US impressed by Karat

Robert O Blake, the interim US ambassador to India in 2005, praised the then newly elected Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Prakash Karat as “a talented and skillful leader, well-aware of his political importance.”

The cable, sent in May 2005 busted two myths — one, that the US embassy did not try or succeed in having “regular meetings” with communist leaders and two, that the latter were chronically opposed to US policies.

According to the cable, Karat came across as a surprisingly savvy and sophisticated leader that US could work with, unlike the general impression that Americans have of communists.

“Relatively young, he will be a powerful figure on the Indian political scene for years to come, and could play an increasingly important role in the formation of future Indian governments,” Blake said.

Karat, however, was careful to delineate exactly where his party and the US Government failed to see eye-to-eye — primarily on liberal foreign investment and trade and trying to turn India into a US ‘colony’ by putting up a US missile base here.

On the other hand, Karat said the Communists are happy about the increasing engagement and trade between the two countries in areas such as Information Technology, where the US accounts for more than half of India’s exports.

“ On the whole, he emphasized, his party favors improved bilateral relations, but wants India to maintain its “”independence”” and has “”reservations”” on several issues, noting that the CPI(M) “”objects”” to the proposed US provision of a National Missile Defense (NMD) system to India,” Blake, the then India ‘Charge D’Affairs’ — a post given to those who are not quite the Ambassador — said in the cable.

Karat also pointed out that he was opposed to letting US retail chains like Wal-Mart open stores in India as he feared this may result in job losses in the retail sector.

Blake “replied that research has documented that opening China to retail trade benefited the economy, as Chinese suppliers to Walmart, for example, created more jobs than were lost.”