Newsweek’s international edition’s cover this week articulates my own feelings. "Why India is blowing its chance", says the headline above a picture of a dejected Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. And the subhead adds,"The architect of the boom has a plan to vault India into the great-power club, only the communists stand in the way".
What it doesn’t say is, the communists also maintain relations with the communist party of China, which has a border dispute with India and helps Pakistan in various ways.
Anyone who follows the news knows how China feels about India’s growing closeness to the US. But the Chinese needn’t worry; they can count on their Indian communist friends to stall the Indo-US nuclear energy agreement.
Prakash Karat, general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), is fiercely opposed to the deal, calling it a bid to "encircle" China. He cuts an almost Stalinist figure in the Newsweek article, which begins:
From his fortress-like red sandstone headquarters near New Delhi’s Connaught Place — a bustling commercial hub lined with McDonald’s, foreign banks and boutiques — Prakash Karat, India’s reigning communist ideologue, is fighting to kill his country’s
economic- and political-reform process…
That Karat — the feisty, British-educated
59-year-old general secretary of the Communist Party of India
(Marxist), or CPI-M — has come to dominate New Delhi’s agenda is
remarkable, given that he has little national following, has never held
elected public office and holds ideas that were already out of date 15
years ago, when most communist systems came crashing down… That’s because the
Congress Party-led coalition has just a razor-thin majority in
Parliament, which has forced it to lean on Karat for support, turning
him into a kingmaker…
Karat even threatened to bring down the government over the nuclear issue. But he was advised to cool it by party leaders from the communist-ruled state of West Bengal who have their own problems. After three decades in power, they are meeting armed resistance from peasants in Nandigram where they want to acquire land and build chemical plants. They don’t want the Congress party to step into the conflict. So Karat has not been able to carry out his threat, but he could still wreck any nuclear deal, says Newsweek.
Newsweek simplifies the issue by casting the communists as the only opponents to the deal. The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and Indian scientists have also raised objections. But they have cited national interests, not a plot to "encircle" China.
A Newsweek online article which calls it a "sweetheart deal" glosses over the constraints it places on India, which became a nuclear power on its own. But could India get a better deal?
The Economist says:
To most neutrals, this looks like a steal for India. It has an urgent
need of imported uranium to cope with a worsening energy shortfall. The
special treatment that the deal would afford India would confirm its
rising status, and cement a growing friendship with America. Yet that
is what the communists object to.
That doesn’t make the communists sound very friendly or patriotic, does it?