When Obama shook hands with Left leader

The Left may have staged protests during his visit but US President Barack Obama was "glad" to meet an Indian communist leader last evening.

Last Updated: Nov 09, 2010, 18:21 PM IST

New Delhi: The Left may have staged
protests during his visit but US President Barack Obama was
"glad" to meet an Indian communist leader last evening.

"I am glad to meet an Indian communist. I am told that
communists have been part of the (Indian) political
mainstream," Obama told CPI(M) politburo member Sitaram
Yechury at the Rashtrapati Bhawan banquet as they were
introduced and both shook hands.
Yechury told Obama that the Indian communists have
been in the political mainstream "throughout".

Marking a departure from their past practice, leaders
and MPs of the CPI(M) and CPI, known for their anti-US stance,
had attended Obama`s speech in Parliament last evening.

The CPI(M) leadership had maintained that "as we hear
him, he should also listen to the voice of the Indian people
and their protests".

But their Left ally, Forward Bloc, had boycotted the
speech.

Asked about the boycott, Yechury merely said, "That`s
why we are different parties".

The Left parties had organised protests against the US
policies during Obama`s visit and asked the government not to
succumb to "pressure" from America on strategic and economic
issues.

Yechury said it was "worrisome" that the communique
issued after the Obama visit "endorsed the earlier pressures"
on India to open up its market for American agricultural
products and "dilute" the safeguards that exist now.

This was happening particularly when Indian
agriculture was in a serious crisis and farmers were suffering
and committing suicide, he said.
Observing that the US was also pushing to get the IAF
orders for 126 fighter jets, he said, "They will sell us some
equipment and then sell similar ones to Pakistan and give them
aid to buy them. That would also increase hostilities between
the two neighbours".

Regarding the lifting of ban on some Indian firms from
acquiring dual-use and other sensitive high-technology
equipment from the US, the CPI(M) leader said Department of
Atomic Energy still remained in that list, though some others
have been removed from that list.

"We want to ask the UPA government that does the
removal of some Indian companies from this US list implies
that India would have to buy American equipments. Is it a quid
pro quo? The government must reply", he said.

Yechury and CPI(M) leader in Lok Sabha, Basudeb
Acharia said the government has promised to make suo motu
statements on the Obama visit as well as Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh`s recent visits abroad.

They said the Left parties would raise several issues
during the current session of Parliament, especially those
concerning corruption in Adarsh Housing Society, Commonwealth
Games and 2G spectrum allocation.

Besides, they would also raise the issue of price
rise, Food Security Act and public distribution system and
unemployment.

The parties would also question the government on
railway safety issues, Yechury said, adding, "Apart from other
(political) considerations, we want to say that the Railways
have had the worst safety record in its history in the recent
past".

Issues like internal security, including Maoist threat
and right-wing extremism, Ranganath Mishra Commission report
on religious and linguistic minorities, microfinance and the
burden of interest payments, would also be raised by the Left
parties, Acharia said.

PTI