US diplomat’s meetings trigger political row

May 14th, 2009 - 6:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party New Delhi, May 14 (IANS) A US diplomat’s meetings with Indian political leaders at the fag end of the Lok Sabha elections has sparked a row with the Left Thursday accusing Washington of meddling in New Delhi’s internal affairs and the US embassy denying the charge.
Implying that US Charge d’Affaires A. Peter Burleigh had sought to influence the decisions of political parties ahead of government formation, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) called it “gross interference in our internal affairs”.

“Its imperialist character has again revealed itself through its brazen interference in the affairs of an independent country,” CPI-M politburo member Sitaram Yechury told reporters here.

His comments came a day after Burleigh met Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani and two days after meeting Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief N. Chandrababu Naidu and Praja Rajyam Party chief and film star Chiranjeevi in Hyderabad.

The US embassy said that no political meaning should be read into the meetings.

“He (Burleigh) met with Naidu for routine consultations. The US categorically denies any attempt to interfere in India’s democratic political process,” a spokesperson for the US embassy said.

BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad said the meeting the diplomat had with Advani was a “routine” one and accused the Communists of being a prisoner of the Soviet era.

The TDP denied the US was trying to influence the party to distance itself from the Communists. “The US envoy did not ask Naidu not to stand with the Left,” said Ram Mohan, a TDP MP in Hyderabad.

Chiranjeevi too tried to downplay the meeting. “They had come here to analyse the election results. There was just a casual talk about results in Andhra Pradesh. It was a courtesy call,” he said in Hyderabad.

Yechury said: “We strongly favour good friendly relations with the US but will not brook any interference in our internal affairs.”

The US is closely watching the Indian election, which is expected to produce a fractured mandate.

With the Left fiercely opposed to the India-US nuclear deal and the larger strategic relationship between the two countries, there is concern in Washington about the Communists wielding influence in the next government.

–Indo-Asian news Service


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