Left agrees on panel to study nuclear deal

Left agrees on panel to study nuclear deal

New Delhi: The left has agreed to join a government panel to study a controversial civilian nuclear deal with the United States and address concerns of left parties opposed to it, top leaders said on 27 August.

Communist opposition to the deal has sparked the biggest crisis for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s coalition, which came to power in 2004 with their support, and has raised fears that the government could fall before its five-year term ends.

A panel of politicians, diplomats and scientists had been suggested to resolve the doubts of communists over the deal but there had been no agreement on it until Monday’s announcement, which opened the door for a compromise.

Communist Party of India (CPI) chief A.B. Bardhan said a meeting of his party leaders and senior government ministers had decided “that a mechanism should be worked out to address the concerns and evaluate the implications" of the nuclear deal.

“We are prepared to have a joint mechanism. The mechanism will be at the political level," Bardhan told reporters after the meeting.

The composition of the mechanism and its terms of reference will be finalised after the government held talks with other communist parties and with its other coalition allies, he added.

Bardhan’s CPI is the second largest of the four communist parties, which together have 60 lawmakers in the 545-member lower house of parliament.

Sitaram Yechury, a senior leader of the largest communist party, the CPI (Marxist), said the panel would be finalised in a “couple of days" and it was expected to be assisted by experts.

“By the end of the month, we will be able to announce something concrete on the mechanism," he told reporters after talks with government representatives led by Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

The nuclear deal aims to allow New Delhi to buy American nuclear fuel and reactors, overturning a ban imposed after India, which has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), conducted a nuclear test in 1974.

But the communists have slammed the deal saying it compromises India’s sovereignty and imposes American hegemony. They have warned the government of “serious consequences" if it did not stop pursuing key global approvals for the deal.

The government has refused to give in, triggering a face-off that spooked the stock markets last week.