| Karat at the news conference in New Delhi. (PTI)
New Delhi, July 31: A day after veteran CPM leader Jyoti Basu pronounced that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement in Parliament on his US visit was “in general okay”, the party’s general secretary, Prakash Karat, virtually contradicted Basu and repeated the objections the CPM had raised against the nuclear pact Singh had signed with US President George W. Bush.
Karat also made it clear that the CPM will voice its criticisms of the Prime Minister’s statement in Parliament and outside, indicating thereby that his party had no intention of retracing its steps.
Addressing the media at the end of the CPM’s politburo meeting, Karat declared that the party, through nationwide seminars and meetings, would focus on what in the agreement was “harmful” for India’s strategic and security interests.
He said the “trend of becoming a strategic US ally, started by the erstwhile NDA government, continues” and an indication was India’s willingness to accept the US’ leadership in the fight against terrorism, which the Singh-Bush statement reflected.
Karat went on to say the department of atomic energy should not be weakened while implementing the nuclear cooperation agreement on the basis of structural reciprocity and stressed the need for India to maintain its independence in developing nuclear technology for peaceful uses.
He said the CPM would make these criticisms when the Prime Minister’s statement is debated in Parliament on Wednesday.
The BJP, which took note of the major shift in the CPM’s stand, decided it would also attack the government frontally in Parliament. A senior leader said: “The points raised by Atal Bihari Vajpayee in his letter to the Prime Minister (a day after the joint statement) will be reiterated by him in the Lok Sabha and our other speakers in both the Houses.” This leader emphasised there would be no “deviation or dilution” of the “Vajpayee line”.
Sources said the leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha and former external affairs minister, Jaswant Singh, was initially “upset” with Vajpayee’s letter, which basically articulated the observations made in media interviews by the national security adviser of the NDA government, Brajesh Mishra.
In party meetings, Jaswant Singh reportedly argued that the BJP’s response should be more “subtle” given the background of the nuclear pact and the fact that the NDA government had agreed to put some of India’s nuclear reactors under safeguards while negotiating with the US.
Singh also pointed out that the BJP and its principal functionaries had laid the foundation for India’s nuclear diplomacy between 1998 and 2004.
Faced with these “facts”, sources said Vajpayee was reluctant to speak in the debate. However, this morning, Jaswant Singh met him and reportedly “clarified” that his letter of July 20 would be the “base-line” for the BJP.
The thrust of Vajpayee’s criticism was India was giving away too much for too little ' a point countered by Manmohan Singh through specific examples in his Parliament statement.
The former Prime Minister’s main objections were that the segregation of civilian and military nuclear facilities would amount to accepting a “cap” on the size of India’s minimum credible nuclear deterrent and the separation itself will be difficult, if not impossible, given that the military programmes were a “small fraction” of India’s nuclear facilities.