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Govt in Mulford storm

New Delhi, Jan. 30: Political pressure was building today on the government to act in the controversy over US ambassador David Mulford’s comments, but there were indications that it preferred to simply allow the furore to die a natural death.

The CPM, a Congress ally, demanded that the government ask for the ambassador’s recall while the opposition BJP sought an all-party meeting on Indo-US relations.

After publication of Mulford’s criticism of the Left for opposing foreign investment in retail, CPM politburo member Sitaram Yechury said: “The government should demand his recall from India. It is unbecoming of an ambassador to make such comments.”

The Left charged Mulford with interfering in India’s internal matters. “Mulford has made wide-ranging interventions in the internal affairs of India,” Yechury said.

BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said Mulford’s interview (to PTI) threw into doubt the assurance given by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Parliament that the India-US nuclear deal was based on reciprocity. “We expect the Prime Minister to take all the political parties into confidence and ensure that our strategic security concerns are not subjugated in any manner whatsoever.”

Mulford linked the progress of the Indo-US nuclear deal through Congress to India voting against Iran, which is embroiled in a conflict with the West over its nuclear programme. He also said talks on the nuclear deal had got bogged down because India had not dispelled US concerns.

Delhi has conveyed its unhappiness to Washington about Mulford linking the nuclear deal to the Iran vote. Besides, US undersecretary of state Nicholas Burns has distanced Washington from the remarks.

A senior Indian official said the controversy, ahead of President George W. Bush’s visit in March, should have been avoided. That is the reason the government wants to keep quiet and allow the dust to settle on its own.

The US embassy reacted with caution. Spokesman David Kennedy said Washington respected the opinion of political parties.

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