India's Communist Bloc Oppose Nuclear Deal
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Intense lobbying over the nuclear deal is underway within India. NPR's Philip Reeves is tracking what is being said in private and in public.
Prime Minister MANMOHAN SINGH (India): I'm particularly pleased that we have reached an understanding on the implementation of our agreement on Civil Nuclear Cooperation.
PHILIP REEVES: That's India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He made that announcement 19 months ago during a visit to New Delhi by President Bush. Together, Singh told the president, we're making history. But were they?
A few days ago, Singh spoke to President Bush by telephone. The optimism had vanished. Singh explained he was having difficulties getting some people to accept the deal in India.
Leading the list of those people are the communists, a bloc of leftist political parties. They are members have made their feeling felt in parliament, clashing constantly with the speaker.
Unidentified Man: You are behaving abominably, in a disgusting manner.
REEVES: The leftist bloc is not actually part of Singh's ruling coalition. Although, to survive in power, Singh relies on its support from outside government.
On the nuclear issue, it refused to play ball, even threatening to bring the government down. The communists believe the nuclear deal endangers India's Nuclear Weapons Program. They also fear it will be exploited by their old enemy, the U.S., by using the deal as leverage to dictate foreign policy to India. For example, by persuading India not to buy energy from Iran. The government's been meeting the Communists to try to resolve these differences -so far, inconclusively, pressures building for an end to the log jam.
In a five-star hotel in New Delhi, a group of delegates gathers before setting off for another day trying to fight for the survival of the nuclear agreement. They're from the U.S.-India Political Action Committee, a lobbying group representing U.S.-based professionals of Indian origin.
Robinder Sachdev, a founding member, says the delegation came from the U.S. to try discreetly to nudge the deal forward.
Mr. ROBINDER SACHDEV (Founding member and Director, U.S. India Political Action Committee): The message which we are putting out here is that look at this deal in terms of leveraging yourself so that you are out of the dog house in a way, and you can participate in global commerce with respect to nuclear supply.
REEVES: Sachdev believes if the deal falls through, India will pay a hefty price. There'll be extra energy costs and many lost business opportunities.
Mr. SACHDEV: In the next 20 years, if this deal does not go through, India would lose half a trillion dollars.
REEVES: But, says Sadajin Bakat(ph), another delegate, many of India's communists seem beyond persuasion.
Mr. SADAJIN BAKAT (Delegate, U.S.-India Political Action Committee): It is purely an ideological thing that they will not bend off. For that reason, I don't believe they are open to reasoning or to discourse.
REEVES: Unless the left have changes its mind, the deal may end up dead and buried.
Philip Reeves, NPR News, New Delhi.