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Pranab helps Govt tread softly on N-deal stand-off

Aug 31, 2007 10:57 AM IST Politics Politics
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New Delhi: In the nuclear deal stand-off between the Left and the UPA, the door has now been left ajar. Diplomats pursuing the 123 agreement feel that there is lot of leeway to manouver. “The findings of the Committee will be taken into account during the operationalisation of the deal,” said External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee. The Left wanted the Government to hit the pause button but the Government will go slow for now. All thanks to crafty use of language. “Operationalisation of the deal will happen only when the foreign ministers sign the deal. All the steps before that are leading to the operationalisation of the deal,” said Strategic Analyst Subrahmanyam. What is the bottomline? The Government will consult with the Left through the newly-formed high-powered committee. Simultaneously, it will lay the ground for a safeguards agreement with the IAEA and special envoy Shyam Saran will continue his lobbying missions with nuclear supplier countries. When the panel gives its report and if the Left agrees, the Government will look to formalise safeguards with the IAEA by the November 22. It will seek a formal NSG clearance by December and a US Congress vote between January and March. But what if the Left disagrees with the findings of the committee? The Government can still technically look to formalise safeguards and seek NSG clearance because it can argue it is not bound by the findings of the panel. And what if the Left chooses to pull the plug? “By that time it is possible that you have the IAEA/NSG process completed by then. Here is a deal more or less seen through by an elected Government when it had the authority to do it,” said Subrahmanyam. Which means, if only a US Congress vote is left, a minority UPA Government or even a caretaker Government will want to push that through. But Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will hope it doesn't come to that. It’s a truce that both sides claim as victory and that, thanks to a craftily worded joint statement. It seems like the Foreign Minister's diplomatic skills have been put to use, this time at home.