BJP National Executive for the first time attacked the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government's foreign policy, assailing in particular the Congress' mismanagement of the Pakistan F-16's issue.

23418 11/30/2004 11:24:00 AM 04NEWDELHI7571 Embassy New Delhi CONFIDENTIAL 04NEWDELHI7389 This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available. C O N F I D E N T I A L NEW DELHI 007571 SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/30/2014 TAGS: PGOV, PREL, PTER, MASS, IN, PK, INDO-PAK, Indian Domestic Politics

SUBJECT: BJP ASSAILS CONGRESS OVER PAKISTAN F-16 SALES

REF: NEW DELHI 7389

Classified By: Charge Robert O. Blake, Jr., Reasons 1.4 (B,D).

1. (U) In its recent national meeting in Ranchi, Jharkhand, the BJP National Executive for the first time attacked the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government's foreign policy, assailing in particular the Congress' mismanagement of the Pakistan F-16's issue. In its November 29 "Resolution on Some Current Issues in Foreign Policy," the BJP takes aim at India's relationship with Pakistan and criticizes both the UPA government and the USG. The document describes the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government's 1998 nuclear test as a "sterling achievement," as well as India's ability to meet "the challenge of economic sanctions," and establish "healthy and fruitful relations with "the USA, the EU, Russia, Japan, ASEAN and other countries."

2. (U) The Resolution lists the NDA's Pakistan policy as its greatest foreign policy achievement. Citing the joint press conference by PM Vajpayee and President Musharraf in Islamabad on January 6, 2004 as a moment of "historic significance," the document claims that it served as the "basis of further dialogue between India and Pakistan." It contrasts this achievement against what it describes as the UPA government's "inept handling" of India/Pakistan relations. The BJP claims that the UPA has done nothing to stop Pakistani infiltration of terrorists into India, and that "the infrastructure of terrorism remains intact in Pakistan and PAK Occupied Kashmir," while the India/Pakistan dialogue has "become wholly Jammu and Kashmir-centric."

3. (U) The Resolution reminds the USG that it must "ensure that it does nothing to derail the delicate peace process between the two countries," and condemns the "decision of the US Government to supply sophisticated arms to Pakistan in the name of fighting terrorism." Alleging that the US has agreed to supply F-16 aircraft to Pakistan, the BJP describes it as a matter "of greatest concern," that will "have the most adverse impact on the current India-Pakistan peace process." Noting that "when the Vajpayee government was in office we had effectively persuaded the US Government to desist from such moves," the resolution condemns the UPA for failing "to persuade the US Administration to desist from taking such a dangerous step." The resolution hopes that the Bush Administration will "not jeopardize the peace process between India and Pakistan, and the bilateral relationship between India and the USA, by helping Pakistan augment its offensive capacity."

Comment

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4. (C) The resolution focuses primarily on the UPA and to a much lesser extent on the USG, largely to placate BJP extremists who have repeatedly called for the party to return to "Hindu nationalism." The conflict between the Sangh Parivar (family of Hindu groups) and BJP moderates has grown increasingly virulent and is threatening to tear the party apart (Reftel). The BJP leadership is reluctant to return to the Hindutva agenda, fearing that it would destroy the NDA coalition and pave the way for electoral disaster. A nationalist attack on Pakistan, the UPA and the USG is a low-cost way for them to assuage the hurt feelings of their right wing.

5. (C) As our GOI contacts have warned, the F-16's issue is taking on the same kind of symbolic importance here that it has in Pakistan. Regardless of the merits of the case, a US decision to provide Pakistan with F-16's will be used by the BJP to assail the Congress' management of India's foreign policy -- and in that regard will be a blow to those in the GOI who are trying to deepen our partnership.

BLAKE