Nuke deal top agenda of Manmohan-Bush meeting

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New Delhi, Jul 6: When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh leaves sultry Delhi on Monday, July 7, for salubrious Toyako to attend the 34th Summit of Group of Eight economic powers, the political heat generated by the Indo-US nuclear deal back home is likely to weigh on his mind when he sits with US President George Bush to discuss its progress.

However, armed with the support provided by Samajwadi Party, it will be a confident Prime Minister who will discuss the next steps in operationalising the nuke deal with the U S President during a bilateral meeting on July 9 on the sidelines of the Summit. That the government is committed to the deal has been stated in unequivocal terms by Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Priyaranjan Dasmunsi. At Raiganj in West Bengal , Mr Dasmunsi said, " The UPA government will sign the civil-nuclear deal with the United States in time 'come what may'. There is no hesitation in this regard".

Earlier, Prime Minister's special envoy on the deal Shyam Saran said the safeguards agreement with International Atomic Energy Agency is "more or less finalised" and it would be clinched on receiving the "political go-ahead".

Briefing mediapersons on the Prime Minister's visit to G8 Summit, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said, " We will do our best to go ahead with it as soon as we can". He said India has been in touch with all member countries of the Nuclear Suppliers Group'.

Asked if the Prime Minister will talk to Mr Bush on the possibilities of getting support from the NSG at the Summit, Mr Menon said, " I think the US is committed under the July 18, 2005, joint statement to get us an exemption from the NSG and they have committed themselves to helping us achieve that".

While holding discussions with Mr Bush, Dr Singh will remain acutely aware of the threat of support withdrawal by the Left to his coalition government. The Left parties, in a letter to External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, have sought to know by tomorrow if the government is going to IAEA for signing the safeguards agreement.

However, the Left is not likely to announce withdrawal of support when the Prime Minister is away in Japan. Dr Singh is scheduled to return home after holding the bilateral meeting with Mr Bush on July 9.

The four Left parties with a bloc of 59 MPs in Lok Sabha, are meeting in Delhi on July 8 to fine-tune their plan of action and may not carry out their threat before the return of the Prime Minister.

Claiming that the UPA has been reduced to a minority with the Left's stand, the opposition BJP has demanded the Congress-led coalition government seek a trust vote in the Lok Sabha.

The Congress has dismissed the demand as premature.

Mr Dasmunsi said there is absolutely no threat to the UPA government.

''Lok Sabha elections will be held as per schedule,'' he said.

He said,''The UPA, under Congress, will complete its full term.'' CPI general secretary A B Bardhan, on the other hand, threatened in Kolkata that the Left might have to withdraw support from the government even before the Prime Minister returns from Japan. But at the same time, he said the Left parties would meet either on July 8 or July 9 to decide the next course of action when asked what they would do if the government ignored the July 7 deadline.

The Samajwadi Party (SP), defending its new-found friendship with the Congress, said they were never with fundamentalists. Supporting the nuclear deal, party general secretary Amar Singh said, ''The deal is in the interest of the nation, we should have come out in support of the deal a year ago.'' The SP leader said, Congress should seek a vote of confidence in Parliament without worries. "We will not vote against the government, even if the communists and other parties do," he added.

Taking a dig at the Congress-SP bonhomie, BJP leader L K Advani said the recent events have reduced governance to a "theatre of the absurd". If the government failed to seek a confidence vote, the BJP would approach President Pratibha Patil to ask the Prime Minister to do so, he said.

With time fast running out, the government needs to finalise the safeguards agreement with IAEA and get waiver from the NSG before the deal goes to the US Congress for ratification, thus operationalising the 123 agreement between India and the United States.

UNI

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