Bangkok Post

Left-wing coalition protests drill with US

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New Delhi —

Left-wing partners of India’s ruling United Progressiv­e Alliance (UPA) have launched a widespread protest against the country’s biggest-ever naval exercises with the United States and three other nations that began yesterday in the Bay of Bengal, officials and reports said.

As many as 26 warships from US, India, Japan, Australia and Singapore were participat­ing in the six-day-long exercises titled ‘‘Malabar-2007’’ which are aimed at boosting inter-operabilit­y between the navies, Indian defence officials said.

Shortly before the naval war games began, veteran Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Jyoti Basu flagged off a protest march from the eastern metropolis of Kolkata and attacked the UPA for its ‘‘tilt’’ towards the US.

‘‘The UPA government is trying to turn the country into the American fold which is against the common minimum programme on the basis of which the left is extending support [to the government],’’ Mr Basu told a gathering of party workers, adding: ‘‘This is against the country’s independen­t foreign policy.’’

Communist leaders Prakash Karat and A.B. Bardhan would lead procession­s from Kolkata and the southern Chennai city respective­ly to mobilise people against the military collaborat­ion with the US. The two rallies would converge at the coastal Vishakapat­nam city on Saturday.

The four left-wing parties which support the Manmohan Singh government have been opposed to New Delhi’s growing proximity with the US, particular­ly in regard with military ties.

Over the past few weeks, the leftist coalition have threatened to withdraw support to the government if it went ahead with the civil nuclear cooperatio­n deal with the US.

Meanwhile, defence officials said the navies were holding the manoeuvres off Vishakapat­nam on India’s eastern seaboard to the Andamans and Nicobar Islands that guard the approach to the Straits of Malacca, the world’s busiest waterway.

The exercises would allow the navies to test their capabiliti­es in multi-threat scenarios like missile, submarine and aerial attacks, as well as deal with sea piracy, sea terrorism and ensuring security of sealanes of communicat­ion in the Indian Ocean. The manoeuvres would be held in conjunctio­n with airdefence exercises.

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