Left to reject government’s plea on IAEA pact


New Delhi : The Left parties will reject the Manmohan Singh government’s desperate plea for a green signal to go ahead with finalising an India-specific safeguards agreement with the IAEA on the India-US civil nuclear deal.

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A day ahead of a crucial round of the 15-member United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-Left nuclear committee meeting, the Left allies have decided to reiterate their opposition to the contentious India-US civil nuclear agreement at the meet, sources in the Left said Tuesday.

The Left can not make any more compromises with its opposition to the nuclear deal as it would “cost it dear” in the electoral politics, according to sources in the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).

“What will we tell people if we allow them to go ahead and finalise the IAEA pact? It will be a political disaster for us,” a senior CPI-M leader told IANS on condition of anonymity in the evening.

Apart from reiterating their opposition, the CPI-M-led Left parties will also insist that finalising the India-specific safeguards protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will put the 123 agreement with Washington on auto pilot mode, the Left sources said.

CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat, who had a one-on-one meeting with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee Monday evening, discussed the government’s latest request for the Left’s support with his Communist Party of India counterpart A.B. Bardhan Tuesday.

However, Bardhan later told reporters that there was no change in the Left’s stance.

The government is keen on finalising the safeguards agreement before IAEA Director General Mohamed El Baradei completes his term in July.

Meanwhile, at the government level, the pressure on Congress president Sonia Gandhi to go ahead with the deal despite the Left’s opposition has been increasing, said sources.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been saying that the country would have to explore possibilities of other energy sources in the wake of steep hike in international oil prices.

“The section which is supporting the deal is getting stronger these days,” said a Congress leader.

During his meeting with Karat on Monday, Mukherjee is believed to have told him that the communists’ apprehension that finalising the IAEA pact would put the contentious agreement on autopilot is ‘wrong’.

According to sources, the foreign affairs minister told Karat that the Left has to ‘trust’ the government and that the government has not taken any steps without the communist allies’ consent so far. Mukherjee was apparently seeking the Left’s green signal only for the IAEA pact.

“But how can we believe that 123 is dead. The whole process of IAEA negotiations started only to facilitate the 123 agreement,” asked a left leader.

Once the IAEA agreement is finalised, it will be placed before the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to get an ‘India-specific’ exemption to its guideline, thus clearing the way for nuclear commerce between New Delhi and NSG member countries.

Once it passes through the NSG, the US Congress will have to decide if it wants to give its nod to the 123 agreement to change its domestic laws to allow trade between US companies and India on civilian nuclear energy and technology.

The CPM-led Left parties, which extend crucial legislative support to the UPA government, had given the green signal for negotiation with the IAEA but insisted that it could not be finalised without their approval.

“Let the government put forward its suggestion at the (Wednesday’s) meeting. We will discuss it. But our position remains that finalising the agreement at the IAEA would put the nuclear deal on autopilot,” Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sitaram Yechury told reporters here Tuesday.

“If the safeguard agreement is put in place, it means operationalisation of the deal. We do not want the 123 agreement (with Washington) to be operationalised,” the party politburo member asserted.

Mukherjee heads the 15-member United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-Left nuclear committee.