US envoy meets Advani, Chandrababu Naidu; discusses India-US ties

May 13th, 2009 - 5:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party New Delhi, May 13 (IANS) Amid mounting uncertainty over the outcome of the general elections in India, US Charge d’Affaires (head of mission) A. Peter Burleigh Wednesday met BJP’s prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani and discussed issues relating to the India-US relations.
“It was a routine courtesy call. The two discussed India-US relations,” an official source in the US embassy said.

Advani has softened his stance on the India-US nuclear deal, which he and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had opposed till recently. He has now said he will not scrap the deal if the BJP forms the next government.

The BJP-led NDA’s tenure was marked by a dramatic improvement in India’s relations with the US after a brief period of strain following New Delhi’s 1998 nuclear tests.

A seasoned South Asia hand who speaks fluent Hindi, Bengali, Nepali and Sinhalese, Burleigh, who took over as the chief of mission in New Delhi over a month ago, flew to Hyderabad Tuesday ostensibly to inspect the new US consulate in the city.

He also met a spectrum of political leaders in the Andhra Pradesh capital, including Telugu Desam Party chief N. Chandrababu Naidu and Praja Rajyam Party chief and film star Chiranjeevi.

The meeting with Naidu triggered speculation among a section of the media that the US diplomat was trying to persuade Naidu not to back a Third Front government, in which the Left will have considerable influence.

The US embassy was quick to repudiate such reports. “He met with Naidu for routine consultations. The US categorically denies any attempt to interfere in India’s democratic political process,” a spokesperson of the US embassy said.

The US is closely watching the Indian elections which is expected to produce a fractured mandate when results are announced Saturday.

With the Left fiercely opposed to the India-US nuclear deal and a larger strategic relationship between the two countries, there is concern in Washington about the Communists wielding influence in the next government.

The Left parties, which tried to topple the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government over the issue of the nuclear deal last year by withdrawing support, have said in their manifestos that if a government is formed with their support, they will review the deal and scrap the 2005 defence framework agreement.

–Indo-Asian news Service


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