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Mainstream, Vol XLV, No 40

Indo-US Nuclear Deal, Congress and CPM

by Amitava Mukherjee

Wednesday 26 September 2007

Does the nation deserve the caricature being enacted by almost all the political parties, particularly the Left, over the proposed Indo-US nuclear deal? It must be admitted that the Congress, in spite of its penetration by Washington followers like Manmohan Singh and P. Chidambaram and the presence of weathercocks like Pranab Mukherjee, has at least shown some amount of consistency although it has always been on the predictable line of kowtowing to US interests. The BJP lost credibility by first opposing the proposed deal, then Advani suddenly supporting it and finally demanding the setting up of a Joint Parliamentary Committee, where its members could share the chairs, to go into the nuclear deal. However, the stand taken by the Left, which no doubt deserves the credit of making the Indo-US nuclear agreement an issue of national debate, is mired in controversy and confusion. While trying to arms-twist the Manmohan Singh Government, the CPM has almost opened a Pandora’s Box which may bring into focus many uncomfortable truths.

It is undeniable that the Manmohan Singh Government is moving in a dangerous direction. His reaction to the Left’s criticism of the deal—that the Left can withdraw support to his government if it so wishes—points to a much bigger stake of the Government of India in the deal, much more than the need to save the government. What is it really? Is it securing a safe future for the country in the energy sector? Manmohan Singh wants the nation to believe this. However, the undiplomatic outburst from Ronen Sen, the Indian ambassador in Washington, indicates that there is much more behind the scene than meets the eye. How often does one witness such intemperate observations from an envoy? A diplomat’s job is to listen more and talk only when necessary. So when such a key diplomat chooses to forget his brief, the message becomes loud and clear.

It is inexplicable why the Central Government has so far failed to clear the air of uncertainty over the deal. Manmohan Singh’s answer to the queries raised by V.R. Krishna Iyer, the reputed jurist, is pathetic. The Prime Minister has not been able to respond point by point. He cites environmental hazards as impediments to the development of hydro-power. But what prevents the government from employing the huge scientific manpower at its command and investing heavily to surmount this problem? Obviously, as can be gleaned from his answer, Manmohan Singh is not much interested about it.

Undeniably Prakash Karat has been able to correctly gauge the import of the present stand-off. It involves the tussle between two worldviews—that of the Congress, which has veered away from the path shown by Nehru—and the one represented by an assortment of Left political parties which are anti-American to the core. The problem of the Congress is that it has, at present, no ideology. Therefore it is hesitant, does not know its own mind and cannot articulate anything.

But the furore over the Indo-US nuclear deal has raised another interesting sidelight. Does the CPM have any extra-territorial allegiance while opposing the deal? One always wishes it does not. But the China connection of the hardliners among the Indian Communists is too well known. The CPM’s view is that by dint of the nuclear agreement India will, one day, become a satellite of the USA and therefore the agreement is against national interest. But it is num about the US-China cooperation in various spheres and does not say a word on whether this would jeopardise India’s geo-strategic interests.

It will not be unreasonable to assume that the CPM now views China as the only counterpoise to the USA in matters of global politics. It can justifiably think so and its leaders should not feel so shy about acknowledging it publicly. There is no doubt that relations between China and those Indian Communists who later formed the CPM have been in existence since the early 1960s, or rather perhaps late 1950s (how can one forget Hare Krishna Konar’s visit to China and talks with Mao Zedong to complain against the then CPI General Secretary, Ajoy Ghosh?). It is also a fact that the CPM always looks up to China as a “model”. The abortive and childish attempts by the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee Government in West Bengal to set up SEZs (especially in Nandigram) were in fact inspired by the Chinese SEZs on the south-eastern part of that country.

The Left, particularly the CPM, has an articulate foreign policy. But has it outrightly condemned China’s claim on Arunachal Pradesh? It has not. China’s proximity to the Taliban is too well known. Beijing had even entered into agreements with the former Taliban Government in Kabul for development of infrastructure there. It is high time that the Left leaders, in other to clear the nagging questions over the Left’s proximity to China, spell out their own position. Certainly there can be no objection to any political party having friendly relations with another country if the two have ideological meeting points. But the question of national interest must always be kept in mind.

It must always be remembered that China has much to explain so far as the cauldron of Central and South Asian politics is concerned. It has cordial relations with the Al-Qaeda. It is acting as patron of at least two military dictatorships in our region—Pakistan and Myanmar with the former getting military supplies from China and waging proxy wars against India. It is now an open fact that China provides infrastructure, training facilities and arms supplies to the Indian rebels in the North-East.

Does the Left have faith in police reports? If Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s total reliance on police is taken as an indicator, then the Left does not have the moral ground to say that police reports are always concocted. If so, then the Left leaders might try to find out the veracity of the West Bengal Police report in the early 1960s accusing the then Bank of China and the Chinese Consul-General of advancing money to certain political organisations and political personalities. Or what was the real identity of the Inrupesco which allegedly handled the money?

However, one thing must be added to qualify this police report. The police authorities themselves admitted that such reports were unconfirmed. Therefore, arises the need to check their authenticity. There is every possibility that they might have been concocted. If that be the case, the nation should know about the modus operandi of the police in India. For these reports had given rise to volcanic eruptions in the political horizon of the country.

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