India’s envoy to US causes a nuclear flare-up, Left wants him out

A fresh dispute breaks out between the Govt and the non-UPA parties, particularly the Left, over Ronen Sen’s interview to a news portal. Manmohan stands firm| What lies ahead...
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Updated on Aug 22, 2007 04:40 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | By Vinod Sharma and Sutirtho Patranobis, New Delhi

On the eve of the CPM’s Central Committee meeting here on Wednesday on the India-US nuclear deal, a fresh dispute broke out between the government and the non-UPA parties, particularly the Left, over India’s envoy to the United States Ronen Sen’s interview to a news portal.

Ambassador Sen’s clearly avoidable observations on political leaders and parties opposing the nuclear deal had the Left, the NDA and the UNPA baying for his scalp. Upset with the criticism of the nuclear deal back home, the envoy told “Sixty years after Independence I am really bothered that they are so insecure… that we have not grown up… this lack of confidence and lack of self-respect.”

The standoff in Parliament continued even after External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee read out a cable in which Sen offered “unqualified apologies” for sneering at the deal’s opponents and describing mediapersons as “headless chickens looking for a comment here and a comment there”.

But for Sen’s surprise intervention, the government would have ended the day on a happier note. After a meeting with Mukherjee, CPM’s Sitaram Yechury indicated that his party was fine with Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar’s trip to Vienna next month to attend the International Atomic Energy Agency’s annual conference. He, however, clarified: “We have said that negotiations on India-specific safeguards should not happen there.”

At the CPM Central Committee’s meeting on Wednesday, the politburo’s resolution and the joint statement of the four Left parties against operationalising the 123 Agreement will be discussed. “The decision is to withdraw support from the UPA regime the day formal negotiations begin with the IAEA,” Left sources told the Hindustan Times. They also quoted Karat as telling the politburo that the coalition experiment with the UPA has failed. It was learnt, however, that West Bengal Chief

Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and state Industry Minister Nirupam Sen were unlikely to attend the meeting in the backdrop of the ongoing visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who will be in Kolkata on August 23.

The CPI too is getting into the act. On August 28-29, its national executive will take a position on the nuclear deal.

Under such a politically volatile situation, the UPA could have done without Sen’s “spirited” defence of the nuclear accord. A key player in the negotiations with the US, the Ambassador is known for his proximity to the Gandhi family. What has got the Left’s goat was his praise of President George Bush in the same interview in which he lambasted the opponents of the deal.

“We have an ambassador in Washington who seems to be the ambassador of President Bush, not the ambassador of India,” said Karat, adding that if the Government had any self-respect, it should immediately recall Sen.

With the Left parties hell-bent on having Sen back in Delhi, the final call on the issue will have to wait till UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi returns from South Africa, said a senior official.

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