123 agreement not in national interest, reiterates CPI-M (Lead)

June 13th, 2008 - 1:27 am ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, June 12 (IANS) Hitting out at critics of its stance on the India-US civil nuclear deal, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) Thursday asserted yet again - just a week before the next meeting of a key committee - that the 123 agreement would not be in the interest of the country. The CPI-M’s assertion came a day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a fresh appeal to push the deal forward to get rid of the nuclear apartheid imposed on the country since its first nuclear test in 1974.

“Manmohan Singh has reiterated the known position of the prime minister and his government and we reiterate our own position,” CPI-M politburo member Sitaram Yechury told reporters in New Delhi.

“We believe that the 123 agreement (with the US) is not in the interest of our country,” Yechury said.

The CPI-M-led Left parties, which prop up Manmohan Singh’s coalition government, have been opposing the nuclear agreement, saying it would damage the country’s indigenous nuclear programme.

Coming down heavily on recent articles accusing the communists of “driving China’s interests” and blocking India’s rise, an editorial in the latest issue of the party mouthpiece People’s Democracy said:

“Those who are willing to eagerly surrender India’s sovereignty to US imperialism will do well to refrain from offering unsolicited advise and certificates of patriotism. If our detractors are worthy of character and substance, then they ought to meet our arguments on their merits, not through perfidy.”

Many strategic experts and former diplomats, including former Indian high commissioner to Pakistan G. Parthasarathy, have attacked the Left parties for their stance against the nuclear deal.

Rubbishing the argument that any attempt to cap India’s nuclear strategic capabilities will benefit both China and Pakistan, the editorial asked: “Who, may we ask, is vigorously pursuing this Indo-US nuclear deal which, as is well-known, will limit India’s strategic capacities, thus, providing advantage to our neighbours? Could we, then allege that those promoting this deal are acting at the behest of China and Pakistan?”

The CPI-M also reiterated its argument that the nuclear power, which according to the deal’s supporters would help the country overcome the energy crisis, would not bring any major advantage and that it would be an expensive option compared to other resources such as hydropower and gas.

Arguing that the deal with the US would be damaging to India’s independent foreign policy and sovereignty, the article said: “In this current conjuncture, in the post bipolar Cold War world, the natural tendency in international relations is for the movement towards multi-polarity.

“US imperialism seeks to subvert this by imposing a unipolarity under its tutelage. India’s role in the comity of nations will be determined by its championing of multi-polarity and its traditional leadership role of the developing countries. Any alignment with US imperialism to impose unipolarity will dissolve India’s distinctiveness in world politics.”

Earlier in the day, Yechury also said: “Our objection is not with IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency). Our objection is with the 123 agreement, which according to us is very deeply anchored in the Hyde Act (of the US).”

Although the Communists have allowed the government to go ahead with negotiations with the IAEA on an India-specific safeguard agreement, a necessary step to make the nuclear deal operational, they have refused to let it finalise the pact.

On Wednesday, Manmohan Singh made a strong pitch for the deal.

Talking to Indian Foreign Service probationers here, he said the agreement would end “nuclear apartheid” India has faced since its first nuclear test in 1974 and “open up new possibilities of cooperation with other nuclear powers like Russia and France.”

The Communists rejected that too.

Asked if the Left would change its stance and allow the government to finalise the IAEA negotiations if it decided to forego the 123 agreement, Yechury said: “Let the government come out with such a proposal. Our problem is not with the safeguard agreement.”

The committee formed by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and the Left to narrow down their differences over the nuclear deal will hold its next meeting in the coming week.

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