IAEA pact to figure prominently at UPA-Left meet


New Delhi : With the Left upping the ante against the Indo-US nuclear deal, Monday’s meeting of the joint United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-Left Front panel will be crucial for the government.

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The 15-member committee, headed by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, is likely to discuss a draft of the proposed India specific safeguards agreement with the IAEA, the UN nuclear watchdog.

The meeting is being held in the backdrop of Congress president Sonia Gandhi putting at rest speculations of early elections to parliament and saying that the polls would be held next year as scheduled.

The UPA government has been doing its homework ahead of the meeting. Department of Atomic Energy official Ravi B. Grover, who led the Indian delegation in the negotiations with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at Vienna earlier this month, met Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) chief Anil Kakodkar Wednesday to brief him on the issue.

Kakodkar followed this up with a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh the same day. According to officials, a draft of the proposed India-specific safeguards agreement with IAEA will be handed over to the Left leaders.

Communist Party of India-Marxist general secretary Prakash Karat has already indicated that the Left would take two to three months to go through the draft safeguards agreement.

The Left parties have been vehemently opposed to the civil nuclear deal and have even threatened to withdraw support.

Pranab Mukherjee is likely to play a key role in the Monday meeting by using his proximity to the Left leaders.

The US government has been hinting that India may not get the same deal again if it lets go of this opportunity. A tentative deadline of July has been suggested as after this,US would get fully into election mode to elect a new president and pushing a deal through in Congress would be difficult.

Once the IAEA pact is approved, the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) will meet to amend rules of global nuclear commerce in favour of India.

The meeting is being held in the backdrop of the Left’s open unhappiness over reports that the government is going ahead with finalising the IAEA negotiations. Karat had written to Mukherjee asking for an urgent meeting of the UPA-Left committee to discuss the status of the deal.

Communist Party of India (CPI) general secretary A.B. Bardhan had also written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warning that the Left parties would withdraw their support if the government decided to go ahead with the deal. However, in a curious turn-around, Communist party of India (CPI) general secretary A.B. Bardhan two days back said there was no danger to the government and it would complete its five-year term.

The UPA government survives with the outside support of the Left parties.

Bardhan and Karat were reportedly annoyed by Manmohan Singh’s call to former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the opposition to support the deal.