The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Left lays trap, govt sidesteps
- Centre refuses to give N-deal commitment

New Delhi, Nov. 28: The Centre has declined to give a categorical assurance sought by the Left that India would not move any further on the nuclear deal taking into account the “sense of Parliament”.

The deft manoeuvre came at the end of a seven-hour debate in the Lok Sabha during which foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee responded to each and every question raised by the members.

As the curtains were falling, CPM leader Basudev Acharya rose and sought to extract the commitment from the government. But Mukherjee said: “Where is the question of taking the sense of the House unless the process is complete'”

The minister said the government had gone to Parliament every time a major step had been taken and would do so again after the India-specific agreements were finalised at the IAEA.

The Left members said they would not accept anything short of a categorical assurance and walked out. The main Opposition, the NDA, had already stormed out to protest the Prime Minister’s decision not to respond and field Mukherjee.

But Manmohan Singh did make a brief intervention to assert that India’s right to conduct nuclear tests in future had not been forfeited.

“If a necessity for carrying out a nuclear test arises in future, there is nothing in the agreement which prevents us from exercising the sovereignty,” he said.

The right to conduct tests was never in dispute but its likely fallout — the activation of the Hyde Act that carries punitive measures — is a grey area. Mukherjee addressed such concerns, saying: “We are accepting obligations under 123 and not under the Hyde Act. It is an enabling provision. It is for the US administration to deal with it. It is not binding on us.”

He said the agreement is some sort of a “passport” to similar cooperation with other countries, suggesting that the deal is not US-centric as the Left is making it out to be.

Before the Left trooped out, Mukherjee had answered all questions. The BJP stuck to its guns and iterated the demand for renegotiating the deal, but the government looked at ease, with the allies supporting it unambiguously and the Left sounding subdued.

Initiating the debate, CPM leader Rupchand Pal had said the Left allowed the government to go to the IAEA to “get a categorical commitment for uninterrupted fuel supply”. The revelation created ripples in the gallery as some took it as a dilution of the Left’s stand but CPM sources later said they were not aware of any change.


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