Leader of Opposition LK Advani told US Defence Secretary Robert Gates it was “too late” to salvage the civil nuclear deal but he did not think its collapse would come in the way of warm ties between the two countries.
Advani was responding to a query from Gates on whether the deal could be saved at this time when he explained the BJP’s opposition to the deal because of the proposed curbs on India’s nuclear autonomy and right to conduct to future tests.
Gates wanted to know why the BJP was opposed when its government had initiated the talks. He also wanted to know what would be its impact on the direction of the Indo-US ties.
Gates’ mission was to assess what Advani thought of India’s relations with the US in the wake of the problems over the deal.
“Please don’t see the current stalemate over the nuclear deal as an impediment for the growth of the ties,” he told Gates. “Rather, the stalemate is more born out of problems caused by the nature of the governing coalition and political alliance in India right now. While the government wants the deal, another section of the ruling combine is opposed to it.”
When Gates asked if something could be done, Advani said the government could have managed to push the deal by involving the Opposition and taking into account the BJP’s apprehensions over the Hyde Act passed by the US Congress. “But, it chose to ignore the Opposition and Parliament and set up a panel with the Left. The BJP could not compromise on India’s nuclear power status as it had been always in favour of the country acquiring such weapons as a deterrent.”
Advani, who described the meeting as very fruitful, said bilateral ties were now powered by “natural linkages” and the presence of several Indians and people of Indian-origin there.