Post-elections, will India-US ties become a casualty?

April 26th, 2009 - 1:37 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, April 26 (IANS) With political equations in a flux and the Left parties seeking to play the role of kingmaker in the formation of the next government, the fate of the India-US nuclear deal and the trajectory of bilateral ties are being called into question.
The anxieties about the shape of India-US relations primarily spring from the uncompromising opposition of Left parties to any strategic relationship with Washington.

The Left parties, which tried to topple the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government over the issue of the nuclear deal last year by withdrawing support, have said in their manifestos that if a government is formed with their support, they will review the deal and scrap the 2005 defence framework agreement.

“The Left will not scrap the deal as it is an international agreement but will put it in cold storage,” Communist Party of India leader A.B. Bardhan told IANS.

“We are opposed to a strategic relationship with the US because it will compromise India’s autonomy in strategic decision-making,” Bardhan explained.

Statements like these have created an impression that a Left-supported government will be bad news for blossoming India-US relations that touched a new high during the term of present Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

“There will obviously be a slowdown. They will extract their pound of flesh,” Brajesh Mishra, the powerful national security adviser in the previous National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government of prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, said when asked whether India-US ties will suffer in case a Left-supported government comes to power.

“I don’t see any other party in the Third Front which has ideological problems with continuing the strategic relationship with the US,” he said.

Regional parties like the AIADMK, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) don’t have problems with carrying forward India-US ties but closer ties with the world’s most powerful country do not figure anywhere in their campaign agenda. Neither is the nuclear deal on the agenda of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati who is on record as saying that India should oppose American sanctions on “our old friend Iran”.

However, India’s chief opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has softened its stand on the nuclear deal after opposing it during a trust vote moved by the Congress-led UPA government last year.

BJP’s prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani recently said that if voted to power, his government would examine all aspects of the India-US nuclear deal signed last year but would not scrap it.

“A treaty signed by the earlier government cannot be easily disregarded,” Advani said while adding that the BJP will take a closer look at the issue “only (when) in the government”.

Advani was also upbeat on India-US ties that had advanced considerably during the BJP-led NDA regine. “The two major democracies should have a cordial relationship,” he stated.

Mishra told IANS: “Indo-US relations are very important for both the BJP and the Congress. They are bound to get stronger if the coalitions led by either of these parties come to power.”

“There is an across-the-board political consensus in India for taking India-US relations forward. I don’t see anyone else, except the Left parties, who has any ideological opposition to strategic partnership with the US,” said Mishra.

“Depending on how critical the support of the Left is for the next coalition by way of numbers, there may be a go-slow on the India-US defence cooperation agreement due to the ‘left brake’” C. Uday Bhaskar, well known strategic commentator, told IANS.

“This would be to our strategic detriment in the long run and only India’s traditional adversaries will benefit from such ideological constraints that stunt India’s overall military profile.”

Mishra questioned the ability of the Left parties to impose their viewpoint on other partners in a Third Front formation.

“It will depend on how much they (Left parties) are able to enforce their ideological viewpoints and the attitude of their partners towards it,” Mishra said.

“There are economic and strategic compulsions driving India-US relations.

“That process can’t be reversed,” said Mishra.

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