New Delhi: India cancelled an 18 July briefing with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about the monitoring of its nuclear sites, the United Nations body said on Wednesday, even as the country’s ruling Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government and ally-turned-opponent, the Left Front, traded salvos in the run-up to a 22 July trust vote the government has to win to stay in power.
Indian government officials, however, said the country had merely scaled down and not cancelled the meeting.
“We have been informed that India has decided to cancel the briefing,” IAEA spokesperson Melissa Fleming said before India issued a clarification.
Indian officials will now brief only representatives of the 35 countries on IAEA’s board and those of 19 countries that are part of the 45-country Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), but aren’t part of the IAEA board.
Meanwhile, accusations of vote buying continue to do the rounds at New Delhi. A.B. Bardhan, head of Left Front constituent Communist Party of India (CPI), said the going rate was Rs25 crore to guarantee a vote. He produced no evidence of this.
After the Left Front withdrew support to the government over the Indo-US nuclear deal (the government wants it; the Left doesn’t), the UPA secured the support of the Samajwadi Party (SP). Some of this party’s representatives in Parliament, however, have come out openly against this. On Wednesday, SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav said: “Not a single member of Parliament (MP) has deserted the party and the likes of Munawwar Hasan and Jai Prakash Rawat, who have come out against it (the deal), have left the party three months ago.”
Another CPI member, Sudhakar Reddy, the party’s deputy general secretary said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should resign to protect his and the Congress party’s image.
The UN’s nuclear watchdog did not provide any details while announcing India’s cancellation of the IAEA briefing. The agency’s board has to approve the safeguards agreement that involves monitoring civilian nuclear installations. Once this agreement is ratified, India will have to go to NSG.
The nuclear deal will also have to be approved by the US Congress.
India’s foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon will brief the representatives of 54 countries in Vienna. He is expected to speak about the importance of the Indo-US nuclear deal and on India’s track record on non-proliferation despite not being a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Indian officials said the briefing has been scaled down because it was considered unnecessary to brief all 140 members of IAEA because the safeguards agreement is to be approved by the agency’s 35-member board.
The IAEA board will meet on 1 August to consider the safeguards agreement.
The UPA, which has 228 members in the Parliament, needs 272 in a House of 543 to retain power.
AP and Reuters contributed to this story.