CPI(M) to Listen to Obama's Parliament Address
Drawing a distinction between US Administrations under George Bush and Barack Obama, the CPI(M) today said it would listen to the American President when he addresses Parliament but would want him to listen to the voices of protest by the Indian people as well.

Reiterating its opposition to the growing Indo-US military cooperation and UPA government's moves to open up retail trade to allow entry by US firms like Walmart, the party asked the government to tell Obama that it was his responsibility to "ensure justice" to the Bhopal gas disaster victims just as he got British Petroleum to cough up billions of dollars to clean up the oil spill in the West Coast.

Referring to Obama's address in Parliament on November 8, CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat said Left party MPs would "listen to him" along with others.

"On the same day, there will be demonstrations and meetings all over the country voicing the opinions of the Indian people. President Obama should listen to them," he said in an article in the forthcoming issue of party organ People's Democracy.

Noting that Obama's election as US President was "greeted with relief around the world" as it ended Bush's rule, he said the world looked forward to an end to the "unbridled neo-conservative aggression of the Bush era."

"In the nearly two years of the Obama administration, much of the expectations have been belied. There has been a change in the tenor and style, but not much change in the substance of US foreign policy," Karat said.

As far as the CPI(M) and the Left are concerned, "we recognise the difference between Bush and Obama. At the same time, we are aware that the Obama administration represents a continuity in terms of the basic US approach for global dominance," he said.

That is why the Left has decided to utilise the occasion to highlight the opposition of the Indian people to the "continuing US imperialist interventions" in Iraq and Afghanistan, for the illegal blockade against Cuba and supporting Israel against Palestine.

The CPI(M) leader said the Left parties would express Indian people's opposition to the "pressures mounted by the US government to intensify the neo-liberal economic policies in India and facilitate the opening up of vital sectors like agriculture, retail trade and higher education to American multinationals."

Two year after, the Obama administration has confirmed that Republican or Democratic, there will be no change in the basic pursuit of a global strategy and foreign policy goals which are in the interests of the ruling classes of America, Karat said.

"The Obama visit should not result in Walmart being allowed into retail trade in India which will destroy the livelihood of tens of thousands of small shopkeepers and traders," Karat said, accusing the Commerce Minister and sections of the UPA government of rooting for FDI entry into multi-brand retail trade.

Maintaining that Left parties have consistently opposed Indo-US military collaboration as it impinged on India's independent foreign policy and strategic autonomy, he said Obama would be keen that India buy US arms in a big way.

"Already India has agreed to buy C-17 military transport planes. The Americans are more interested in India placing the order for 126 fighter planes with the US which would cost more than USD 10 billion," he said.

On the Bhopal issue, Karat said President Obama should be told that he has a responsibility to ensure justice for the gas victims.

"A US company was responsible for this worst industrial disaster in the world. If Obama could get BP to cough up billions of dollars for the clean up of the oil spill in the Gulf coast, why should not the Dow Chemicals be made to pay for the damages and the clean up of the Bhopal site".

Later at a press conference, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said party MPs would listen to Obama's address in Parliament, even as its Left ally Forward Bloc said its three MPs would abstain.

"We will listen to him (Obama), but he should listen to us and our protests also. After all, that is democracy," he said.

Asked about Forward Bloc's stand on abstaining from the event, Yechury said, "They are a separate party and have a right to take any decision."

Forward Bloc's decision not to allow its three MPs to attend Obama's address was taken at a meeting of the party's Central Committee here.

"We had boycotted Bill Clinton's address in 2000. We don't find any difference between Clinton and Obama, both from the Democratic Party in the US," G Devarajan, Forward Bloc National Secretary told PTI.

Replying to questions, Yechury said, "India should not be reduced to becoming a secondary ally of the US."

He said the US wanted India to open up its market to American products.

In this context, he referred to nuclear commerce and said American companies wanted to sell nuclear reactors to India, the demand for which is being valued at Rs 40,000 crore.

Washington also wanted to bag the major air force order for 126 multi-role combat aircraft, he said.

It also wanted Indian government to open up the agriculture sector so that they can sell their genetically- modified products here.

As the US doles out huge subsidies to its agriculture sector, especially dairy products, they want to capture the Indian market and sell these items at very low prices, undercutting the Indian agricultural economy, Yechury said.
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