The Communist Party of India-Marxist and the Communist Party of India on Tuesday said former foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale's claim that the Left parties were influenced by China in their decision to oppose the Indo-US nuclear deal was "baseless" and amounted to "slander".
In his book The Long Game: How the Chinese Negotiate with India, Gokhale has said that China used its "close connections" with the Left parties in India to “build domestic opposition” to the Indo-US nuclear deal.
He also said top leaders of the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India-Marxist would travel to China for meetings or medical treatment, suggesting that discussions on the deal were held during such trips.
Asked about Gokhale's claim, Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan said "extraterritorial loyalties" of the Left are a well-known fact.
Rejecting Gokhale's claim, CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury told PTI, "The Left parties had opposed the Indo-US nuclear deal because it was an agreement which would have compromised India's strategic autonomy and independent foreign policy. It was a deal initiated by the United States to get India aboard on a military and strategic alliance. It had no real value for India's energy security. More than a decade later, events have confirmed this."
He further said that there has been no expansion of "even a megawatt of civilian nuclear power" in the country.
"All that has happened is that India has become a subordinate ally of the United States with close military ties," he said.
"The Left parties took this stand keeping in mind the concern for India's sovereignty and strategic independence. It had nothing to do with China. The Left parties took such a stand even though China eventually supported the exemption given by the Nuclear Suppliers Group to India.
"The comments in Vijay Gokhale's book of China influencing the Left on this matter are completely baseless. Probably, he does not know that the major opposition party at that time, the BJP, had also opposed the nuclear deal in Parliament," he said.
The Left withdrew its support to the UPA government led by Manmohan Singh in 2008 over the nuclear deal.
CPI-M leader Prakash Karat who was the general secretary of the party at that time, when contacted, said that there is no distinction between his view and that of the party, which has been expressed by Yechury.
Gokhale in his book also said that the Chinese "appeared to operate through the Left parties and the left-leaning media in India" and the attempt to scuttle the nuclear deal has been the "first instance for China to operate politically in Indian domestic politics."
CPI general secretary D Raja said that the claims made by Gokhale were “baseless and absurd”, stating that the decision taken on the nuclear deal by the Left parties was only for national interest.
“While anyone can question us on the decisions we take, but attributing other factors behind such decisions amounts to slander. We genuinely thought that the deal would affect our independent foreign policy and make India an appendage to US's imperialist strategy," he said.
He also said that such “petty” comments coming from a diplomat about Left leaders visiting China for treatment is “unfortunate.”
“People go to the US and the UK for treatment too. However, I can say that no one from CPI or for that matter from the CPI-M went to China and discussed the deal,” he said.