[Marxism] WSJ: "India's Singh Faces Biggest Test"

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Wed Aug 22 00:11:18 MDT 2007

Here's an interesting situation: a coalition government between the
Congress Party and a range of left and Communist Allies. Marla and 
any other Indian comrades, please help us understand what's going 
on in your country. Some people think that in a coalition situation 
like this, the left forces are invariably captured by and beholden 
to the interests of the right. The WSJ seems to think this time it 
may not work out that way. We'll see. Also, no linkages is given to 
the recent violent land struggles, not to speak of the ongoing 
military activity of the the Naxalites, so it's a very complex 
situation. Indian comrades, please help us out here! Thanks.

Part of what's intriguing here is a certain similarity between the
Indian and the South African situation, though of course in India
Communists run separate from and against Congress, whereas in the
South African context, there are Communists inside the ANC, and 
they don't run against the ANC.

Most of us in the United States don't have much experience with 
parliamentary struggles, so it would be great to hear from some of 
the list members from India, where parliamentary issues and struggles 
are more a part of daily political life. Thanks!

Walter Lippmann
Los Angeles, California

("Capitol Hill foes have also seized on another issue to push their
cause: India's ties to Iran. New Delhi has maintained warm relations
with Tehran, including military ties and a potential natural-gas
pipeline project, despite the growing international feud over Iran's
support for radical groups and alleged pursuit of a nuclear weapon.")

August 22, 2007

India's Singh Faces Biggest Test
Nuclear Ambitions
Of Prime Minister
Threaten Coalition
August 22, 2007; Page A7

NEW DELHI -- Manmohan Singh has always tried to separate passion from
his politics.

As India's finance minister in the early 1990s, he helped stave off a
national financial crisis by mapping out pragmatic market-opening
policies. As prime minister for the past three years, he has given
speeches heavy on technical details and light on political rhetoric,
sounding more like the cost-benefit analyses of the sober economist
that he is.

But a very different Indian prime minister has emerged in recent
weeks as he faces the biggest fight of his political life. With
opposition hardening among his government's coalition partners
against a nuclear deal with the U.S. that was supposed to form the
bedrock of a new U.S.-India relationship, Mr. Singh is finding that
his quest for nuclear power has unexpectedly endangered his political

Allies from the Left Front, who support Mr. Singh's governing United
Progressive Alliance, have stood up against the deal, throwing the
government into turmoil. While the pact doesn't need parliamentary
approval, Mr. Singh's Congress Party relies on these politicians from
four Communist parties to give the UPA a voting majority.

In the face of such opposition in the past, Mr. Singh has backed
down. But this time he is talking tough. The new persona -- a cross
between statesman and political combatant -- reflects how gravely he
views the consequences of a collapsed nuclear deal, for his
government and his country. Without the Left Front's support, Mr.
Singh's government could collapse, precipitating national elections.

In a speech to Parliament last week that called the deal "good for
India, and good for the world," the prime minister spoke over a
shower of catcalls. Lawmakers from the Left Front walked out. 
"I am neither given to exaggeration nor am I known to be
self-congratulatory," Mr. Singh said toward the end of his speech. 
"I will let posterity judge the value of what we've done."

In an interview with an Indian magazine, the 74-year-old prime
minister said his rivals never expected him to last in the job. 
"But I have faith in a higher force," he told India Today. 
"I believe it was my destiny to be the prime minister."

His opponents believe Mr. Singh's political denouement is near
nonetheless. The divisions over the nuclear deal are only the latest
sign of an ineffective government that has also failed to stem
food-price inflation or narrow urban-rural income gaps, said Mukhtar
Abbas Naqvi, vice president of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which vies
nationally for votes with Mr. Singh's Congress Party. 
"This government isn't going to last long," he predicted.

Leftist politicians that the Congress Party relies on are demanding
the nuclear deal be frozen. Coalition members are meeting this week
to try to find a way through. Late Monday, the Left Front reiterated
its opposition but also raised the possibility that a compromise
could be worked out. The Left Front would consider a committee that
was set up to study their objections to the deal as long as India
doesn't move forward on it for now, according D. Raja, a senior
leader of the Communist Party of India.

"If the government falls because of its own folly, then we aren't
responsible," he said in an interview.

The current impasse is testing Mr. Singh's political mettle. Mr.
Singh, who earned honors from Cambridge University in economics and a
doctorate from Oxford, has long been regarded as one of India's most
talented technocrats. But it took Sonia Gandhi, the Italian-born
widow of slain Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, to elevate Mr. Singh to
the government's top spot after the Congress Party's strong showing
in the national elections in 2004. Ms. Gandhi, the chairwoman of the
Congress Party, has continued as chairwoman of the UPA and is still
seen as the country's most powerful politician.

Although Mr. Singh enjoyed Ms. Gandhi's support in pursuing the
nuclear deal, his backers say he was caught off guard by the depth of
opposition elsewhere. After months of scrutinizing technical details
of the agreement, a national debate erupted, bringing to the surface
old sensitivities rooted in a British colonial past. Many remain
deeply suspicious of India entering any sort of alliance with a
Western power, especially one as controversial now as the U.S. 
For decades, India maintained a "nonaligned" stance in world 
affairs but was more closely associated with socialism than 
with the West.

"There was a lot of euphoria initially," said one retired senior
government official of the feeling after the deal with the U.S. was
struck. "We sort of forgot the reality."

However, the nuclear agreement, forged in meetings between Mr. Singh
and President Bush, is seen by many as a watershed for India's
emergence as a world power. After India tested nuclear devices in
1998, the U.S. government imposed sanctions on the country.

The "strategic partnership with India," which is also viewed as a
signature achievement of U.S. foreign policy under Mr. Bush, is
expected to help remove many of the remaining technical trade
barriers between the two countries. A final draft of the deal,
reached last month, allows the U.S. to provide nuclear fuel and
technology to India for the first time in three decades, since
Washington barred such sales after India tested a nuclear device.

As Mr. Singh gets blasted at home for selling out Indian sovereignty,
Mr. Bush is facing fire from critics in Washington for caving in to
Indian demands. U.S. arms-control experts and a loud contingent
within Congress argue that Mr. Bush agreed to terms that wouldn't
punish India if it went ahead with another nuclear test. Critics also
claim the deal's one-off concessions to India will weaken the
international system meant to stem the proliferation of nuclear

Capitol Hill foes have also seized on another issue to push their
cause: India's ties to Iran. New Delhi has maintained warm relations
with Tehran, including military ties and a potential natural-gas
pipeline project, despite the growing international feud over Iran's
support for radical groups and alleged pursuit of a nuclear weapon.

Still, the criticism in the U.S. is minuscule compared with the din
in India. One big difference is that the Bush administration has the
heavy backing of U.S. industry, which sees the deal as paving the way
toward a slew of potential deals ranging from fighter planes to power
plants and airport construction. Bush administration officials say
they are confident that Congress will approve the cooperation deal
when it comes back for a final vote, possibly around the end of the

India, meanwhile, must still reach separate agreements with the
United Nations's International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear
Suppliers Group, a group of nations that sets rules on exports of
nuclear materials.

The government's Left Front allies have said such a partnership with
the U.S. will entangle India in "a complex web of political, economic
and military relationships" that could undermine its sovereignty,
according to a joint statement of leftist political parties earlier
this month. The statement also pointed to India's recent votes to
isolate Iran's nuclear program and U.S. arm-twisting of India to buy
expensive weapons as evidence of how America will manipulate the
partnership for its own goals.

The battle with the Left Front is significant because Mr. Singh is
often accused of backing down to its opposition on steps to open
India's economy. Liberalization of India's banking, insurance and
retail sectors has proceeded slowly, as has the selling of stakes in
government companies. But the nuclear deal is seen as different, a
fight Mr. Singh can't afford to lose because of what it means for his
country's nuclear program and India's standing in the world.

"This is an ideological confrontation," said the retired official who
remains close to the prime minister. "He had to take a stand."

--Neil King Jr. contributed to this article.

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