Gargi Parsai

NEW DELHI: The Congress on Tuesday gave a clear indication that following the “convergence of views” in the India-specific safeguards agreement talks at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) this weekend, the UPA government was all set to go ahead with the India-U.S. nuclear agreement.

Even as the Left parties reiterated their opposition to the deal in response to External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s suo motu statement on foreign policy in Parliament on Monday, All-India Congress Committee (AICC) spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said: “We are happy at the significant progress made at the IAEA talks [over the weekend]. We are particularly happy that vast and diverse areas of differences [towards India-specific safeguards] have been ironed out in the fifth round and we are optimistic about the outcome of the talks at IAEA.”

In his statement, Mr. Singhvi categorically conveyed that “with the broad agreement in the IAEA and with the virtual acceptance of most, if not all, of India’s concerns,” the Congress was confident of a “reasonable approach by all sections [Left parties] of the joint mechanism” on the deal.

“As far as the Congress is concerned, it is committed to the deal and reiterates that it will be beneficial to the country. With this new development of convergence of views in the fifth round of talks, we are optimistic, hopeful and positive. The deal is in the interest of the nation,” he asserted.

An India-specific safeguards agreement with the IAEA would enable the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group to amend its guidelines for civilian nuclear commerce to the advantage of India. This would enable India to have bilateral civilian nuclear trade cooperation with countries like the U.S., the U.K., Russia and France.

Safeguards issue

Asked about the Left’s concerns on the Hyde Act, Mr. Singhvi said the talks at the IAEA were about India-specific safeguards, most of which had been addressed.

A senior Congress leader indicated that after waiving farmers’ debt, the Congress-led UPA hopes to bring the nuclear deal centre stage in this crucial election year.

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