreement.

The Left, which gives outside support to the government, are opposed to the deal saying it would compromise India’s strategic interests and make India play second fiddle to the US.

After the meeting, Mukherjee read out a statement: “The committee felt further discussions were needed. ”

“The outcome of the negotiations between India and the IAEA on the India-specific safeguards agreement was presented to the members of the committee,” Mukherjee said.

The Left leaders, who were insisting on a look at the draft agreement, said they did not get to see a copy of it.

“The Left is not happy. The government explanation on IAEA talks did not satisfy us. We want to see the agreement,” T.J. Chandrachoodan of the Revolutionary Socialist Party told IANS.

The India-specific safeguards pact is a necessary step to make the deal operational. The Left had given a green light to the government to hold talks with the UN atomic watchdog with the condition that the final draft of the pact would have to be approved by the UPA-Left panel.

Leaders of the four Left parties, which support the Manmohan Singh government from outside, met before starting the meeting with the UPA leadership.

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