Left has made up mind on n-deal, Karat tells PM

New Delhi, Sep 13 (IANS) Top Communist leader Prakash Karat Thursday said that the Left parties have “made up their mind” to block the India-US civil nuclear deal and would not support the government if it went ahead with it despite a majority in parliament opposing the contentious deal.

“We have made up our mind. We won’t be there to help the government to conclude the agreement. It’s now for the government to decide,” Karat said at a seminar on the India-US nuclear deal, which was chaired by Communist Party of India leader A.B. Bardhan and attended, among others, by former prime minister V.P. Singh.

Support TwoCircles

Arguing that the broader objective of the nuclear deal was to “draw India into a military alliance with the US,” Karat revealed for the first time that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) included “strategic partnership with the US” in the first two drafts of the common minimum programme. This was struck out from the final version after the Left parties raised objections to it.

“Why is the government determined to go ahead despite the clear and established fact that the parties who are opposed to the deal constitute a minority in parliament?” Karat, the Communist Party of India-Marxist secretary general, asked.

Taking pot shots at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh without naming him, Karat said: “Does the PM believe Bush is the greatest friend of India? The most hated president in the US is our greatest benefactor.”

“What has happened to great friends of Bush? Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has quit. Australian Prime Minister John Howard is on his way out. They are all going,” said Karat in an ominous hint that the Manmohan Singh government may not survive should the Left parties withdraw support, making mid-term polls inevitable.

V.P. Singh was equally unstinting in his rejection of the deal and charged that the 123 bilateral agreement contains several “bondage” clauses that could shackle India’s strategic autonomy and reduce it to a “bonded labour” of the US interests.

“The government refuses to listen to the Indian parliament, and instead listens to (US President George) Mr Bush and goes by his time table,” Singh said.

“Our prime minister listens not to the parliament but to Mr Bush. For the first time, the prime minister is confronting a majority in parliament (which is opposed to the deal),” said Singh.

He pointed to four “bondage clauses” in the 123 agreement – pertaining to circumstances of termination, the US’ right of return of nuclear materials sold to India, and the proposed plan to place Indian civil nuclear reactors under safeguards in perpetuity – to stress that the deal militated against India’s national interests.

Alluding to the termination clause in Article 14 of the 123 agreement, he said: “It doesn’t specify circumstances that can lead to termination of the agreement. Even India’s foreign policy choices that don’t suit the US can trigger that. This clause is like the sword of Damocles hanging over our head.”

Referring to the right of return clause, Singh said the investment of over $20 billion (“over Rs one lakh crore”) India will make in imported nuclear reactors and technologies will act as a “paperweight” on India’s mind were they to return the US-origin nuclear technology.

“It will be a colossal loss. This will act as a paperweight on the government’s mind before doing anything that may trigger termination.”

Singh also forcefully argued that despite the government’s disclaimers, the Hyde Act of the US will be applicable to the bilateral agreement. “The Hyde Act is hidden in it,” he said.