Priscilla Jebaraj and Suresh Nambath
“If they go ahead with the IAEA Board of Governors, we will have to part ways with this government”
CHENNAI: Tackling inflation and handling the price rise should be more urgent issues for the United Progressive Alliance government than completing the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal, Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat said on Sunday. “It’s better that you concentrate on tackling inflation, handling price rise — that’s what the people expect you to do — rather than fulfil some commitment made to President Bush. That’s not going to help you tackle either your energy problem or the people’s problems,” was his advice for the Centre.
In an interview to The Hindu in Chennai, Mr. Karat objected to the government’s haste in pushing through the deal without allowing the United Progressive Alliance-Left coordinating committee on the nuclear deal and related issues to see and discuss the safeguards agreement negotiated with the secretariat of the International Atomic Energy Agency. “They are trying to jump the gun. Now, according to us, this is because the U.S., the Bush administration, has conveyed to the government that ‘You complete the safeguards agreement, so that we can take this up in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, so that we can complete it within a time frame.’” The text of the agreement was not shown to the committee on the ground that it was classified.
“The crisis has come,” Mr. Karat explained, “because the government suddenly now says that they have to go to the IAEA’s Board of Governors immediately. We are saying, complete the process which you committed to on November 16, 2007.” The best political solution, he suggested, is for the government to tell the United States that it cannot pursue the deal further due to a lack of political consensus. “Now that they’ve found that Parliament, the majority of the members, are against it, if they proceed, I think that’s bad political judgement and it will reflect badly on the Congress leadership and the UPA government.”
The Left parties are talking to the various non-Congress constituents of the UPA to urge them to “put their heads together and find a way out of this problem.” On Sunday, Mr. Karat and CPI national secretary D. Raja called on Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK president M. Karunanidhi at his residence for a one-hour discussion.
The CPI(M) leader insisted that the Left would not accept a timetable whose urgency was dictated by the demands of the Bush administration, rather than India’s democratic processes. “The Left parties have made it very clear we are not going to agree to the government going to the Board of Governors. That’s the bottom line. And if they go ahead with the Board of Governors, then we will have to part ways with this government… Our Left parties have convened the meetings of all our leading bodies. The next meeting of this UPA-Left committee is on June 25. Around that time, all the four Left parties are calling their national secretariats or politburos. We will take stock of the entire situation and then on that basis we will decide how to go forward.”
In the interview, Mr. Karat refuted claims by supporters of the nuclear deal, including Central government Ministers, that the Hyde Act passed by the U.S. Congress, “which binds successive U.S. administrations,” was not binding on India. “We have gone over this ground sufficiently,” he observed. “It is wrong to see the Hyde Act divorced from the overall content of Indo-U.S. civilian nuclear cooperation.”