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Left against India-US military ties

CPI (M) general secretary Prakash Karat says the party is committed to opposing the India-US military alliance and the civil nuclear deal.

india Updated: Mar 29, 2008 13:38 IST
Liz Mathew

The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) is committed to opposing the India-US military alliance and the civil nuclear deal, party general secretary Prakash Karat said on Saturday while criticising the central government that his party supports from outside.

The CPI-M chief's inaugural address at the party's 19th congress was marked by a strong reminder of the Left's role in Indian politics, as he asked around 700 delegates assembled at Anil Biswas Nagar in New Delhi to "disentangle India from the strategic embrace of the US".

"Our task is not over," he told the delegates.

"We have to undo the military collaboration agreement. We have to continue the struggle to disentangle India from the strategic embrace of the US. This is important not only for India but for the whole of South Asia," he said, asking "the progressive forces in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka to join the fight against imperialism".

At the same time, Karat expressed happiness that India was improving its relationship with China and was doing more business with Vietnam.

The inaugural session began with the hoisting of a red flag and a red salute to the party's martyrs.

Then Karat made a strong attack on the economic and foreign policies of the ruling Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), to which the CPI-M provides outside legislative support.

"For our leaders in government who talked of releasing the animal spirits and argue now for full capital account convertibility, we hope the current crisis will provide some sobering lessons," he said.

"It is a sad fact that many in the ruling establishment believe that the US will help us to become a major world power. It is this flawed outlook that has led to the hankering in our ruling classes for a strategic alliance with the US."

The Communist leader alleged that the UPA had just "followed what was begun by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government. The only difference is that the brash natural ally the US has now been converted into a demure strategic partner".

Taking "legitimate credit" for bringing foreign policy and strategic matters to the centre-stage of Indian politics, Karat said there had been a "wholesale shift" in the foreign policy and strategic perspective since the India-US joint statement in July 2005.

Reiterating the Left's opposition to the contentious India-US civil nuclear agreement, Karat said, "The CPI-M and the Left have already declared that the nuclear deal cannot go forward. The majority in parliament is against it.

The CPI-M chief did have some kudos for the UPA government, while taking full credit for the plus points.

The coalition government was "committed to certain pro-people measures in the common minimum programme (agreed as the agenda of governance). In the past three years it has been our endeavour to get some of these adopted as legislation and implemented."

But, Karat added,, "The overall thrust has been liberalisation and privatisation.

"If it were not for the CPI-M and the Left, nuclear deal would by now have been wrapped up. If it were not for the CPI-M and the Left, neo-liberal measures would have been pushed through with more vigour."

Karat said the government had failed to address the agrarian crisis and the price rise of essential commodities.

The CPI-M also reiterated its commitment to fight the "hate campaign" of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the BJP.

The general secretary had a word of caution for the leaders of his own party.

By reminding his comrades that Communist discipline and norms were paramount to the organisation, Karat is believed to have given a strong message to his colleagues, especially those in Kerala, where factional feuding had hit the party's image badly.

Karat also spoke about India's need for a 'third alternative' that is "irrevocably anti-communal in character" and the need for the party to expand its support base.

The five-day party congress, which is also attended by 70 foreign and fraternal organisation representatives, will deliberate on the political-organisation draft report and elect a new central committee.