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PM campaigned for Trump, will affect India's bipartisan relations with the US: Cong

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

The Congress on Monday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of violating Indian foreign policy's "time honoured principle" of not interfering in the domestic elections of another country by "actively campaigning" for US President Donald Trump at the 'Howdy, Modi' event in Houston.

The opposition party said by taking a "partisan" position, the prime minister has done a "disservice" to long-term strategic Indo-US relations. It also took a swipe at Modi saying it would have been better if he would have "shed his aversion" to Jawaharlal Nehru and joined in endorsing what the US Senators were saying about the country's first prime minister.

Congress senior spokesperson Anand Sharma said it should not be seen that India is taking sides and the Prime Minister using the Houston platform to exhort and raise the slogan of 'Ab ki baar Trump sarkar' was better avoided.

"We have a strategic partnership between India and the United States of America which is bipartisan, which we fully endorse.

"But, there is a time-honoured convention of India's foreign policy that when we engage with the foreign governments or the President or Prime Minister when on foreign soil, we do not take part in the domestic electoral Prime Minister should have honoured that," Sharma told reporters.

"It should not be seen that India is taking positions or sides and Prime minister using that platform to exhort and raise that slogan on 'Ab ki baar Trump sarkar' was better avoided," the Congress leader said.

Sharma said India has engaged with both Republican administration and Democratic administration and it was a Republican administration under President George W Bush "when we successfully negotiated the Indo-US Nuclear deal during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's tenure".

He said when the US elections came, the Indian leadership under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did not take a partisan position to support or endorse the Republicans and when Barack Obama took over as the US President, "we carried on with the US engagement with the Democratic administration, as effectively as we had done with the previous Republican administration".

"As far as India's strategic interests are concerned, we have to engage with all the parties concerned. We wish the prime minister for his visit. We hope that President Trump would appreciate the Indian diaspora greeting him when the prime minister was there," he said.

On President Trump attending the 'Howdy, Modi' event in Houston, he said, the Congress has no objections to it.

"But, we hope the Prime Minister would get President Trump to agree to restore all the cuts on H1B Visas, reduce the fees and again restore the GSP so that Indian exports can get access to the US markets," he said.

Earlier, in a series of tweets, Sharma said Modi was in the US as India's prime minister, and not a star campaigner in the US elections.

"Mr Prime Minister, you have violated the time honoured principle of Indian foreign policy of not interfering in the domestic elections of another country. This is a singular disservice to the long-term strategic interests of India," Sharma said on Twitter after the event in Texas on Sunday night where Modi and Trump shared the stage.

"Our relationship with the United States of America have throughout been bipartisan, vis--vis Republicans and Democrats. Your actively campaigning for Trump is a breach of both India and America as sovereign nations and democracies," he added.

Sharma's party colleague P Chidambaram, who is in Tihar jail on charges of alleged corruption, also took a dig at the prime minister over his "Everything is fine in India" remark in Houston.

"Bharat mai sab achha hai. Except for unemployment, loss of existing jobs, lower wages, mob violence, lockdown in Kashmir and throwing Opposition leaders in prison," Chidambaram tweeted through his family.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh also hailed US House majority leader invoking Jawaharlal Nehru in his speech at the 'Howdy Modi' event, saying it would have been better if Prime Minister Modi would have shed his aversion to India's first PM and joined in endorsing what the American leaders said.

Democrat Steny Hoyer, while welcoming Prime Minister Modi at the event on Sunday, had invoked Mahatma Gandhi and India's first prime minister Nehru in his speech.

Ramesh said he is glad that Modi was reminded of the contributions of Nehru by the American Democratic party leader.

"I recall L K Advani praising Nehru in a speech in New York some years ago. Vajpayee's tribute to Nehru is a masterpiece. Jaane Kahan Gaye Woh Din...," Ramesh said in a tweet.

"I'm glad that PM Modi was reminded of the contributions of Nehru by the House Majority Leader in Houston," he said.

Asked about Hoyer's remarks, Sharma said it was heartening to see that leaders in America recognise the contribution of leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, "like we respect Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela".

"Jawaharlal Nehru (was) the front-ranking leader of the Indian national movement and architect of modern India, we owe a debt of gratitude to him. It would have been better that the Prime Minister would have shed his aversion to Pandit Nehru and joined in endorsing what the US Senators were saying about Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi," he told reporters.

Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi also took a swipe at Modi over Hoyer's remarks, saying, "It was absolutely unexpected for Modi ji".

"While the achievements of Nehru and Gandhi ji were being mentioned, his (Modi's) expressions were worth seeing," he said.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, September 23 2019. 17:05 IST