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Govt fails to convince Left, BJP on N-deal
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 5
Even as the government today insisted it was willing to take a sense of the House on the Indo-US nuclear deal once the pre-operationalisation process was complete, the NDA, the Left and the UNPA refused to budge from their opposition to the agreement and staged a walk out at the end of a short duration discussion in the Rajya Sabha.

Responding to clarifications sought by the leader of opposition, Jaswant Singh, and CPM leader Sitaram Yechury to his reply to the long debate on the deal, external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee said the government had never said it would not take a sense of the House. “Let the process be complete,” he said.

As the Opposition and Left members staged the walk out, Mukherjee said it was most unfair, most unfortunate. “They are running out...They have no case,” he said.

Seeking clarifications, Jaswant Singh said the government should take a sense of the House. “Wait a bit. Carry the people and Parliament with you. It is clear that a large part of the House is not with you,” he said. Yechury said the party’s opposition to the deal continues and majority of members in the House were against it. Citing the instance of opposition of the US Congress to the CTBT, he said the government should go by the democratic norms on the nuclear deal. “We are a democratic people and should go by democracy,” he said.

SP leader Shahid Siddiqui told mediapersons later that the debate in the House had given a message to the world that the majority in Parliament was against the deal. “If the government moves ahead, it will be tampering with democracy,” he said.

In his reply, Mukherjee sought to brush aside BJP’s apprehensions on further weapons’ testing, saying if it was necessary the government would conduct the tests. He added that any such move would have its consequences as happened in 1974 and 1998.

The minister said an impression was sought to be created that by attempting to sign the 123 agreement, the government was trying to give up the post-1998 position. He said all Prime Ministers since Independence had made commitments to nuclear disarmament and it was the country’s policy to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

He referred to a speech of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and said India had kept its nuclear options open before the 1998 tests. He rejected suggestions that a Congress government had not gone ahead with planned tests under external pressure. Pointing out that the UPA government was carrying forward the nuclear doctrine of the previous government, he said the country did not want to become a weapons’ power, but wanted a minimum credible deterrent for security purposes. “The security perception is relative. The government of the day has to determine what deterrent was required,” he said.

Referring to the 123 agreement as an enabling framework, he said it would remove restrictions faced by the country on nuclear trade. Referring to the repeated mention of the Hyde Act by the Opposition and Left members, he said it had several elements non-binding elements.

The minister said operationalisation would not start till the entire process, including IAEA safeguards agreement, NSG waiver and ratification by the US Congress was complete. “Once the ratification is done, the two countries will sign and the process will be complete,” he said.

Mukherjee said the NDA government had also worked out nuclear power requirements of the country. Admitting that the USA did not go in for nuclear power in a significant way in the last years, he said the situation was changing due to threat of climate change.

On references to pressure on India concerning Iran, he said the two countries had civilisational links. “Our foreign policy is independent and we are committed to the common minimum programme.” He said the Non- Aligned Movement was vibrant. On the references made by members to some statements of US officials, he said the 123 agreement, which was the end product, was relevant and not who said what at different times.

Pointing out that the high GDP growth was necessary to make resources available for benefit of “aam admi,” he said the country needed both technology and cost-effective energy.

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Left, BJP join hands to embarrass Cong
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 5
It’s a classic case of strange bedfellows. But that’s precisely what is being witnessed in Parliament as the Communists appear to be cosying up to their bete noire, the BJP, in their combined quest to embarrass the Congress-led UPA government.

A number of developments over the past few days indicate a new bonding between the Left and the Right.

The Congress was deeply embarrassed and isolated today when the Left parties, which are lending critical outside support to the ruling combine, joined hands with the BJP to walk out of the Rajya Sabha after the debate on the Indo-US nuclear deal.

The second humiliation came later during the day when the government was forced to withdraw a routine Bill providing for the establishment of a medical institute in Puducherry when the CPM and the Samajwadi Party along with the silent support of the BJP in the Rajya Sabha insisted that the legislation be amended.

These two incidents in quick succession came a day after the Left parties agreed with the BJP suggestion to refer the Gorkha Hill Council Bill to a standing committee. This agreement followed a meeting between West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Lok Sabha’s opposition leader L.K. Advani the previous night. The two leaders are said to enjoy a good rapport. Advani was the only opposition leader to be allowed entry into Nandigram recently while others were kept out of the trouble spot.

Although it was well known that the Left parties would reiterate their opposition to the N-deal in Parliament, the Congress was taken aback when the Communists and the BJP walked out in the Rajya Sabha to protest that the government was not paying heed to the majority opinion on the nuke deal.

The ruling coalition’s crisis managers had thought that like the Lok Sabha debate, the Left parties will not go this far in the Upper House. What was even more galling for the Congress was that the walkout was preceded by hectic consultations between Left and BJP leaders.

CPI leader D. Raja, however, vehemently denied that there was any prior understanding with the BJP.

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