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Displeasure over Mulford statement across party lines

January 30, 2006 20:16 IST
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Keeping political differences at bay, both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left parties expressed their displeasure over the statement of United States Ambassador David Mulford on Indo-US nuclear understanding and the FDI issue.

While the Left took umbrage at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's "very meek reaction" and asked the United Progressive Alliance government to initiate necessary steps to uphold the nation's "sovereignty", independence and democratic set-up, the BJP put forth their grave concern and demanded that Dr Singh convene an all party meeting to discuss the issue.

Dr Singh Monday rejected the demand of seeking the recall of the US ambassador for putting pressure on India on the Iran nuclear issue, stating that to err is human.

Former PM V P Singh, the Left and the Samajwadi Party had urged the government to seek the recall of the envoy for his "outrageous remarks".

This is the second time in a week that Mulford has invited controversy over his interview to a news agency.

Report of the first interview, suggesting that the Indian vote on nuclear issue and Indo-US nuclear cooperation were interlinked saw Mulford summoned to the Foreign Office to hear India lodge a protest.

"The Manmohan Singh government owes some kind of clarification to the people of the country about the steps it proposes to take to stop the US from pressuring us on our external affairs and economic policies," the leaders of the Communist Party of India-Marxist, Communist Party of India, Forward Bloc and Revolutionary Socialist Party said.

The second report quoted him questioning the Left's wisdom in opposing the government's move to open up insurance and banking and allowing 51 per cent FDI in retail.

CPI-M senior leader and Politbureau member Brinda Karat said, "The US has to understand that India is an independent and democratic country. Its policies are determined by its Parliament and not by the US interests. Mulford should know his place."

The CPI-M firebrand leader and Rajya Sabha member Karat, said, "The Manmohan Singh government has to ponder over the steps to prevail upon the US that it should not poke its nose into our internal affairs."

Meanwhile, parliamentary group leader in the Rajya Sabha Nilotpal Basu observed that the attack on the Left quite explicitly is part of the US gameplan to pressurise India into submission on matters of US interests and our internal matters.

"The US Ambassador has not only exceeded his brief, but also ventured into the areas which are in contradiction with the diplomatic norms," Basu said.

CPI national secretary D Raja, Forward Bloc general secretary and member of Parliament Debvrat Biswas and RSP national secretary and Rajya Sabha MP Abani Roy said the Congress-led ruling combine would have to tell the US in "no uncertain words" that India is not a "banana republic".

The UPA government must take all political parties into confidence over the issue, BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad told newspersons in New Delhi.

"The prime minister must convene an all party meeting at the earliest to discuss the matter as Mulford's statement has totally negated the assurance given by Dr Singh in Parliament that India's commitment would be conditional on and reciprocal to the US fulfilling its side of the understanding," he said.

The BJP spokesperson said that Mulford's statements were contradictory to the prime minister's assurance that separation of civilian and military nuclear facilities would be done in a phased manner and civilian nuclear facilities be placed under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards by a decision taken "voluntarily".

"Mulford had clearly said the idea of separating the civilian and military facilities had not so far made the test of credibility and minimum standard required for the US Congress to react favourably. He had not made a casual observation, but a rather a structured statement which completely negated Dr Singh's assurance," Prasad said.

The issue concerned the country's security and sovereignity, hence the US ambassador's statement was "disturbing".

"We expect the prime minister to take all political parties into confidence and ensure that our strategic security concerns are not subjugated in any manner," he said.

Recalling former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's statement on July 20, 2005, in which he had warned the government that the offer of separation of civilian and nuclear facilities would have long-term implications on national security, he said the BJP wanted to stress that it was the "sovereign right of India to take a decision on issues of national security independently and without any references to any outside agency or country".

On whether the BJP would endorse the Left's demand for the US ambassador's recall, Prasad said the party had directly questioned the prime minister over the nuclear understanding with the US.

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