Vinay Kumar

NEW DELHI: The Communist Party of India (Marxist) on Friday said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s “renewed bid” to go to the International Atomic Energy Agency was the main cause for the ongoing crisis over the India-U.S. civilian nuclear deal.

Noting that the country was plunged into a political crisis once again over the deal, as the time for the ninth meeting of the UPA-Left committee approached, CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat said: “The answer lies squarely in the Prime Minister’s renewed bid to go to the IAEA for seeking the approval of the Board of Governors on the text of the Safeguards Agreement. This is an essential step for taking the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal forward and for operationalising the 123 Agreement.”

In an article, ‘Left Will Not Compromise’, in the coming issue of the party organ People’s Democracy, Mr. Karat points out that the urgency to approach the IAEA Board of Governors runs counter to the understanding arrived at between the Congress and the Left leadership in November 2007.

This understanding, he writes, was that the government would go to the IAEA for talks with the Secretariat but would not proceed to get the Board’s approval. The outcome of the talks would be reported to the UPA-Left committee for its consideration and for arriving at the findings of the committee.

The Left had explicitly stated that without its concurrence there should be no step forward on the IAEA front and it was acknowledged by the Congress leadership.

Questioning the urgency to go to the IAEA Board of Governors at this juncture, Mr. Karat said the Bush Administration knew very well that there was no time for the 123 Agreement to be passed by the current U.S. Congress. By the time the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) clearance was obtained, it would be too late for the U.S. Congress to consider and adopt the 123 law.

“President Bush wants to ensure that in the last few discredited months of his presidency at least the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal will remain as a legacy to be taken up by the next President. This will have some certainty if the NSG clearance is got before his term expires. It is this schedule set out by the U.S. which is impelling the Prime Minister to go ahead regardless of the consequences,” Mr. Karat writes.

“It is a fact that the consultation process in the NSG has already been initiated by the U.S. In September 2007, the Bush administration presented a Pre-decisional Draft titled ‘Submission of Civilian Nuclear Cooperation with India’ to an informal meeting of the NSG. It is learnt that a revised note has been submitted subsequently. As explained by the former Chairman of the NSG, Abdul S. Minty, who stepped down only recently in May 2008, in an interview, which appeared in The Hindu on June 14, 2008: “The NSG has not formally considered this matter. It can only start the procedure once the Safeguards Agreement is complete with the IAEA. The way it will go will be that the U.S. would make a request formally for an exemption.” The informal consultations will get formalised when the Board’s approval is taken. So the Board’s approval is a necessary step to take the process of operationalisation of the nuclear deal forward.”

Hyde Act

Reiterating the Left opposition to the nuclear deal on the basis that the Hyde Act, on which the 123 Agreement was based, nullified all the assurances given by the Prime Minister in August 2006 in Parliament, Mr. Karat said the nuclear deal had “wide-ranging ramifications” for India’s foreign policy and security affairs.

The CPI(M) general secretary said it was astonishing that the UPA government and the Congress leadership had sought to push through a strategic alliance with the U.S. when they knew very well that the Left would never be a party to this.

He said the conflict began with the signing of the Defence Framework Agreement in June 2005, and the struggle of the Left to prevent such a strategic alliance cemented through the nuclear deal had been waged for the last three years.

“Hence, there will be no compromise on the issue of the government approaching the IAEA Board for approval of the Safeguards Agreement,” he asserted.

Indicating that an “honest and credible” stand of the government even at this stage could be that there was no political consensus on such a vital international agreement, Mr. Karat said the government could explain that in such circumstances it was not proceeding further with the deal, even though it was convinced that the deal was good for the country.

Blaming the government for abjectly failing to curb price rise, Mr. Karat said: “The country is watching the spectacle of a leadership which is obsessed with its vision of becoming a strategic partner of the U.S. and fulfilling its commitment to an American President who is reviled around the world and has the least credibility in his own country.”

In his opinion, the situation could be exploited by the BJP and other communal forces.

The CPI(M) general secretary expressed the hope that the Congress leadership “will realise the serious consequences of pursuing a pro-U.S. line which can only benefit the rightwing communal forces in the country.”

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