- The Washington Times - Monday, January 30, 2006

Communist critics

Communist parties in India yesterday demanded the expulsion of U.S. Ambassador David Mulford, who earlier criticized the left-wing politicians for opposing free-trade reforms.

Mr. Mulford also has drawn wider criticism from the centrist-led coalition government for warning India that it risked congressional rejection of a landmark U.S.-India nuclear-energy agreement if it opposed U.S. efforts to haul Iran before the U.N. Security Council.

Communist officials, whose support in Parliament is crucial to the Congress party-led government, complained to the Press Trust of India that Mr. Mulford is interfering in domestic Indian affairs.

“Ambassador Mulford has made wide-ranging intervention in the internal affairs of India,” said Sitaram Yechury of the Communist Party of India-Marxist.

“Now the government should demand his recall from India, as it is unbecoming on any ambassador’s part to comment on such matters.”

Doraiswamy Raja, secretary of the Communist Party of India, accused Mr. Mulford of crossing “all limits by virtually dictating what India should do on a foreign-policy issue like Iran and now on its economic policies and what political parties should do or not do.”

Mr. Mulford over the weekend praised the government for adopting reforms that will open India’s vast retail market to limited foreign investment but questioned why the Communists opposed the measure.

He said the reforms will benefit consumers and small-business owners, as well as U.S. firms that now will be allowed to open outlets for single brands of merchandise such as Nike athletic shoes. India’s $250 billion retail market is the eighth largest in the world.

“Why does the left oppose it?” Mr. Mulford asked in an interview with the Press Trust of India. “I don’t understand what their opposition is about because the beneficiaries are the regular working people of India.”

The Communists said that the measures will bankrupt small-business owners.

Mr. Mulford drew Indian-government complaints last week by urging it to support a U.S. proposal at a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Thursday to refer Iran to the Security Council over its nuclear weapons program. He said India could jeopardize its new agreement to receive U.S. civilian nuclear technology if it supports Iran.

Canadian complaint

A comment by the U.S. ambassador to Canada has given the new conservative prime minister a chance to show that he is not a puppet of the United States, as opponents charged in last week’s election.

Ambassador David Wilkins recently repeated the long-established U.S. position on international access to the Northwest Passage through Canada’s Arctic islands. Canada claims the two routes through the islands as territorial waters.

Stephen Harper, who ended 13 years of Liberal Party rule by capturing the prime ministership, complained about the ambassador’s remarks at a press conference last week. Reporters said Mr. Harper brought up the issue without being asked about the comments.

“I was very clear about this in the election,” Mr. Harper said. “The United States defends its sovereignty. The Canadian government will defend our sovereignty.”

He said: “It is the Canadian people we get our mandate from, not the ambassador of the United States.”

Mr. Wilkins last week mentioned the Northwest Passage as “neutral waters.”

“Our position is very consistent,” he said. “We agree to disagree. We don’t recognize Canada’s claim to the waters.”

One political observer said Mr. Harper was trying to counter opponents who have accused him of being too eager to please the United States.

“It let him show he’s tough on the Americans,” Scott Anderson, editor in chief of the Ottawa Citizen, told London’s Daily Telegraph.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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