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Updated: August 30, 2011 11:08 IST

Jaswant: is Indian policy drafted in Washington?

Special Correspondent
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TV grab shows senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh speaking in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday. Photo: PTI
TV grab shows senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh speaking in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday. Photo: PTI

The Opposition on Tuesday took on the Manmohan Singh government in Parliament and sought a statement from it on the WikiLeaks cables, carried by The Hindu, showing the influence exerted by Washington in shaping New Delhi's foreign policies.

The issue figured in both Houses of Parliament — with the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and others raising it in the Rajya Sabha, and Jaswant Singh (BJP) in the Lok Sabha.

In the Upper House, P. Rajeeve (CPI-M) referred to the reports on U.S. observations on the Cabinet reshuffle undertaken by the government in 2006, India's vote against Iran in the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Kerala ‘mafia' in the Prime Minister's Office.

Citing a remark by the former U.S. Ambassador, David Mulford, who described the change in the petroleum portfolio as a “determination to ensure that U.S.-India relations continue to move ahead rapidly,” Mr. Rajeev said the Americans saw the then Petroleum Minister, Mani Shankar Aiyar, as an outspoken advocate of the Iran gas pipeline.

Amid shouts of “shame,” the MP said Washington felt that the net effect of the Cabinet reshuffle was “likely to be excellent for the U.S. goals in India [and Iran].” Mr. Rajeev was supported by his party colleagues, including Brinda Karat, while some other Opposition members referred to the names of other Ministers cited in the reports as having strong pro-U.S. credentials.

In the Lok Sabha, participating in the debate on the demands for grants to the External Affairs Ministry, Mr. Jaswant Singh read out extensively from The Hindu on various issues, including the differences of opinion between Dr. Singh and the then National Security Adviser, M.K. Narayanan, on taking action against Pakistan post-26/11 Mumbai attacks.

Mr. Singh praised the newspaper for exposing the U.S. interest in the country's internal affairs, foreign policy, etc. Reading out the relevant news item, he mentioned about the dropping of the then Petroleum Minister at the behest of Washington.

If the Prime Minister and the NSA did not see eye to eye, what could the Opposition do, Mr. Singh asked. He wondered whether India's foreign policy was drafted in the U.S. The government should not depend on Washington to resolve issues with Islamabad, he said, and also referred to the increased Chinese assistance to Pakistan in the nuclear field.

Mr. Singh said the foreign policy of UPA-II on Pakistan, China, Nepal and West Asia might not help the government in the long-run and would jeopardise the country's security.

Revisit no-first-use policy

He wanted the no-first-use policy on nuclear weapons revised, citing changes in the global scenario. Security concerns were multidimensional, and policies of the 20th century would not work, he said, and stressed the need for immediate revision of the nuclear policy. “Please hold broader consultations. Time will not wait for us.” He wanted the government to take the Opposition into confidence while revising the nuclear policy.

Mr. Singh said while India had only 50-60 warheads, Pakistan had 100-110 warheads and their location was not known even to the U.S.

On India-Pakistan relations, he said it was difficult to know whether the two countries were moving ahead in the “spirit of the Shimla Agreement, the spirit of Sharm-el Sheikh or more recently the Thimphu spirit.”

Later, addressing a press conference here, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury said the WikiLeaks reconfirmed his party's stand that the UPA government under Dr. Singh was promoting U.S. interests in the country and the region.

Citing the Cabinet reshuffle to suit American interests and the IAEA voting against Iran, Mr. Yechury said these were matters of grave concern, compromising the country's national sovereignty.

“We want the government to come clean and it merits a statement by the Prime Minister … we demand a reply from the government which should either say [these reports] are not correct or take action.”

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