M A I N   N E W S

Manmohan defends as CWC attacks rise in prices
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 12
Pushed into a corner by the BJP-led NDA and the Left parties on the Indo-US nuclear deal, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today sought and got the unequivocal backing of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) on this key foreign policy initiative.

The party was equally supportive of the UPA government’s decision to resume the stalled dialogue with Pakistan and its engagement with China.

While scoring high on its handling of foreign policy, the government did not fare that well on the domestic front as the CWC did not hesitate to express its unhappiness over the rising prices of essential commodities like dal and cooking oil.

This veiled attack on the government’s failure to control prices put Prime Minister on the defensive who, it is learnt, gave a lengthy explanation on the measures being taken to deal with this problem. He warned about tough times ahead as wheat production in the rabi season was well below projections.

The process to secure political support for the Indo-US deal began yesterday itself when Congress president Sonai Gandhi met senior party leaders to discuss this matter. This was followed by a meeting with UPA allies today.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee gave an exhaustive briefing to CWC members on three key foreign policy initiatives-- the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal, Indo-Pak dialogue and the recent visit of Chinese President Hu Jiantao. While clarifying that concerns over the recent law passed by the US were misplaced, Mr Mukherjee explained that this legislation was not a binding on India.

He went on to emphasise that the 123 agreement which India will now negotiate with the US will form the basis of civilian nuclear cooperation between the two countries, adding that, this pact will meet the commitments made in the July 18 and March 2 statements. The country’s interest will not be compromised, he assured the CWC members, who endorsed the government’s plan of action. No member raised any doubts or expressed serious concern about the deal.

Mr Mukherjee also informed the CWC about his forthcoming trip to Islamabad, the resumption of talks with Pakistan and President Musharraf’s recent comments on Jammu and Kashmir. He said while pursing the peace process, India should not lower its vigil, as a repetition of Mumbai blasts cannot be ruled out completely.

There was a general consensus that the Prime Minister had taken the right decision to commence talks with Islamabad as there was a genuine desire for peace in both countries.

Senior leader Mohsina Kidwai and V. Naaryansamy raised the issue of price rise even though it was not listed on the agenda. The Prime Minister explained that following up on the suggestions made at the last CWC meeting, the government had allowed the states to take action against hoarding but they had failed to act. He said domestic production of dal had come down and the government had resorted to imports.



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