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Govt sounds Left on 123 pacts with others

New Delhi, Nov. 16: The Left’s opposition to the US nuclear deal is paving the way for the government to strike similar agreements with Russia, France and other member countries of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

The government will explore in talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) a safeguards agreement for a “multilateral 123”, the Left was given to understand in today’s meeting of a joint committee.

The Left was told that the government will study an understanding with the IAEA that will cover imports of nuclear fuel and technology from diverse sources, not only the US.

The Left will find a “multilateral 123” minus some of its conditions more digestible than a US-specific deal.

“IAEA safeguards will come up if we have a deal with any country,” a leader who participated in the talks today said. “So why not sign one for Russia or France' The government has been saying that it is very keen to go for the talks because of international credibility. Our point is — then why have a 123 only with the US'”

The current safeguards agreement that India’s negotiators will go to the IAEA secretariat for after today’s nod from the Left is India and US-specific and flows out of the 123 deal.

The Left does not find this palatable. A US-specific deal would mean that the economics — the profits from the import of technologies — would benefit America more at the cost of India’s relations with other countries, the Left suspects.

The government told the Left that it was actively exploring nuclear agreements with other countries and also an omnibus safeguards agreement that addresses nuclear fuel and technology imports. This happened after Left leaders asked the government how a deal in the works with Russia during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Moscow earlier this week was scuttled.

A proposal for Russian nuclear supplies for two reactors was mooted just before the Prime Minister left for Moscow. But it did not fructify.

The government’s explanation to the Left was not immediately available but it was mentioned that Russia, like the US, had to get a waiver from the 45-member NSG.

The Left leaders pointed out that Russia does not have its version of the US Hyde Act — which makes punitive measures mandatory if a country tests nuclear weapons — and was unlikely to impose the kind of conditionalities for nuclear supplies as Washington.

Specifically, the Russians have not insisted in the past on separation of military and civilian nuclear installations — unlike the US — and have supplied to India, the Left pointed out.

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