Neena Vyas

NEW DELHI: The simmering differences between the former National Security Adviser, Brajesh Mishra, and the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, L.K. Advani, all through the six years that Atal Bihari Vajpayee was Prime Minister, are now out in the open. On the proposed India-U.S. nuclear deal, the two have expressed contradictory opinions.

The differences have surfaced ahead of the crucial May 6 discussions between the United Progressive Alliance and the Left on India-specific safeguards being negotiated with the IAEA and a meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers Group on May 19.

Mr. Mishra has supported the idea of India signing the deal and stated that the 123 Agreement would not take away India’s right to test and the nuclear deterrent programme would remain safeguarded. However, Mr. Advani has opposed it on the ground that it would take away India’s right to conduct further nuclear tests. He also added that if voted back to power, his government “would not mind another blast.”

On Monday, the BJP fielded its leaders, Jaswant Singh and Arun Shourie, to try and clear the confusion. They admitted that at earlier meetings to discuss the nuclear deal held at Mr. Vajpayee’s residence, Mr. Mishra was present and part of the decision-making process against supporting the deal in its present form. Now Mr. Mishra was being dismissed as not representing the BJP in any way. “The past can never answer the present,” was what Mr. Shourie said in response to questions on how the BJP could ignore the views of a man who was the NSA in their government for six long years.

Finally, the BJP leaders stated that high-level government emissaries had met Mr. Mishra and the BJP leaders and perhaps Mr. Mishra found their arguments credible for he was now putting forward those very arguments to defend the deal.

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi was quick to comment that of all the people who would know the details of India’s strategic programme, the Prime Minister and the NSA were best placed. “But Mr. Advani and the BJP did not consult even their own government’s NSA before taking a view on the nuclear deal.”

He commented on the “hypocrisy” of the BJP while pointing out that Mr. Vajpayee in 1998 and then External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh in 1999 had both affirmed in the United Nations India’s decision on a “voluntary moratorium” on further testing of nuclear weapons and had also signalled that India “would not stand in the way of a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.”

The BJP and Mr. Advani were now making a lot of noise about India’s right to test, he said. The Congress emphasised that the deal does not take away India’s right to test — if we test, there would be consequences — and there was no dilution or compromise of India’s nuclear deterrent programme.

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