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Cabinet panels okay 123 text
Rajiv Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 25
The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) and the Cabinet Committee of Political Affairs (CCPA) held a joint meeting today and approved the text of the Indo-US civilian nuclear cooperation agreement, paving the way for simultaneous announcement of the deal from Washington and New Delhi anytime now.

It is understood that the 123 Agreement will be announced a done deal by the two governments either tomorrow or day after.

Though no details of the CCS/CCPA joint meeting were released, external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee went on record to say that “all concerns of India have been reflected and have been adequately addressed” in the 123 agreement. National Security Adviser M.K Narayanan briefed the CCS/CCPA members. The meeting was presided over by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and was at his official Race Course Road residence.

The three key Indian concerns that are understood to have been addressed pertain to further nuclear tests by India, reprocessing of spent fuel and uninterrupted supplies of nuclear fuel.

Armed with the necessary approval from the CCS and the CCPA, the Prime Minister put into fifth gear the process of consultations with the Left parties who are supporting the government from outside and the main opposition combine, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). The CCPA includes ruling UPA allies like union ministers Sharad Pawar (NCP), Lalu Prasad Yadav (RJD) and T. Baalu (DMK).

The Prime Minister met Left leaders this evening at his official residence. Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury (CPM) and A. Bardhan and D.Raja (CPI) were given a presentation on the nuclear deal.

Significantly, the PM’s meeting with the Left leaders was earlier scheduled for tomorrow evening and Pranab Mukherjee even said so in his briefing this morning about the CCS/CCPA meeting. Its pre-ponement by 24 hours is suggestive of time constraints for the government which is looking at a short timeline to announce the deal simultaneously with the USA. The Prime Minister has invited BJP top brass tomorrow. Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and former Deputy Prime Minister L.K Advani are expected to attend tomorrow’s meeting.

The text of the 123 Agreement was placed before the members of the joint meeting of the CCS and the CCPA. However, the government is still undecided whether it would be placing the text of the 123 Agreement before Parliament.

Pranab Mukherjee, while announcing that the CCS and the CCPA approved the agreement, said he could not give any details because of an arrangement made with USA that there would be simultaneous announcement of the 123 Agreement. Mukherjee said after the simultaneous announcement, the US would get on with its procedures of getting the agreement ratified by the Congress.

In view of the fact that New Delhi is ahead of Washington DC by nine and a half hours, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon would be speaking to his American counterpart later tonight and fix the time for simultaneous announcement. Mukherjee also said after this is done, the National Security Adviser, Foreign Secretary and Chairman of Atomic Energy Commission Anil Kakodkar will address a joint press conference.

The government will be making a suo motu statement on the 123 Agreement on the very first working day of Parliament’s Monsoon session. The government will talk about the salient features of the agreement which will be followed by a debate.

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