India's biggest communist party said on Thursday it did not want to pull the government down over a nuclear deal with the United States, but added that this depended on the pact not being pursued.
The panel's stand came at the end of a two-day meeting called to chart the party's strategy over its opposition to the historic deal, which has triggered Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's worst political crisis since coming to power in 2004.
The central committee does not want the current crisis to affect the government, said a resolution of the central committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI(M).
However, this is contingent upon the government not proceeding further with the agreement.
The central committee therefore authorizes the politburo to take whatever necessary measures to see that the agreement is not operationalized, it said.
Analysts said the party seemed to be playing for more time and looking for a way out of the crisis, adding that a decision to end support for the government was not imminent.
Even if the government presses ahead with the deal, it would not necessarily bring the government down. The left could withdraw its formal support but might not vote against the government in a confidence motion.
The deal will allow India to buy nuclear fuel and reactors from the U.S. -- and eventually other countries -- even though it has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty and has tested nuclear weapons.
But the communists, as well as the opposition Hindu nationalists, say it compromises India's sovereignty, with the left parties also saying it imposes American hegemony.
The four left parties have 60 MPs in the 545-member lower house of parliament and Singh's coalition government would be reduced to a minority and could fall if they end their backing.
SHARE MARKET HIT
Neither the ruling Congress nor the communists are keen to face voters at the moment, but the rift could force elections next year, ahead of their schedule in 2009, analysts say.
Some communists fear that the party's parliamentary strength could be badly hit by anger among its core supporters in the stronghold state of West Bengal over the state government's move to take farmland for industries.
The party is also riven by infighting in its other stronghold state of Kerala in the south.
But the political crisis in New Delhi has worried Indian markets as it comes on the back of a global credit squeeze.
India's benchmark share index, the 30-share BSE index fell 0.6 percent to close at 14,163.98 on political concerns, having been up more than 2 percent in early trade.
The left has asked the government not to go ahead with negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) next month to conclude a key safeguards agreement until all its concerns over the deal are addressed.
But the government has refused to give in.
Asked how much time the party would give the ruling Congress, CPI(M) General-Secretary Prakash Karat replied: We are in no hurry ... there will be a debate in parliament.
The debate in parliament will again affirm what we are saying, that this agreement does not have majority support in parliament.
Asked if the party would withdraw support to the government if it pursued the deal, Karat said: If the government decides to operationalize the agreement, the responsibility for the future of this government will lie with the government.