The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Samata scorn on Delhi

New Delhi, April 2: Defence minister George Fernandes is unhappy with New Delhi’s “middle path” on Iraq, his party dismissing it as “talk of eunuchs”.

Even the Opposition has not used such language while criticising the A.B. Vajpayee government’s stand on the war.

The Samata Party, headed by Fernandes, has put the Centre in a spot by demanding a joint Parliament resolution to “condemn” the US attack on Iraq when the budget session resumes on Monday after recess. Last Saturday, the government rejected outright a similar demand from the Opposition at an all-party meeting convened by Vajpayee.

The party’s ministers have been asked to take up the matter at the appropriate level. Samata’s Digvijay Singh is minister of state for external affairs, Nitish Kumar is railway minister and Sreeniwas Prasad is civil supplies minister. Sharad Yadav of the Janata Dal (United), minister for food and public distribution, is also uncomfortable with the Centre’s stand, sources said.

Fernandes — the NDA convener and the Prime Minister’s trouble-shooter — has already spoken to Vajpayee informally.

After slamming the US attack in an interview to a news agency yesterday, the Samata chief today directed party spokesperson Shambu Shrivastwa to hold a news conference criticising the government’s policy. In a sharp attack, Shrivastwa said: “Our foreign policy establishment is infested with people who think the national interests of the US and India are same.... Our foreign policy should not be Pakistan-centric and US-obsessed.”

Demanding that the government take a “more proactive approach”, he said “there is no need to sit idle and watch this horrible development”.

Shrivastwa said New Delhi’s belief that the US will back India “is like chasing a mirage” because it was strategically important for Washington to keep Islamabad on its side. “The US will never be with India,” he said. The party is organising anti-war, anti-US demonstrations in all district headquarters across the country on April 5. It has also called for a boycott of US goods.

Shrivastwa said the UN Security Council had failed to call for a US ceasefire.

Fernandes had said yesterday “this unilaterlism can have great consequences in times to come.” The talk of post-war reconstruction of Iraq made him “sick rather than enthused”, he added. “You go and bomb, blow up the whole place and, in the process, kill several hundreds, mostly civilians, in the war — a war which does not have the sanction of the UN. Just about every facility and infrastructure is destroyed. And then people start talking of reconstruction and rebuilding,” he said.

Asked if the Indian armed forces had drawn lessons from the coalition blitzkrieg and saturated bombing of Iraq, Fernandes retorted: “If any lessons are to be drawn, it has to be from the Iraqis”.

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