123 deal: CPM raises Hyde Act issues


New Delhi : The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) – part of the Leftist combine that supports the ruling coalition from outside – cautioned the government Sunday against accepting objectionable portions of the Hyde Act in the proposed 123 civil nuclear agreement with the US.

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The CPI-M has already said that an agreement on civilian nuclear cooperation with the US can be based only on the assurances given by the prime minister in the Aug 17, 2006 statement in parliament and by not accepting those provisions of the Hyde Act that are contrary to India's interests, the party said in a statement.

"The CPI-M will formulate its stand on the outcome of the recent talks after studying the details of the talks," the party said two days after India and the US reached an agreement on the 123 pact Friday. The contents of the agreement – which came after four days of intense negotiations in Washington – are yet to be disclosed.

The CPI-M's predictably cold response to the 123 deal can only mean one thing: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will have a lot of explaining to do about the 123 agreement and its implications for the strategic programme in the forthcoming monsoon session of parliament.

The Hyde Act, passed last year by the US Congress, contains many clauses objected to by India, albeit in the non-binding section. These clauses restrict the transfer of technologies related to reprocessing, enrichment and heavy water reduction to India and entail the termination of civil nuclear cooperation if New Delhi conducts a nuclear test.

The Hyde Act also contains references that seek to dictate to India on its foreign policy – it makes the continuation of civil nuclear cooperation between India and the US subject to India's position on Iran.

These portions of the Hyde Act came in for severe criticism from leading opposition parties like the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Leftist parties who reiterated their old fears about the hidden US agenda aimed at shackling India's strategic programme.

Manmohan Singh assured parliament on Aug 17 last year that his government would not accept anything in the 123 agreement which would be contrary to the July 18, 2005 understanding that included, among other things, full civil nuclear operation and autonomy of India's strategic programme.

When signed by both sides and approved by the US Congress, the 123 agreement will be the sole legal document defining civil nuclear commerce between the two countries.