Govt walks fine line to end logjam

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi Aug 30 | Updated: Aug 31 2007, 04:46am hrs
The government walked a fine line on Thursday to force a breakthrough in the deadlock with the Left parties on the nuclear issue, refusing to declare that the deal will be put on hold but meeting their demand halfway by asserting that its operationalisation would be bound by the findings of a committee set up to look into concerns raised by the Left.

The operative part of a short statement issued jointly by the UPA and Left stated that the operationalisation of the deal will take into account the committee's findings. It also announced that a committee would be set up and its composition announced soon.

Drafted by the key firefighter for the government, external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee in consultation with the Left, the statement attempted to accommodate views of both sides, while leaving ample scope for interpretation. It was no wonder that Left leaders came out of the UPA-Left meeting at the Prime Ministers residence with broad smiles, claiming that the deal had been put on hold.

There was, however, no official word from the government on the Left claim. Informally, though, a senior Congress leader hinted that such implication could not be drawn from the statement, which clearly stopped short of making any such assertion. He even pointed out that it made no mention of IAEA, on which the CPI-M had earlier insisted in its politburo statement that government should not hold negotiations with them until the implications of the Hyde Act was looked into. As for the reference to operationalisation in the statement, he said it would, in any case, not happen unless the US Congress passed it following signing of separate agreements with the IAEA and the NSG.

The statement, however, did affirm that government had given in to Left insistence to include the wider impact of the agreement on foreign policy and security co-operation, besides going into implications of the Hyde Act. The Left has all along maintained that the strategic co-operation agreement with the US has larger consequences for Indias independent foreign policy.

Meanwhile, another senior leader said the committees findings need not come to Parliament. It is not a government committee nor is it an administrative committee. So there is no need, he said. UPA allies were expected to be formally communicated this government assurance at a meeting later at the Prime Ministers residence.

Earlier in the day, Congress leaders including the PM and Sonia Gandhi had met to finalise the statement while Left leaders had met separately to consider the governments draft proposal.