Military pact with US comes under fire; Govt says no surrender
New Delhi (PTI): Under attack from the Opposition for "compromising" national sovereignty by agreeing to allow US inspection of military installations, the government on Tuesday asserted it has not bargained India's interest by going in for the End-User Monitoring Agreement with America.
External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said "nobody should have anxiety" about the national interest being "surrendered".
However, he said the government has to keep negotiating and "bargaining" if India wants high-end defence technology and equipment.
In identical statements in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, he gave an overview of the agreements reached with the US during the visit of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday.
"We have agreed on the end-use monitoring arrangements that will henceforth 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," the minister said.
However, the Opposition, including BJP and Left parties, dubbed the agreement as "surrendering" national sovereignty and staged walkout in both the Houses.
Leading the walk-out in the lower house, Leader of the Opposition L K Advani said the Opposition was dissatisfied with the government statement and the move would "send a wrong message" across the country.
In the Lok Sabha, Mr. Advani expressed anguish over Mr. Krishna not clarifying concerns of the opposition with regard to EUMA.
He also called for amendments to the Constitution to ensure important agreements signed by the government are ratified by Parliament, like in the US. He said it was unimaginable that an outsider would monitor the use of defence equipment bought by India.
Departing from the convention of not giving clarifications on government statements in the Lok Sabha, Mr. Krishna said he was surprised by interpretation by the Opposition to the bilateral understanding and there was "nothing extraordinary" in it.
"We are conscious of what we are doing... We tried to generalise it (EUMA) for high-end purchases with the US.
Everything is very straight. We have done it in the interest of the country," Mr. Krishna said.
Sharing opposition concern in the Rajya Sabha, DMK, an ally of the UPA, also joined the opposition concerns when its member T Siva said the "apprehensions are genuine".
He said apprehensions arose because the US was also friendly to a neighbouring country (Pakistan) which was unfriendly to India. "Without any comprise, our sovereignty must be upheld", he said.
While India and the US have already started deal specific inspection arrangement, it is now being formalised in the form of a broader agreement applicable to all future defence deals.
The agreements on these lines related to purchase of USS Trenton warship (rechristened INS Jalashwa by Indian Navy) in 2007 and the IAF's Boeing Business Jets for VVIP travel in 2008.
Giving clarifications in the Rajya Sabha, Mr. Krishna said "at no point of time government was compromising sovereignty of this country...No one is less patriotic than others."
It was more trouble when Krishna said that while negotiating a defence deal, "don't you have to bargain?" He said both the countries are governed by their own laws.
Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley and CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury, who later led walkouts, said the government stand was nothing but amounted to surrendering. "If this is not bargaining our sovereignty what else is this?" he asked. A similar question was asked by Yechury.
Calling the minister's statement as "disturbing", Mr. Jaitley said the UPA government compromised the country's interest in several multilateral pronouncements -- be it Indo-Pakistan joint statement at Sharm-el-Sheikh, climate change or G-8 declaration.
His views were endorsed by Yechury and Ram Gopal Yadav (SP) who said the UPA government was also compromising the interest of farmers in its zest to complete the Doha Round of talks for reaching a global trade agreement.
D Raja (CPI) said Mr. Krishna's statement reflects a "big compromise on our independent foreign policy."