A US diplomatic cable written two years ago has revealed how the Left parties, which opposed the Indo-US civil nuclear deal tooth and nail, were the most aggressive when it came to enjoying the fruits of that agreement.
The alliance between the Congress party and the Left parties (which were supporting the UPA at that time) had taken a huge blow after the UPA announced it would enter into a ‘123’ or civil nuclear agreement with the US. The agreement would effectively end the nuclear isolation imposed on India after it tested its nuclear bombs in 1998.
However, due to the oversight that the deal would give the Americans and other nuclear technology and fuel suppliers, the agreement was opposed bitterly by the Left, to the point of withdrawing their support for the government.
But in 2009, Indian foreign secretary Shiv Shankar Menon told the US ambassador David Mulford that the Left-ruled West Bengal was the fore-runner to get the first nuclear reactor with US help, under the agreement. Not surprisingly, the US ambassador was not totally pleased with this ‘show of support’ by the Left.
“You would not believe how strongly West Bengal is pushing to get you,” Menon told Mulford, before the two started “commiserating” about the ill-fated Nano factory in Bengal.
Menon, however, reassured Mulford that the first US plant is unlikely to be built in Bengal and he would “push back” the idea.
“Menon confided that the designation of reactor parks sites had become a “problem,” with the state of West Bengal most keen to host a U.S. site.. Menon clearly appreciated that designating a site for U.S. firms in a state dominated by parties that staunchly opposed civil nuclear cooperation with the U.S. would send the wrong signal about India’s appreciation for U.S. efforts on its behalf and its genuine desire for robust cooperation.
“Menon was clear that no decisions had been made and specifically asked that U.S. firms not be informed of West Bengal’s lobbying effort until he has had the chance to push back. Ambassador Mulford, however, made it abundantly clear that asking U.S. firms to set up businesses in West Bengal would be unacceptable to most U.S. firms,” the cable, leaked by Wikileaks, said.