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Sparks fly as Buddha gets US envoy’s protest note

Friday 10 February 2006, by MAJUMDAR*Ananda

NEW DELHI, FEBRUARY 9 With US President George W Bush expected here next month, a new row is building between the Left and the US envoy. Ambassador David Mulford has written a protest letter to West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, objecting to his description of Bush as a leader of the “most organised pack of killers”.

Bhattacharjee, who made the remark a month ago at an election rally in Kolkata’s Brigade Parade grounds, wrote a strong letter to the Prime Minister, saying just as no state government could write directly to an envoy, neither could an envoy write directly to a state government. He said there was the issue of protocol involved.

In his letter to the CM, Mulford pointed out that West Bengal was being seen as a key destination for foreign investment and such remarks would be detrimental, especially in inviting US investors. Bhattacharjee himself has been warding off criticism from within the Left for his pro-reform policies.

Mulford’s carefully worded letter highlighted the need to develop the positives emerging from the Indo-US relationship.

A Democrat-led Congressional delegation last month also mentioned, at one of its official meetings, that such views about a US President would not be acceptable even to the Democrats.

But there’s a link between the Ambassador’s letter and the Left demand for his recall over his remarks on the Indo-US nuclear deal. The Left even wanted the Government to summon Mulford for writing to the CM. But South Block resisted this, saying that if such a remark had been made against an Indian leader, then New Delhi too would have lost no time in reacting strongly. It was pointed out that the language was improper and came at a time when both sides were preparing for Bush’s visit.

This is not the first time that the Left has landed the Government in a spot with regard to the US. They first objected to Indo-US joint air exercises in Kalaikunda last November and backed out only when the Government warned it would have to invoke the National Security Act. The Left will protest the Bush visit and has threatened to boycott Parliament in case Bush is invited to address a joint session. The Government is now forced to work out an alternative in Vigyan Bhavan. US Embassy said it does not comment on its communications with the Indian government. Bhattacharjee’s rally remark, say his supporters, should not be taken too seriously. Because the CM, along with West Bengal Industry Minister Nirupam Sen, made a presentation before top oil companies at a Delhi hotel in December, asking them to set up base at a proposed petrochemical park in Haldia.

Bhattacharjee has tried to prevail upon party comrades in Kerala to be more pragmatic while dealing with foreign companies because they bring money and generate jobs.

See online : The Indian Express

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