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Stalemate on nuke deal
R. Suryamurthy
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 22
The assembly election in Gujarat seems to have forced the UPA and Left parties to close ranks and project a united face, even as the deadlock continued between them on the nuclear deal issue.

The fifth meeting of the UPA-Left committee today decided to meet again on November 16, after Diwali and start the process of finalising the findings of the committee.

“The members of the committee expressed hope that the issues currently before it would be addressed in an appropriate manner and the operationalisation of the deal will take into account the committee’s findings,” the statement issued after the meeting said.

Sources pointed out that the both the sides have stuck to their points of view and there has been no change in their respective stance. They pointed out that the committee is unlikely to come out with a unanimous recommendation on the deal.

Party sources said Gujarat elections could act as a rallying point for the UPA and the Left to delay finalising the findings of the committee as they would like to corner Narendra Modi-led BJP government in the assembly poll in the state, although not jointly.

The committee’s meeting today was held after the UPA allies huddled to discuss the nuclear deal and various statements which have been made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, including his talks with US President George Bush and the statement of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

It is learnt that the UPA allies, who have started speaking in different voices, were reportedly reminded of their consent to the Cabinet decision of going ahead with the nuclear deal.

At the committee meeting, Mukherjee initiated the discussions by bringing on record the statements made by the Prime Minister and UPA chairperson on the deal and elections at the Hindustan Times leadership summit 10 days ago.

Manmohan Singh had hinted that the government was prepared to sacrifice the deal to survive its full five-year term. “The nuclear deal with the USA is a good deal but failure on the deal won’t be the end of life,” he had said, adding, “we are not a one-issue government.”

This was done apparently to soothen the ruffled Left feelings on the deal over which they have serious reservations. The discussions today centred on the implications of the Hyde Act on India’s nuclear programme and its pursuit of an independent foreign policy.

CPI General Secretary A.B Bardhan had stated the government should clarify whether the deal is on/off or on hold. Party sources pointed out that the government did not come out with any categorical stand on the issue as they would not like to commit themselves as they do not know whether the India-specific agreement with IAEA would go through or the 45-member Nuclear Supplier Group would give unconditional consent to it and whether the US Congress would give a green signal to the deal.

Leaders in the meeting also discussed the forthcoming polls in Gujarat and were of the view that the winter session of Parliament should be postponed. The state goes to the polls in two phases on December 11 and 16.

Conventionally, the winter session of Parliament begins in the third week of November and the sessions are generally preponed or postponed if there is a clash with assembly elections as it was done recently for Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal elections.

The left parties submitted a note on the Indo-US Defence Framework and the proposed logistics agreement. The UPA is expected to reply to this note in due course, Mukherjee said.

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