Vinay Kumar

But displeasure conveyed to U.S. envoy: Manmohan

No objection to airport modernisationArmed forces will continue to remain apolitical

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday ruled out recall of the U.S. Ambassador David Mulford for writing a letter to West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

Dr. Singh, however, described the envoy's action as "unwarranted'' and at variance with diplomatic practice. The Government had taken note of the issue and the action taken so far would suffice, he said.

The Left parties had demanded Mr. Mulford's recall for writing to Mr. Bhattacharjee following the Chief Minister's criticism of the U.S. President George W. Bush.

"I share the sentiments [of Left members]. But my own feeling is that the action we have taken would suffice for the time being,'' Dr. Singh said at the end of a 50-minute speech in the Rajya Sabha. He was winding up the debate on the President's address to Parliament.

The Prime Minister said the Ministry of External Affairs had conveyed its displeasure and asked the envoy to desist from making such moves.

The response followed queries from Nilotpal Basu and Brinda Karat of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). They wanted to know whether the Government would consider recalling Mr. Mulford. Mr. Basu said the Government should deliver a strong message as it was a matter of national pride and self-respect.

To a CPI (M) demand that there should be a discussion on the airport modernisation issue, Dr. Singh said the Government would have no objection to it.

The demand came at the end of the Prime Minister's reply when Dipankar Mukherjee (CPIM) insisted on an assurance from him to agree to withdraw an amendment to the motion of thanks to the President's address. After the assurance, Mr. Mukherjee did not press for an amendment.

He was supported by his colleagues Mr. Basu and Sitaram Yechury. They said that there was no mention of the issue of airports modernisation in the Prime Minister's reply.

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