India approaches IAEA; Left, BJP criticise move (Lead, Changing dateline)

July 10th, 2008 - 2:09 am ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

Vienna/New Delhi, July 10 (IANS) After long months of delay, India finally approached the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Wednesday, on a day the Left withdrew support to the government and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met President George W. Bush. The move, however, led to sharp criticisms from the opposition parties. “At the request of the Government of India, the IAEA Secretariat today circulated to Members of the IAEA Board of Governors for their consideration the draft of an ‘Agreement with the Government of India for the Application of Safeguards to Civilian Nuclear Facilities’”, the UN atomic watchdog said in a statement.

“The Chairman of the Board is consulting with Board Members to agree on a date for a Board meeting when the Agreement would be considered,” it added.

This ended months of uncertainty over the India-specific safeguards pact - the next step in making the landmark India-US nuclear deal operational.

India’s approach to the IAEA had been blocked by the Manmohan Singh government’s Left allies, who earlier Wednesday formally withdrew their legislative support to it.

The government’s move to approach the IAEA at this juncture was criticised by the Left as well as the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) though the Congress defended it.

BJP spokesman Rajiv Pratap Rudy told a news channel: “This is a midnight deceit with the nation. The government deceived the people of India by going to the IAEA.”

The Left felt its stance was vindicated. G. Devarajan of the Forward Bloc, one of the four Left parties, said: “It’s clear that the government is going by a pre-conceived plan. It has been fooling the Left.

“This move also answers those who questioned the Left on why the G8 summit was linked with the nuclear deal,” Devarajan told IANS.

“We would like to know whether there was any communication between the prime minister and the foreign minister,” he added, referring to External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s statement Tuesday that the government would approach the IAEA only after proving its majority.

However, Congress spokesman Manish Tewari said: “This is just an extension of what the prime minister was saying. There is a fine distinction between circulation and ratification (of the draft). As far as the latter is concerned, the government is absolutely committed to what the external affairs minister has said.”

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