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UPA-Left meeting inconclusive
Kakodkar not to attend NSG meet
R. Suryamurthy
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 19
After an assurance from the Manmohan Singh government to the Communists that Atomic Energy Commission chairman Anil Kakodkar would not attend the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) meeting to discuss the Indo-US nuclear deal tomorrow, the UPA-Left committee described their second meeting the deal as “constructive”.

The NSG meeting assumes significance, as the United States will brief the 45 nations about the bilateral agreement and the Hyde Act.

Sources said the government conveyed to the Communists that Kakodkar would not be present at the NSG meeting as it had been convened by Washington to rally the suppliers’ group to unanimously back the bilateral deal with New Delhi.

Left leaders had warned that it would be a breach of trust if the government went ahead with negotiations on India-specific safeguard agreement at the ongoing IAEA meet in Vienna.

The committee, which met for the second time today, agreed to meet again on October 5, its convener and external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee said in a statement without giving details of the discussions. The talks were "constructive", he added.

CPM general secretary Prakash Karat said on the discussions that "we have covered some ground".

In the two-hour long meeting of UPA-Left leaders, sources said the Left parties submitted a rejoinder to the government’s reply to their note rejecting their contentions.

The Left parties, which had rejected the government's note given to them earlier saying "we are not convinced about even a single contention of the government", gave a 12-page rejoinder to the government on their concerns on the deal.

Sources said the meeting focussed on the 123 agreement, impact of the Hyde Act, the question of assured fuel supply and termination clause and technology transfer in the agreement.

The meeting of the 15-member committee was attended by all except finance minister P Chidambaram.

The committee will meet again on October 5. The next meeting will focus on the impact of the nuclear deal on India’s foreign policy.

Sources said the government would give a reply to the rejoinder given by the Left parties by September 24 and the Communists would submit a fresh note on the nuke deal and its impact on the country’s foreign policy.

During the meeting, sources said the UPA-Left committee head and external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee stated that the government was ready for a discussion on the nuclear deal in Parliament, but it was the BJP which prevented the debate from taking place.

Left leaders, sources said, agreed with the government on this issue and stated that they did not blame the UPA for shying away from discussing the deal on the floor of the House.

Except this, sources said, the two sides stuck to their positions and later described the meeting as “constructive” as they have agreed to continue discussions.

Earlier, the leaders of the four Left parties met to formalise their strategy for the committee’s meeting. The Communists took serious umbrage to the remarks of the US Ambassador to India David Mulford who gave an open call for an early conclusion of the Indo-US nuclear deal.

"They (US) are pressurising us. You know it very well. They have set a timetable and they want India to work under the timetable," CPI leader A B Bardhan said when asked to comment on US Ambassador David Mulford's statement that time was running out for India on the deal.

The CPM polit bureau said the Ambassador has only confirmed that US-India relations is broader, “for which Civil Nuclear Deal is important, but only one part of the larger whole”. This is precisely what the Left parties have been saying that the nuclear cooperation agreement must not be seen in isolation from the wider strategic alliance being forged with the United States.”

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Kakodkar mum at IAEA meet

Vienna, September 19
Refraining from making any mention to the Indo-US nuclear deal at the IAEA conference, Atomic Energy Commission chairman Anil Kakodkar said today that India was looking forward to “sustainable” international civil nuclear cooperation “free from interruption”.

Taking note of political sensitivities back home, Kakodkar, in his address to the 51st General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) also made no reference to the India-specific safeguards agreement with the UN nuclear watchdog.

The safeguards agreement and change of Nuclear Suppliers Group rules are mandatory to operationalising the nuclear deal.

“We are looking forward to the possibility of opening up of international civil nuclear cooperation,” he told the 144-nation organisation.

“We expect such cooperation to be sustainable, free from interruptions and consistent with our national policy of closed fuel cycle,” he stressed.

After the bitter experience at Tarapur when the US stopped nuclear supplies in the wake of the 1974 nuclear tests carried out by India, New Delhi has sought to factor in all its concerns and secure guarantees for uninterrupted fuel supplies for its reactors.

Doing some blunt speaking, Kakodkar said global nuclear renaissance has become a “necessity” and appears to be well on cards. However, it rests today on a “very fragile foundation”.

He spoke of the need to build robust inclusive partnerships on an “objective, reliable and predictable basis with a holistic mutual understanding and trust”.

“We are all justifiably concerned about the risks related to safety, environment and proliferation arising out of irresponsible behaviour of state and non-state actors,” Kakodkar said.

However, there is a need to be even more concerned about the vastly enhanced security risk to which future generation would be exposed as a result of direct disposal of spent fuel leading to plutonium mines when a large part of radioactivity decays, he said.

Kakodkar said reactor imports were an additionality to the ongoing indigenous nuclear programme to significantly augment nuclear power generation capacity in the near term. — PTI

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