India Changes Course: Golden Jubilee to Millennium

By Paul R. Dettman | Go to book overview

10

Vajpayee's Roller Coaster Rolls

During the eight months following the August 1998 observance of the end of India's Golden Jubilee Year, the Vajpayee regime experienced a roller coaster ride that ended in a crash. Rather than proceeding on an even track to implement its agenda, the BJP-led coalition's performance rose to heights and fell to depths that at times followed each other and at times occurred almost simultaneously. An early high point was reached during September when Prime Minister Vajpayee traveled to New York to address the United Nations General Assembly and to meet with Pakistan's prime minister. He assured the General Assembly that India would not stand in the way of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty's coming into force in September 1999 and pointed out that India had declared a moratorium on future nuclear weapons tests. He qualified this statement by saying that India's action on the treaty would be linked to the United States's lifting the economic sanctions which it had imposed following the Pokhran nuclear bomb tests. During the course of his meeting with Pakistan's prime minister, Vajpayee agreed to the resumption of the talks on the Kashmir issue that had collapsed a year earlier, the renewal of a commitment for mutual adherence to the Line of Control (LOC) in Kashmir, and the setting up of a hot line that would make it possible for the two prime ministers to communicate directly with each other if a crisis situation arose. The two countries' foreign ministers did begin within a month the first dialogue on the Kashmir problem in thirty-five years, but nothing came of it except for an agreement to meet again during the following February.

Progress on India's foreign policy front suffered a setback during October when the Clinton administration issued a list of some 200 Indian agencies and companies that were involved in India's nuclear weapons and missile development program and forbade their American counterparts to do business with them. Additional downward movement in Indo-American relations came from the fact that, despite a series of discussions between Deputy Secretary of State Strobe

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