Home India Politics PM, Sonia hopeful of resolving n-deal spat with Left

PM, Sonia hopeful of resolving n-deal spat with Left


New Delhi : Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Saturday said he was hopeful of the talks with the Left parties over the India-US civil nuclear deal, even as Congress chief Sonia Gandhi asserted her party was prepared for elections if the communists withdrew support to the government.

“Nothing is inevitable,” the prime minister retorted when asked if the failure of talks between the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government and the Left parties on the 123 agreement with the US meant early elections.

“As long as there are talks, there is hope,” he told reporters at an Iftar — or fast-breaking ceremony during Ramadan — which he hosted at his official 7, Race Course Road residence here.

The four Left parties that back the government from outside have criticised the nuclear deal and threatened to withdraw their support if it was operationalised.

Gandhi, who was among the invitees, said she too hoped for a resolution of differences with the Left parties. “But if there are elections, we are ready to face them,” she added.

The prime minister said the discussions at the 15-member UPA-Left panel — presided over by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee — were progressing well. It held its third meeting Friday.

“I would not like to comment any further on the nuclear deal at this moment,” he said, when pressed further. “I am not an astrologer.”

The panel formed to address the concerns expressed by the Left parties over the nuclear deal’s impact on India’s foreign and strategic policies is scheduled to hold its fourth meeting Oct 9.

The Left parties have warned that if the UPA government enters into formal talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for India-specific safeguards, its own discussions with the ruling alliance will collapse, leading to the possible fall of the government.

The communists say the Hyde Act, passed by the US Congress in December, is not just about nuclear cooperation but also about asking New Delhi to dovetail its foreign policy to that of the US.

The prime minister said he was also looking forward to welcoming IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei to New Delhi next week, though some Left leaders had privately expressed their displeasure over the timing of the visit.

“IAEA is an important international agency. The IAEA chief will be in India on a goodwill visit,” Singh said.

The mood of the government and its supporters seemed positive when some senior Left party leaders said the progress at the talks with the ruling coalition was satisfactory. “I see grater clarity today,” Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sitaram Yechury said.

Vice President Hamid Ansari, key cabinet ministers, diplomats and many other dignitaries were among those who attended the Iftar.