Red Star Over South Block
9 Jun 2008, 0105 hrs IST,
As the Manmohan Singh government enters its last year in office, the contradictions in the approach to national security and foreign policy issues between a mainstream national party like the Congress on the one hand and the communist parties, which appear determined to make India a client state of China on the other, are becoming increasingly evident from the communist opposition to the Indo-US nuclear agreement. There are also other serious differences between the approach of the communists and virtually all other national parties on crucial issues of defence, national security and foreign affairs — differences that cannot be papered over any longer.
In its 2004 election manifesto, the CPM has advocated talks between India and Pakistan for a "denuclearised environment" in South Asia. This CPM formulation would result in India acceding to the Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) by the back door and in China to becoming the only nuclear weapons power in Asia.
Interestingly, this formulation coincides with what China has constantly advocated since 1998, when it demanded that India should give up its nuclear weapons, sign the NPT and agree to UN intervention in Jammu and Kashmir, as demanded in the UN Security Council Resolution 1172 of 1998. These demands have been reiterated when China speaks of its reservations on the Indo-US nuclear deal.
The real reasons for Chinese opposition to the Indo-US nuclear agreement were voiced in an article in the August 2007 issue of the influential Renmin Jiabao magazine, which stated: "The US-India nuclear agreement has strong symbolic significance (for) India achieving its dream of becoming a powerful nation...In fact, the purpose of the US to sign a civilian nuclear agreement with India is to enclose India into its global partners' camp. This fits in with India's wishes". The CPM finds fault with the India-US nuclear agreement for precisely the same reasons as China.
While decrying India's nuclear weapons programme and making China the sole guarantor of nuclear security in Asia, the CPM overlooks the entire China-Pakistan nuclear nexus. Pakistan's nuclear weapons are of Chinese design. China has, over the past three decades, clandestinely provided Pakistan with nuclear weapons designs and technology, including plutonium facilities for manufac-turing thermonuclear warheads. Even if we sign a bilateral agreement for a denuclearised South Asia as the CPM proposes, how do we deal with clandestine Chinese proliferation to Pakistan? Moreover, the Shaheen-I and Shaheen-II missiles that Pakistan periodically tests, which are capable of striking at cities across India, are of Chinese origin. Despite this, the CPM joins the Chinese in expressing opposition to missile defence systems. Does the party want Indian population centres to be defenceless against attacks of nuclear-tipped missiles? Have CPM leaders ever voiced concern about the Pakistan-China nuclear and missile nexus to their Chinese comrades during their visits to the Middle Kingdom?
In July 2000, a CPM delegation including Jyoti Basu and Somnath Chatterjee visited Israel, met then Prime Minister Ehud Barak and discussed possibilities of increased investments and cooperation in a number of areas including agriculture, information technology and electronics, for projects in West Bengal. But, the CPM now vociferously objects to defence collaboration with Israel, knowing fully well that apart from sophisticated systems like missiles and airborne warning systems, the electronic monitoring systems that Israel supplies are crucial for checking infiltration across the LoC and safeguarding the lives of our soldiers. In its manifesto, the CPM steadfastly avoids any reference to Pakistan-inspired cross-border terrorism, while championing the cause of India-Pakistan dialogue, primarily to contain American influence, while Chinese influence in the region grows. One has yet to hear a CPM leader unequivocally condemning Pakistan-sponsored terrorism.
While condemning the foreign policies of the NDA government as being supportive of "US Imperialism", the 2004 CPM manifesto asserted that on foreign policy there is no difference between the Congress and the BJP. Unlike the CPM, which wants China to be the dominant power in Asia, with India denuclearised, the Congress party's 2004 manifesto promised to "fine-tune" India's nuclear and missile capabilities, while reiterating the country's commitment to nuclear disarmament. Moreover, while there is a broad-based national consensus on improving ties with China, virtually every political party in India has been forthright in condemning continuing Chinese claims to Tawang and indeed to the entire state of Arunachal Pradesh. The communists alone continue to waffle on Chinese border claims and maintain that it was India and not China that was guilty of aggression in the 1962 conflict!
Despite the Indo-US nuclear agreement, there is strong opposition in the non-proliferation lobby in the US to ending nuclear sanctions against India. An American academic opposed to ending sanctions recently noted: "We did not realise that your communists are as opposed to your nuclear programme as the Chinese. We believe that they would be as good allies as the Chinese in joining us to end your nuclear weapons programme. It's a pity that we did not realise this earlier". What our communist comrades fail to realise is that wittingly or unwittingly, their recipes for foreign policy and national security fit in beautifully with Chinese long-term objectives of isolating India by strengthening their own growing ties with the US, while getting others to undermine India's relations with the United States.
The writer is a former high commissioner to Pakistan.