The BJP was today engulfed by WikiLeaks expose with U.S. diplomatic cables stating that the party leadership had told them that its criticism of the U.S. in public was to score “easy political points” against UPA and when in power, it would not harm the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal.
The expose, published by ‘The Hindu’, drew immediate strong reaction from ruling Congress which asked BJP to apply to itself the same standards it adopted for the government when it was needlessly disrupting Parliament for the last few days.
The BJP, however, denied there was any doublespeak and maintained that because of its strong position, the government had to come with 16 amendments to the Civil Nuclear Liability Bill.
Seshadri Chari, BJP National Executive member and RSS pointsman in the party figured in the diplomatic cables as having told an U.S. embassy official in Delhi in December 2005 “not to read too much into the foreign policy resolution especially the parts relating to the U.S.”, which had attacked the UPA’s “subservience” to Washington.
“Chari dismissed the statement (resolution) as standard practice aimed at scoring easy political points against the UPA. BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar echoed these statements, saying that the BJP was not really upset about the U.S.-India relationship, but merely wanted the Government of India and U.S. government to be more forthcoming about any deal on nuclear policy,” the cable said.
In another cable, the embassy’s then Charge d’affaires Peter Burleigh wrote after a meeting with L. K. Advani in May 2009, just before the Lok Sabha poll results were out, the BJP veteran “downplayed” any move by his party to reopen the nuclear deal noting that BJP “does not take international agreements lightly“.
Mr. Advani acknowledged that the BJP’s public position in July 2008 was that the deal constrained the country’s strategic autonomy and that the party would re-examine if it returned to power but connected that stance to “domestic political developments” then at play in India.
The BJP leader, the diplomat wrote, was clear that there would be “no imminent BJP move to reopen the (nuclear) deal. In his view, the government is a continuity, particularly in matters of foreign policy and international agreements cannot be taken lightly.”
Asked about the diplomatic cables quoting him, Mr. Chari declined to comment saying he has not seen the report. He said he did not remember if he had talked to Deputy Chief of Mission Robert Blake in December 2005.
“I don’t remember the name. I don’t remember the names. I don’t remember whom I met in 2005,” Mr. Chari said, adding the party will officially comment if required.
Mr. Javadekar said there are “no contradictions” in their stand. “We have made our position clear both in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and through are press statements that we value strategic relations with the U.S. and that all sources of energy should be tapped,” he said.
But, he said, when the government brought the Nuclear Liability Bill, the party raised certain objections and the government had to make 16 amendments to the Bill at its insistence. “We keep national interest foremost...there is no double speak,” Mr. Javadekar said.
But Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari would not buy the BJP’s defence. He said, “for the BJP, chickens have come home to roost and they have come rather soon.”
He said BJP had made WikiLeaks “the Holy Grail of their political philosophy” even when Congress had warned them not to give credence to hearsay.
“Now the shoe is on the other foot. It is for the BJP to explain to the nation whether they will apply same standards to themselves as they attempted to apply to the government by needlessly disrupting Parliament for the last few days,” Mr. Tewari said.