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Walkout in LS over end-user agreement
Published on 22 Jul. 2009 1:02 AM IST
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The entire opposition Tuesday walked out of the Lok Sabha, accusing the government of succumbing to American pressure in signing an end-use monitoring agreement for defence purchases, though External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna maintained there was no question of “bartering our sovereignty”. A day after India and the US signed the deal that will allow for verification of end-use of American defence purchases, the entire opposition cried foul, voicing criticism first during zero hour in the house in the morning and also later in the day. External Affairs Minister Krishna read out a one-page statement at around 4.00 p.m. in the lower house of parliament, but it failed to satisfy the opposition members. While saying that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s four-day India visit had broadened the bilateral relationship, Krishna said the end-use pact would be referred to in letters of acceptance for Indian procurement of US defence technology and equipment. “This systematises ad-hoc arrangements for individual defence procurements from the USA entered into by previous governments,” he said. Immediately, Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani of the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) said the statement dealt with the entire visit of Clinton and not on the “one-point clarification” that the house demanded. “This is very disturbing,” he said. Even as several opposition members were on their feet, shouting their anger at the government’s statement, the chair did not allow for a debate but allowed some members to express their opinion. Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Gurudas Dasgupta said that despite the “undiluted apprehension” by the opposition, the government has gone ahead and inked the deal, which will allow Indian defence establishments to be inspected. “This makes us vulnerable and completely subservient to the Americans,” he said. Former external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha of BJP said he had apprehensions about the deal as he had served in the ministry. “Specifically, if we import hardware from a third county, which have American equipments, will this deal be implemented there? This is a critical question,” said Sinha. He also asked if there was any “immovable equipment that will have to be verified” and if “Americans will enter our security establishments”. “The government should come clean in the matter,” he said. Similar sentiments were expressed by Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and Janata Dal-United (JD-U) chief Sharad Yadav. “Our foreign policy has been kept hostage to America’s whims,” said Sharad Yadav. Biju Janta Dal (BJD) member Bhartruhari Mahtab noted that the minister’s statement “did not explain our anguish”. “This statement is not worth the paper it is written on,” he asserted. Then, Sushma Swaraj, BJP’s deputy leader in the house, got up to point out that this was not the first time that an end-use monitoring pact had been pilloried by opposition members and similar protests had been made last year. “There has been opposition against it even among the official establishment. Even the naval chief had said that it was intrusive,” she said. Swaraj said they were in favour of good relations with US, but only on equal terms. “Don’t go to the US at the level of a slave,” she said, calling for abrogating the agreement. Then, Advani got up to make an intervention. “If needed, make a constitutional amendment to make it mandatory to take permission from parliament before signing any bilateral deal which affects national interests,” he said, adding that it was “unimaginable” that American officials will inspect Indian establishments. Finally, Krishna got up to reply that he was “rather surprised with the kind of interpretation being given to a bilateral agreement”. “The question of bartering our sovereignty does not arise,” he said, pointing out that such clauses for end-use verification were included in earlier agreements. “There is nothing extraordinary. It is very, very straight,” he asserted. But the opposition expressed their unhappiness, with the Left parties, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party first to troop out of the Lok Sabha. “We are not satisfied at all. This is a very bad signal going to the country,” Advani said, before he led his party’s MPs in walking out in protest.

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