The stalemate over the landmark Indo-US civil nuclear deal continued Tuesday with the Left refusing to soften its belligerence despite a meeting between communist leader Prakash Karat and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a bid to break the deadlock over the issue.
Sources in the Left said there had been no change in their stance over the nuclear deal even after Manmohan Singh''s meeting with Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) general secretary Karat. The four Left parties had earlier rejected the deal and asked the government not to proceed with it.
According to sources, in order to mount pressure on the government, the Left may pull out of the coordination committee with the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA). That will be a major step but it does not indicate that the Left will withdraw support to Manmohan Singh''s coalition government.
In a strongly-worded politburo statement, the CPI-M said: ''It is difficult to agree with the prime minister that this agreement has no impact on our independent foreign policy, especially when the US officials are busy selling the agreement to the US Congress on the strategic value of India aligning with the US as a consequence of the agreement.''
The statement came immediately after Karat''s breakfast meeting with Manmohan Singh during which Singh ''specifically allayed the Left''s fears of India''s foreign policy being in any way influenced by the Indo-US nuclear cooperation pact'', according to Sanjaya Baru, media adviser to the prime minister.
The CPI-M statement said: ''Here, the issue is not what the prime minister is saying but what his government is doing.'' The CPI-M pointed out that New Delhi had been getting increasingly closer to ''imperialist'' Washington.
Government sources said that ''efforts'' were still on to convince the Left parties. External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee is believed to have had telephone conversations with West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and veteran communist leader Jyoti Basu - both CPI-M politburo members.
The Left believes that there is still scope for renegotiation on the 123 agreement, the sources said.
''We are keenly watching the CPI-M politburo - which is meeting Friday and Saturday. If we can sail through this weekend, we can be optimistic about the deal,'' said a source in the Prime Minister''s Office (PMO).
Manmohan Singh, who dared the Left to withdraw support to his government if it did not want to back the nuclear deal, apparently told Karat in the morning meeting that the communists had not expressed their ''ideological difference'' with the US during the negotiation process.
''The Left was waiting for the text of 123 agreement. If their objection was ideological why did they not say so earlier?'' asked an official in the PMO.
According to PMO sources, Manmohan Singh presented the deal as a ''paradigm shift'' in the foreign policy just like what he did in 1991 in the economic sector while introducing the liberalisation policy. ''He said he was confident that the deal would do good to India for future and that there could not be a better deal,'' said the source.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is also continuing its opposition to the deal.
Party sources said the BJP also wanted the government to ''renegotiate'' the deal. While admitting that international agreements do not require parliament''s nod, the BJP pointed out that the prime minister had promised that he would come back to parliament before signing the deal and he would go by its consent.
''The discussions in parliament took place before the US Congress passed the Hyde Act last year. The 123 agreement should now be seen in the context of the Hyde Act, which insists that the US national law will prevail in the bilateral agreement,'' said a BJP leader.
The BJP has been arguing for a debate with a vote in parliament over the deal and has even sought the support of its communinited National Progressive Alliance (UNPA) have all protested the prime minister''s Monday statement on the deal.
The Congress party as well as one of its major allies Rashtriya Janata Dal Tuesday declared their support to Manmohan Singh''s nuclear deal. Talking to reporters, RJD chief Lalu Prasad said: ''It is a good deal to battle against the odds in the era of modernisation'', and urged all political parties to support it.
In his address to parliament Monday, Manmohan Singh had said the 123 bilateral pact did not compromises India''s strategic programme or independence of its foreign policy. He also stressed that India retained its strategic autonomy to conduct a nuclear test.