Advani emphasized that U.S.-India relations would prosper and be further strengthened if a BJP-led government emerged after the parliamentary elections currently underway in India.

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SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/17/2019 TAGS: PREL, PGOV, ENRG, KGHG, SENV, IN SUBJECT: CHARGE'S CALL ON LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION L.K. ADVANI

Classified By: CDA Peter Burleigh for Reasons 1.4 (B, D)

1. (SBU) Summary: Looking relaxed and confident, Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) 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. He wished President Obama well and said that said there was widespread admiration in India for him and what he stood for. Advani downplayed any BJP move to reopen the U.S-India civil nuclear agreement, noting that the BJP does not take international agreements lightly. He was confident the BJP would be the largest party in parliament and the BJP-led alliance would form the next government in Delhi. Advani expressed concern about the growing influence of the Taliban in Pakistan. He suggested that Pakistan's different centers of power make it a difficult country to deal with. He cautioned about the tendency of the international community to view the India-Pakistan relationship through the Kashmir lens, saying Kashmir is only one among many bilateral issues and not the core issue it is made out to be. Advani expressed concern that diminishing Indian influence in Nepal had allowed China to make gains in that country. He felt that Sri Lanka needed to make a clear and generous devolution proposal to the Tamils. He acknowledged a friendly government in Bangladesh but felt that the Bangladesh Rifles mutiny pointed to serious internal problems. End Summary.

Bilateral Relationship: Continuity and Strength

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2. (C) In a May 13 meeting, CDA congratulated Indian Leader of the Opposition and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate for Prime Minister L.K. Advani on India's successful elections process, saying that the United States greatly admires and appreciates the great democratic exercise currently underway. CDA said he brought a message from Washington: while the new Administration may adjust or change policy in various other parts of the world, with regard to the U.S.-India relationship the new Administration intends to continue and build on the policies of the previous two Administrations. Looking relaxed and confident, Advani acknowledged the CDA's message and wished President Obama well. He noted that there is widespread admiration in India for President Obama and what he stands for and was able to accomplish. In his view, President Obama's election campaign made a ""powerful impact"" in India.

3. (C) Advani emphasized that U.S.-India relations would prosper and be further strengthened if a BJP-led government emerged after the parliamentary elections currently underway in India. Advani added that in his view the world's two ""principal"" democracies ""must have warm and close relations."" He pointed to the excellent bilateral ties during six years of BJP-led rule in India (1998-2004), saying that despite differences over India's Pokharan nuclear test in 1998, relations remained strong. CDA agreed the two countries should maintain strong ties and lines of communications should always remain open even if there are differences over some issues.

No Move to Reopen Civ-Nuke Deal

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4. (C) Advani played down BJP opposition to the U.S.-India civil nuclear agreement. He acknowledged the BJP public position in July 2008 was that the deal constrained the country's ""strategic autonomy"" and the party would ""reexamine"" it if it returned to power but connected that stance to domestic political developments then at play in India. Advani was clear that there would be no imminent BJP move to reopen the deal. In his view ""government is a continuity,"" particularly in matters of foreign policy and international agreements ""cannot be taken lightly."" He pointed to the strong objections of his party to the 1972 Indo-Pak Shimla Agreement, noting that the party did not scrap that agreement when it came to power.

Optimistic About Return to Power

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5. (C) Advani was optimistic the BJP would emerge as the single largest party in the new Indian parliament after votes are counted and results declared on May 16. He was also confident that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) would be the largest pre-poll alliance. Pointing to strong attendance of NDA partners and potential partners at the May 10 rally in Ludhiana, Punjab, he said he was convinced the NDA would form the next government by marshalling a majority in parliament.

6. (C) Advani ruled out a Third Front government, saying it would not be able to muster the numbers. He downplayed the importance of the communist parties, saying that the only time they have had a role in government in Delhi was as part of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in 2004-2008. He viewed that as a failed ""opportunistic"" alliance in which the primary motivation for the Congress Party and the Left was to prevent the BJP from returning to power. He felt that both the Left and the Congress have suffered from that opportunistic alliance and both would pay the price in the elections. Advani said Prakash Karat of the Communist Party of India - Marxist (CPM) was disinclined to repeat the mistake again but the Congress Party was becoming more flexible and ambivalent about receiving the Left's support.

7. (C) Advani said he was not concerned with the rise of regional parties in India. In his view the BJP's success in ""smashing the hegemony of the Congress Party"" has resulted in the growth of these parties. Advani said the BJP (and its precursor Jan Sangh) had consciously set out to end the dominance of the Congress Party in the firm belief that one-party rule was damaging to the country. The ideal, according to him, is a two party system but he professed his comfort with regional parties, noting that many of them - the Shiromani Akali Dal, the DMK and the Telegu Desam Party - have contributed significantly to breaking India's one-party rule. Advani said that it takes time for such parties to develop a national perspective so it is important for them to participate in government in Delhi. He suggested that the previous NDA government had given ""major responsibilities"" to regional parties to help them inculcate broader perspectives.

Pakistan: Who Calls the Shots?

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8. (C) 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.

9. (C) Advani cautioned about the tendency of the international community to view the India-Pakistan relationship 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. In Advani's view, the military's influence in Pakistan has made it difficult for normal bilateral relations between the two countries.

10. (C) Advani recounted a discussion he had with Benazir Bhutto a few years ago in which they identified two factors that have allowed democracy to take hold in India while Pakistan has 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

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structure while India has swept aside its feudal systems for the most part.

The Troubled Neighborhood

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12. (C) Advani stated that India has lost its traditional influence in Nepal and Sri Lanka over the last five years. In Nepal, this has allowed China to increase its sway, according to him. In Advani's view, the Maoist government made a blunder by trying to dismiss the Army chief. CDA noted that the situation in Nepal is particularly tricky for India because the Nepalese are always sensitive about Indian interference. Advani observed that the democratic process in Bangladesh had produced a government that was friendly to India but, referring to the February mutiny by the Bangladesh Rifles, expressed concern about internal problems in that country.

13. (C) Advani emphasized that in Sri Lanka the primary Indian concern is for the well being of the Tamil population. He said he understood the Sri Lankan government's desire to defeat the LTTE but said 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. He felt that the Tamil crisis in Sri Lanka is having some impact on the electoral landscape in Tamil Nadu, with Jayalalithaa expected to gain as a result.

BURLEIGH