He tells U.S. Embassy the stance on re-examining deal was linked to politics in India.
When in power, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will behave very differently from its days in the opposition. This was the reassuring feeling that United States Embassy Charge d'affaires Peter Burleigh got after a meeting with the BJP's prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani on May 13, 2009, just days before the results of the Lok Sabha election were out.
In a cable of the same date (206814: confidential), Mr. Burleigh told Washington that Mr. Advani played down his party's opposition to the U.S.-India civil nuclear agreement, and assured the U.S. that there would be no imminent move to reopen the deal if the BJP returned to power.
“Looking relaxed and confident, Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani told Charge that there would be continuity and strength in U.S.-India relations should a BJP-led government emerge after the national parliamentary elections currently underway.”
Mr. Burleigh wrote: “He acknowledged [that] the BJP public position in July 2008 was that the deal constrained the country's ‘strategic autonomy' and the party would ‘re-examine' it if it returned to power but connected that stance to domestic political developments then at play in India.” In Mr. Advani's view, the diplomat said, “government is a continuity,” particularly in matters of foreign policy. International agreements “cannot be taken lightly,” the cable quoted the BJP leader as saying.
In this context, Mr. Advani pointed to the strong objections of his party to the 1972 India-Pakistan Shimla Agreement, noting that the party did not scrap that agreement when it came to power.
Mr. Burleigh reported: “According to Advani, the problem in dealing with Pakistan today is that it is not clear who is in charge — the civilian government, the Army, the ISI or some other entity. In his view, it was easier to deal with Pakistan during General Musharraf's tenure because it was clear who had the last word. Advani expressed great concern over the rising influence of the Taliban in Pakistan. CDA responded that the USG shared this concern, noting that there is increasing congruity between Indian and U.S. interests and perceptions of threats in the region and beyond.”
Mr. Advani also cautioned about the tendency of the global community to view the India-Pakistan ties through the Kashmir lens. “He said that having grown up and lived in Karachi for the first 20 years of his life, he has a certain understanding of the India-Pakistan dynamic. In his view Kashmir is only one of the problems in the bilateral relations but it is not the core issue nor one on which the entire relationship hinges. He thinks the main conflict arises from the fact that one country is a flourishing democracy and the other is not.”
Mr. Advani, Mr. Burleigh recalled, recounted a discussion he had with former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto a few years ago in which they identified two factors that had allowed democracy to take hold in India while Pakistan struggled with it: an apolitical Army and an independent Election Commission in India. “Advani said he has since added a third reason for the difficult path of democracy in Pakistan: the country remains feudal in its structure while India has swept aside its feudal systems for the most part.”
On Sri Lanka
On Sri Lanka, Mr. Advani emphasised that the primary Indian concern was for the well-being of the Tamil population. He told the Charge he understood the Sri Lankan government's desire to defeat the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, but it should have been more mindful of the suffering of the Tamils caught in the crossfire. “Advani observed that the Sri Lankan government would make a big mistake if it was not clear and generous in its approach to the devolution of power to the Tamils once the fighting had stopped,” Mr. Burleigh added.