In yet another warning to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre against implementing the civil nuclear deal with America, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) said it should decide whether it would go with the US or “remain firmly with the people”.
Asserting that the Left parties were strongly opposed to any kind of strategic alliance with the US, CPM general secretary Prakash Karat said it was a tragedy that the Union government had “compromised” on the independent foreign policy stand enunciated by the country’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.
“It was the Congress party during Nehru’s days that had evolved the non-alignment policy. It is a tragedy that the same Congress government today is compromising on independent foreign policy,” Karat said.
Strongly opposed: CPM general secretary Prakash Karat.
The Left is still awaiting the government’s response to its demand not to go ahead with the 123 Agreement to operationalize the civil nuclear deal, Karat said.
“Whatever may be the response, I can assure you that the Left parties will not compromise in our struggle against American imperialism,” he said.
Karat pointed out that the deal was not just about nuclear cooperation but the imposition of American will on India’s independent foreign policy.
He alleged the US had asked India to change its foreign policy.
The CPM top brass are meeting on Wednesday to decide on the next step amid signals that the government is in no mood to heed its ultimatum on the contentious issue.
The two-day central committee meeting of the Marxist party has to take tough decisions on how far it could go in its opposition to the government in the critical matter, amid growing apprehensions of a mid-term election.
The meeting comes at a time when the ruling Congress has indicated that the government will go ahead with negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in September in connection with the deal, despite the objections from the Left parties.
India needs to negotiate a safeguards plan with the IAEA before the accord, a key element of US President George W. Bush’s foreign policy, can be submitted to the American Congress.
The threat to the government arose after the four Communist parties resisted the coalition’s decision to press ahead with the accord, which requires India to negotiate safeguards with IAEA and secure the support of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group.
Singh’s ruling coalition has 226 seats in the 545-seat Lok Sabha, 47 short of a majority. The Communists bridge that difference with their 59 seats.
The Indo-US accord promises to end India’s three decades of nuclear exile and give power plants in the country access to US technology and fuel.
The nuclear deal came up in both Houses of Parliament too, for the second day running.
The trigger this time was the reported remarks of India’s envoy to the US, Ronen Sen.
Sen apologized to lawmakers at home for making critical remarks about the resistance to the nuclear accord.
Sen said some of the comments made in the interview, published by Rediff India Abroad, weren’t meant for publication, the remarks were made in his personal capacity and didn’t reflect the views of the Indian government.
Sen said that some of the more critical remarks were meant to characterize the media and not members of Parliament.
“My comment about running around like a headless chicken looking for a comment here or a comment there was a tactless observation on some of my media friends, and most certainly not with reference to any honourable member of Parliament,” Sen said in his apology note. “It was certainly not my intention to cast aspersions on any individual or organization.”
The principal Opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, too, opposes the agreement, in one of the rare occasions where the right-wing party and the Left parties are on the same side.
The protests in both Houses of Parliament prompted external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee to assure members that he would seek a clarification from the ambassador. Sen’s response was subsequently read out in Parliament by the minister.
The ambassador was criticized by both Communist and BJP lawmakers. Sen “has insulted the parliamentary system and should be immediately recalled,” said Brinda Karat of the CPM, the biggest of the four Leftist parties.
Ashok Bhattacharjee and Bibhudatta Pradhan of Bloomberg contributed to this story