M A I N   N E W S

Agreement on N-reactors elusive
IAEA: Consensus talks with Left still on, says PM
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

Moscow, November 12
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said today that the process of evolving a national consensus on the Indo-US nuclear deal was still on.

Talking to the media after his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin — the 8th annual summit meeting between India and Russia — Manmohan Singh said talks with the Left parties for approaching the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the Indo-US nuclear deal were still on. “This is a subject matter of discussion with our coalition partners,” he said on being asked when the government proposed to approach the IAEA or the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) on the nuclear deal.

The Prime Minister was interacting with the media jointly with Putin, who assured that Russia would always be a reliable partner for India in furthering cooperation in the civilian nuclear energy sector. Putin also said a new joint task force would be constituted to look into the overall aspect of generating economic cooperation. Minister for economic development from the Russian side and commerce minister would jointly head the task force.

(Removing a long-pending irritant, India and Russia today agreed on utilisation of the rupee debt fund and signed an accord for development and production of a multi-role transport aircraft but a crucial pact on setting up four nuclear reactors in Tamil Nadu remained elusive.

(The breakthrough on the the rupee debt fund, a legacy of the Soviet era relations, totalling a whopping Rs 8,000 crore for investments and trade in Russia came during a summit meeting between Manmohan Singh and Putin.)

Manmohan Singh said work was in progress on the question of having an intergovernmental agreement for the construction of four traditional nuclear reactors in Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu. He also said India was looking forward to expanding cooperation with Russia in civilian uses of nuclear energy.

At the joint press conference, the two leaders expressed satisfaction over the their two-hour-long one-to-one talks wherein they discussed the entire gamut of bilateral relations as well as international developments, including the situation in Pakistan and Iran.

Putin said he had highly constructive talks with the Indian Prime Minister in a “business-like atmosphere”. He asserted that the two countries were determined to achieve their target of enhancing the volume of bilateral trade to $ 10 billion by 2010 and the necessary dynamics were already in place to achieve this objective.

Besides, he noted that the two countries were cooperating extensively in the nuclear energy and defence fields and referred to the agreement on production of multi-role transport aircraft (mrta) in this context. He also spoke about the supply of energy fuel to India under the Sakhalin project.

Asked if there would be any further negotiations with President Putin on the proposal for the construction of four additional light water reactors by Russia in Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu, Manmohan Singh said India and Russia had been cooperating in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. He noted that Russia was building two lightwater reactors at Kudankulam and had also supplied fuel for Tarapur.

He pointed out that earlier this year when President Putin visited India, the two countries had reached a memorandum of intent for the construction of four additional reactors and added that the work was in progress on an intergovernmental agreement between the two sides on this issue.

He also thanked President Putin for Russia’s steadfast support in supplementing India’s nuclear energy programme and its assistance in lifting international restrictions on nuclear cooperation with india that were still in place. “Defence cooperation is one of the pillars of our strategic partnership. Our decision on the co-development and co-production of the fifth generation fighter and the multi-role transport aircraft are major steps forward… Our cooperation is symbolised by the agreement on Chandrayan II, which will include a joint mission to the moon involving an orbiter, a lander and a rover to carry out scientific studies,” he added.



Government may get elbow room
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 12
Giving first indications of the possibility of government getting some elbow room on the Indo-US nuclear deal, a senior Left leader said today that the UPA-Left committee on the nuclear agreement could consider allowing the government to go to the IAEA for talks provided it takes the panel’s approval before signing or intialling any document.

CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan said the UPA-Left committee could consider such a proposal from the government provided they come back to it with the outcome of negotiations.

In his remarks, made first to a news channel, Bardhan said it all depended on any such proposal coming to the UPA-Left committee and the panel allowing it provided the government agrees to come back before appending its signatures and also stopping the prcocess if the Left says no.

Bardhan’s remarks came on a day when the CPM also appeared conciliatory in its approach to the stalemate on the deal. Though the CPM politburo, at the end of its two-day meeting here today, reiterated the Left’s stand that the government should not operationalise the deal, party general secretary Prakash Karat pointed to the possibility of the UPA-Left committee “sorting out” the problem at its meetings.

He said dates of the next meeting would be decided soon to see if problem can be sorted out. “We have a stand and the government has a stand. The whole purpose is to sort out the problem,” he said, adding that he was hopeful that something will come out. Asked if there was possibility of consensus at the Left-UPA meeting, Karat said the effort was to sort out the problem. “If there was no possibility (of a solution), we would not be meeting,” he said.

Significantly, Karat said the government had tried to heed to the views of the Left by not proceeding with operationalisation of the deal. “Nobody is adamant,” he said.

However, he also hoped that all political parties will take part in the debate on nuclear deal and Parliament will have an opportunity to express its views.

Sources said the any climbdown by the Left on the deal will provide breathing space to the government which has to meet increasingly difficult timeline to operationlaise the deal. Apart from approaching the IAEA for India-specific safegaurds agreement, the government has to move to the NSG for a waiver before the deal is approved by the US Congress. They said the proposal of starting neogitaions at the IAEA was mooted by the government in the past but was not accepted by the Left.

The government has maintained that operationalsation of the deal means its passing the stage of approval by the US Congress but the Left leaders have been opposing any forward movement.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee had made an attempt on Saturday to persuade the top Left leaders to allow the government to approach the IAEA to negotiate India-Specific nuclear safegaurds. The IAEA board of Governors is scheduled to meet on November 22 and 23.

Sources said Dr Singh and Mukherjee told the Left leaders that the country may have to bear serious ramifications if it does not go ahead with its international commitments.



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