A group of historians and intellectuals have expressed disappointment over India's decision to grant permission to the US aircraft carrier Nimitz to make a call at Chennai port for rest and recreation.
In a joint statement issued Friday, the signatories, including novelist Arundhati Roy and historian Romilla Thapar, said the government's justification that the nuclear-powered ship was not known to be carrying nuclear weapons on board and did not violate India's well-established policy did not cut ice.
"This claim flies in the face of the US' well-reiterated policy to 'neither deny nor confirm' the presence of nuclear weapons on its warships under any circumstances, and its standing instructions to military personnel," said the statement.
"The fact that New Delhi has gratuitously granted this certificate to the US, when Washington itself does not do so, speaks poorly of our foreign and security policies."
The statement also pointed out that the decision marks a reversal of India's past policy opposing the transit of nuclear weapons in its neighbourhood and the US base at Diego Garcia and its demand for a zone of peace in the Indian Ocean.
"A visit to India of the Nimitz, one of two US aircraft carriers recently mobilised in the Persian Gulf to threaten Iran, will send out a negative international signal in the context of the destabilisation of West Asia caused by the US-led invasion of Iraq," the statement said.
"Such 'military interactions' point to an erosion of foreign policy independence and a departure from the United Progressive Alliance's promise to work for a balanced, multi-polar world free of nuclear weapons."
The signatories to the statement include historians Sumit Sarkar and Tanika Sarkar, novelist Mahashweta Devi, dramatist Habib Tanvir and economists Prabhat Patnaik, SP Shukla and Deepak Nayyar and former education secretary Sudeep Bannerjee.
The ship will drop anchor three km off Chennai July 1-5.