M A I N   N E W S

UPA, Left give more time to N-standoff
Anita Katyal and Faraz Ahmad
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 25
The ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and the supporting Left parties today averted a showdown on the contentious Indo-US nuclear deal and, instead, decided to put off the inevitable till a later date.

The UPA-Left coordination committee had a 90-minute meeting this evening at the residence of external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee, after which a brief and terse statement was put out, saying, “The ninth meeting of the UPA-Left coordination committee completed its discussions on the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement today. It will now meet in due course to finalise its findings.”

Although there was no formal announcement on the next meeting, it could be within the next few days (even June 28) as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is insisting that a final decision be taken before he leaves for Japan on July 7 for the G-8 summit, where he is expected to meet US president George Bush. The government has to take a political call on this issue as it has to get the IAEA agreement and the waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group by end-August to enable the US Congress to take it up in its September session.

Given the urgency of the situation, the Congress core committee, which includes the PM, party president Sonia Gandhi and other senior leaders, was in meeting till late tonight. While the PM wants to move ahead on the deal, the government is also under pressure from the UPA allies who do not want to precipitate matters which could result in an early election.

At the meeting both the Left parties and the UPA restated their positions. The Communists reiterated that they would withdraw support to the government if it approached the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to finalise India-specific safeguards agreement. The UPA made a strong case for the finalisation of the deal by pointing to the country’s grim energy scenario.

With little possibility of any meeting ground between the two, the government decided to buy more time to consider its options. Given the tension which has been building up over the past week, the UPA-Left panel meeting was stated to be very grim. CPM general secretary Prakash Karat presented a two-page note explaining the reasons for its opposition to the deal and why the government should not proceed with it. The note stated, “If you go to IAEA the whole thing will then be on autopilot. We don’t think you should go there.”

The government, on its part, wanted to make a presentation on the energy scenario but the Left leaders brushed it aside, stating that the deal is nothing to do with energy but was meant to have a strategic alliance with the US.

At one point, RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav warned against a breakup between the Left and the UPA, stating that by doing so “ you will be laying out the red carpet for Advani.”

The UPA-Left meeting was preceded by a flurry of meetings throughout the day as efforts were stepped up on both sides to reconcile their differences and lay the groundwork for the evening meeting. Pranab Mukherjee and defence minister A.K. Anthony had a breakfast meeting with Prakash Karat after which the two ministers briefed UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Shortly before the meeting of UPA-Left panel, Mukherjee and railway minister Lalu Prasad Yadav had another round of consultations with the PM.

The Left deliberated earlier in the day on this note. Leaders of all four Left parties met at the CPM headquarters, A.K. Gopalan Bhawan, to prepare and discuss the note. Karat also met the Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav to explain the basis of their opposition to the deal.



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