N-deal: Left-UPA moving in a positive direction

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New Delhi, Nov 13: A meeting of the Left-UPA panel on the Indo-US Nuclear deal will be held here on November 16, amid indications of a possible clearance from the Left Parties for the Manmohan Singh government to approach the IAEA for safeguards negotiations to operationalise the 123 agreement.

The reconvening of the once-postponed Left-UPA panel meet, that too in a hurry, is seen as a clear signal that both the sides are moving in the positive direction towards resolving the impasse over the deal.

Though the meeting was originally scheduled for November 16, it was announced later that it was deferred in the light of a possible debate on the nuke deal in Parliament during the winter session, beginning November 15.

The November 16 meeting was announced at the end of the fifth round of the panel's meeting held here on October 21.

Defence Minister and Panel Convener Pranab Mukherjee told mediapersons here today that he had "reconvened" the Left-UPA meeting for November 16.

The meeting would be held at 1600 hrs so as to facilitate the Congress nominees on the panel to attend a meeting of the extended Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting ahead of the scheduled AICC session the next day.

"I have informed all the members of the 15-member committee about the meeting on Friday," he said, expressing the confidence that the situation would improve and a way out of the impasse over the deal found.

Mr Mukherjee hoped that the Left Parties, whose outside support for the survival of the 41-month-old Manmohan Singh government is crucial, would allow the government to proceed with the negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Meanwhile, top Congress sources said they expected a "positive outcome" from the November 16 meeting.

Sources said there was definitely a change in the attitude of the Left parties whose "stubborn" stand against the deal had so far resulted in continuing logjam despite the five meetings of the panel so far. The November 16 meeting would be the sixth after the political panel was constituted two months ago by the ruling UPA coalition and the Left to find a meeting ground between them on nuclear accord.

The deal would allow India to import US nuclear fuel and technology for the first time in 30 years, despite having tested nuclear weapons and refusing to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In return, it would have to permit international inspections and other safeguards at nuclear facilities.

It is designed to secure energy sources for the booming Indian economy and underpin a new strategic relationship between Washington and New Delhi.

But the Left parties have been maintaining that the deal would make India subservient to US strategic interests and compromise its own military programme.

At one point of time, the Left had threatened to withdraw support if the Government "operationalised" the deal by starting to negotiate an agreement on safeguards with the IAEA.

The crisis came to a head early last month as Mohammed ElBaradei, the Chief of the IAEA, visited India to meet Dr Singh and other senior officials.


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