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What the CPI(M) seeks from Manmohan’s U.S. visit

Thursday 14 July 2005

Special Correspondent

Karat asks Dr. Singh to resist from making any announcements on opening retail trade

Need for policies that put India-U.S. relations on a balanced and equitable plane Liberalisation: Government must keep in mind the framework of the Common Minimum Programme New Delhi’s determination to pursue gas pipeline project must be conveyed

NEW DELHI: As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh prepares to leave this week on his first official visit to the United States, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has asked him to resist from making any announcements on opening retail trade.

Among other things, he must tell Washington not to stand in the way of India’s quest for energy security.

"The policies of the Bush administration have a direct bearing on India’s economy, security and national interest. India, for its part, is one of the leading developing countries whose economic and political potential is widely recognised. The outcome of the visit, therefore, will be closely watched not only in India but in the international arena and, in particular, the Third World countries," CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat said in an article, "What is expected from PM during his U.S. visit," in the latest edition of party mouthpiece People’s Democracy.

Foreign policy

In recent years, he said, due to the pro-American policies of the [previous] Vajpayee Government, the impression had gained ground that India was moving into the orbit of the U.S. as a strategic ally. The Common Minimum Programme (CMP) of the United Progressive Alliance had stressed on an independent foreign policy, which raised hopes that India would correct the earlier distortions and plays its due role as a leading representative of developing countries and a founder of the Non-Aligned Movement.

In the run-up to the coming visit, a number of issues have come up that require careful consideration. "A coherent set of policies which put Indo-American relations on a balanced and equitable plane needs to be formulated," Mr. Karat said. The U.S. was interested in exploiting India’s large market, in particular open it to the flow of international capital and provide privileged access to giant American multinational corporations.

While the Manmohan Singh Government is eager to utilise the U.S. interest to push forward the liberalisation process, the Left expects the Government to keep in mind the framework of the CMP, he said.

The U.S. is keen that India open up its retail trade to foreign investment. U.S. giant WalMart is interested in coming to India. Retail trade employs about eight per cent of the total workforce of our country and contributes around 13 per cent to the GDP. In the absence of expansion of the manufacturing sector, retail trade is one area that has absorbed surplus labour from the countryside. The UPA Government should resist the temptation to make any announcement on opening up retail trade to FDI during the visit, the article said.

A major concession was made in the financial sector, during Dr. Singh’s visit to New York for the U.N. General Assembly session last year, by allowing 74 per cent FDI in private banking sector. The U.S. wants further liberalisation in the sector including insurance.

The Left, Mr. Karat said, has maintained that opening up the financial sector can lead to loss of economic sovereignty.

India has to play an independent role by developing its economy and strengthening the united forums of the developing countries to end the international economic order.

While the U.S. claims it encourages free flow of trade and commerce, it has repeatedly taken protectionist steps and prevents free flow of personnel and goods even in bilateral relations. In this context, Dr. Singh should convey New Delhi’s determination to pursue the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project. "The U.S. should be told that it cannot hamper India’s quest for energy security."

As the Government is keen to enlist American support for India’s candidature as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, Mr. Karat said that India should be careful not to give in to the U.S. on such a vital issue. The country’s representation should not be delinked from the wider question of democratisation of the United Nations.

The article also drew attention to how attempts by U.S. President George Bush to privatise social security funds and put them in the stock market backfired in the United States. It said the UPA Government was now trying to privatise pension, which people considered a social security measure.

See online : The Hindu

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