UPA-Left crucial meet on N-deal on March 17

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{image-indo-us n-deal_16032008.jpg news.oneindia.in}New Delhi, Mar 16: Amid threat by the Left parties to withdraw support to the Manmohan Singh government if it went ahead with the Indo-US Nuclear deal, a crucial meeting of the UPA-Left Coordination Panel on the vexed issue would be held here tomorrow.

With the Left continuing to remain intransigent on the nuke deal issue, the outcome of tomorrow's meeting of the 15-member Panel will be keenly watched as it is directly linked to the stability of the four-year-old Congress-led government at the Centre. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi had dismissed the possibility of early general elections, but the outside support of the Left parties holds the key to the longevity of the government, which seems to be adamant on signing the deal that seeks to ensure energy security to the power-starved country and ending decades of isolation among world powers.

Though the Left had been opposing the deal, it had allowed the government four months ago to initiate negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on India-specific safeguards, which are crucial for the operationalisation of the nuke deal.

The government would place before the UPA-Left panel, the draft of the safeguards agreement it had reached with the IAEA, besides apprising the Left leaders of the details of the negotiations by the Indian experts during the past few months in Vienna.

The meeting comes in the backdrop of a demand for the same by the Left parties, which extends the crucial prop to the Manmohan Singh government.

The Left parties have stepped up pressure on the ruling UPA coalition in the first week of this month by demanding an immediate meeting of the joint political mechanism, which was constituted eight months ago to find a common ground among the intransigent Left parties and the government on the Nuke deal and thereby saving the government. It already had six rounds of meeting.

What provoked the CPI(M), CPI, RSP and the Forward Block to demand an immediate meeting of the UPA-Left panel was the assertion of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Parliament on March 5 that the deal was good for the country and that he was hopeful of signing the deal.

The US government had also started insisting that the 123 agreement to operationalise the Nuke deal should be sent to the US Congress by May. External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee is the convener of the Panel, which has six representatives each from the Left parties and the Congress and one representative each from the UPA allies DMK, NCP and RJD.

Mr Mukherjee expressed hope that the differences with the Left would be sorted out. ''The government will be able to convince the Left,'' he said in Chandigarh yesterday.

CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said the Left parties were totally opposed to the deal as it was ''anchored in the US' Hyde Act'' which had conditions that were against the interests of India.

CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat said the draft safeguards agreement negotiated with the IAEA was under the ''jurisdiction'' of the committee.

''The meeting process will start on March 17 but we do not know how long it will take,'' he said.

CPI General Secretary A B Bardhan was quoted in an interview to a television channel today as having said that the Left's problem was with the India-US deal and not about safeguards.

''If they [the government] say we are not going ahead with the deal what is our problem,'' he said in an interview with the CNN-IBN.

CPI National Secretary D Raja said the Left parties would take some time to study the IAEA safeguards draft agreement, indicating that there is no major threat to the government from the Left parties immediately.


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