The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Go-slow for Left consumption

New Delhi, Sept. 6: The Prime Minister’s special envoy, Shyam Saran, has been asked to “go slow” on conversations with the Nuclear Suppliers Group until the Parliament session ends.

In what is being seen as another attempt to preserve the delicate truce with the Left, key amendments to the Atomic Energy Act were kept off the cabinet table today.

However, preliminary talks between the government and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on an India-specific safeguards agreement are said to have already begun. The talks, which show the government’s resolve to go ahead with the nuclear deal, are still at a nascent stage, sources emphasised.

Saran has been advised to keep a low profile till the House session is over, apparently because the government is hoping that a panel looking into the deal will deliver a “positive outcome”. The government does not want to do anything to antagonise the Left further at this stage.

That is why Saran, who had travelled halfway across the world about a couple of weeks ago to talk to key members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, has been asked to decelerate. An NSG waiver is one of the requirements to operationalise the deal.

Saran was scheduled to reach Ottawa on September 14, the day the current session of Parliament is expected to be over if it is not adjourned indefinitely earlier. It is not clear whether the go-slow will be lifted by then.

Other sources said the pause was suggested by the political leadership and not necessarily the PMO.

However, they said Indian officials would continue to talk to visitors, such as the Bulgarian Prime Minister in the coming week, to drum up support at the NSG. Bulgaria is an NSG member.

The government is aware that if the deal has to go ahead, it will have to negotiate a draft agreement with the IAEA and get the NSG waiver latest by the end of November.

The US has told India that it is willing to call an extraordinary plenary session of the NSG by November-end.

The Union cabinet was expected to take up today a note listing a number of amendments to the atomic energy law, some of which have been under discussion long before the US deal emerged.

One of the amendments was intended at enabling private investment in nuclear energy, while others would have harmonised the existing act with international laws.

However, cabinet spokesperson P.R. Das Munshi said the note had been “withdrawn”. He refused to say who “withdrew” it. “It was not taken up today,” he said.

Congress sources said that this morning, the Prime Minister was told the amendments could be seen as another “red rag” waved at the Left.

The fact that the House was in session could also have prompted the government to defer a decision on the amendments.

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