New Delhi, Oct 22: The special committee of the UPA and the Left formed to resolve disagreements between the two sides over the Indo-US civilian nuclear energy cooperation will be holding its next round of talks on November 16.
The committee, which held deliberations today for the fifth time on the issue, today decided to continue the talks even as the 'unofficial' deadline for India to initiate formal negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for country-specific agreements ends in October.
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who is the convenor of the special committee, told reporters after the meeting that discussions were conducted in a congenial and cooperative atmosphere and that the Government had agreed to look into all concerns raised by the Left, including the Hyde Act and its implication on foreign policy.
Just hours before this meeting, top leaders of the coalition government met amidst report that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has expressed his disappointment over the politics being played over the bilateral agreement
Singh reportedly told his UPA partners that he was embarrassed by the prospect of retreating back on the deal, which was passed by the Union Cabinet.
Reports indicated that the Prime Minister has hinted at resigning from the office, since he does not want to lead a 'lame-duck' government after succumbing to the Left's opposition to the deal.
Peeved by remarks of some coalition partners like Rashtriya Janata Dal, Nationalist Congress Party and Dravida Munnetra Kazagham (DMK), where they had stated that nuclear deal was not an important an issue to put the government's stability at stake, Singh reportedly asked the coalition partners to give their final stand on the issue.
During his return from South Africa, last week, Singh had told reporters that the deal was passed by the Cabinet, where representatives of the coalition partners had already given their assent to it.
"This agreement (123-agreement) was approved by the Cabinet. So where is the question of the UPA going back on it?" Singh had said.
However, the Congress later today dismissed reports of Manmohan Singh's resignation and also said that the UPA partners had not expressed their reservation over the deal.
"They (UPA leaders like Lalu Prasad Yadav, Sharad Pawar and M Karunanidhi) have never said that," Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi told reporters.
The Congress party also said that it wants to save the government as well as to get the civilian nuclear deal with the US materialise.
"We want both," quipped Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi when asked whether the party was ready to save the coalition by sacrificing the deal.
The Prime Minister, who had said that the failure of operationalising the deal would not mean the end of the day as his party was not a single-issue government and had several other agendas to fulfil, had earlier stated that he was still hopeful of the deal.
On Saturday, CPI (M) leader Sitaram Yechury had expressed his hope that today's meeting would be the last one with CPI General Secretary A B Bardhan making it clear that during Monday's meeting the UPA government should officially state that the nuclear deal has been put on hold.
As the October month is coming to an end, the deadline for getting a safeguard agreement with the IAEA is drawing near and that has led to an assessment that the bilateral agreement could be difficult to operationalise with steps like amendment in the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group's charter and the passing of the 123-agreement by the Congress could be carried out only after the agreement with the UN nuclear agency.
The civilian nuclear cooperation deal aims to lift a three-decade ban on sales of US nuclear fuel and reactors to India, which was imposed after it conducted a nuclear test in 1974 while staying out of non-proliferation agreements.
The Left Front, which provides crucial support to the government from outside, has been opposing the deal and the situation between UPA and Left reached a nadir, sparking the prospect of snap elections.