Cablegate: Samajwadi Party Supports Nuclear Deal, Government Striving for Early Iaea Announcement

DE RUEHNE #1847/01 1861616
O 041616Z JUL 08



E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/23/2018


Classified By: Ambassador David Mulford for Reasons 1.4 (B and D)

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. A flurry of political activity over the past two days has culminated in the Samajwadi Party (SP) expressing public support for the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation Initiative following a meeting with Prime Minister Singh and negotiations with Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi on July 4. While the Samajwadi leadership expressed clear support for the nuclear initiative and satisfaction with the private deal worked out with the Congress Party, the party has not yet pledged publicly to support the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, possibly in the hopes of wooing its reluctant allies. Samajwadi support alone is not sufficient to protect the UPA government from a confidence vote, but senior Congress Party officials -- including Prime Minister Singh -- expressed confidence in securing sufficient votes from a variety of smaller parties to constitute a parliamentary majority. Faced with the increasing likelihood of losing his de facto veto, Left Front leader Prakash Karat said he planned "to act" if the government does not make public by July 7 its plans to move forward with the IAEA.

2. (C) SUMMARY CONTINUED. On the margins of visiting CODEL Ackerman's meeting with Prime Minister Singh on July 4, the Ambassador urged the Government of India not to wait for the G-8 to announce its intention to move forward with the IAEA safeguards agreement, and conveyed U.S. willingness to seek language in the G-8 chairman's statement if India announced by July 6 that it will proceed with the initiative. Foreign Secretary Menon told the Ambassador at the Embassy July 4 celebration that the GOI understood the advantages of an earlier announcement and was working to arrive at some conclusion prior to the Prime Minister's departure. Menon said he would keep the Ambassador informed over the weekend of any developments. END SUMMARY.

Inconclusive UNPA Meeting Paves Way for Samajwadi Support
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3. (SBU) Prime Minister Singh's determination to announce to President Bush during their meeting at the July 7-9 G-8 Summit the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government's plan to submit the safeguards agreement to the IAEA Board of Governors prompted the Congress Party to seek the support of the regional Samajwadi Party (SP) to retain a parliamentary majority in the event the Left withdraws support. The Samajwadi leadership seemed ready to support the government, but its partners in the United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA), a disparate group of third front parties of which SP is the leading member, were reluctant to support the Congress Party, their regional electoral rival. After a marathon four-hour meeting on July 3, the UNPA leaders announced that "the UNPA is united on all issues, but will hold more discussions on the nuclear issue." The UNPA scheduled its next meeting for July 6, presumably to seek agreement prior to Prime Minister Singh's departure for the G-8.

4. (SBU) Some UNPA partners reportedly indicated they were not yet satisfied with clarifications about the nuclear deal issued on July 2 by the Office of the Prime Minister following a briefing by National Security Advisor Narayanan, and agreed to seek the counsel of eminent scientists. Later that same evening on July 3, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and party general secretary Amar Singh drove to the residence of former president and an architect of India's nuclear and ballistic missile programs A.P.J. Kalam, who reiterated his support for the nuclear deal. Mulayam Singh reported Kalam's message that the initiative is in India's national interest, saying "the country needs clean nuclear energy." (It is not clear whether the UNPA collectively agreed on July 3 to consult Kalam or whether the move is a unilateral attempt by the SP leadership to provide cover for its decision to support the government.)

SP Outlines "Deal For The Deal" With PM, Sonia Gandhi
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5. (SBU) On July 4, Samajwadi leaders Mulayam Singh Yadav and Amar Singh met sequentially with Prime Minister Singh and Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi to discuss the broad

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outlines of a political alliance between the previously rival parties. (A Congress Party core group meeting at Sonia Gandhi's residence preceded the meeting, with Foreign Minister Mukherjee, Defense Minister Antony, Political Secretary Ahamad Patel, and others in attendance.) Saying the Narayanan briefing and Kalam's position helped "clear their doubts," the Samajwadi leaders announced their support for the nuclear initiative after the meeting, but stopped short of pledging support to the UPA government. Amar Sing said he hoped the SP's partners would agree, suggesting the deal did not include the other UNPA parties.

6. (SBU) Media speculated that the inconclusive UNPA meeting on July 3 could have been a tactical move to wring out more concessions from the Congress Party and to ensure that Samajwadi and UNPA support would not be taken for granted. Although the details of the "deal for the deal" have not been made public, media have suggested that the price the government may pay for Samajwadi support could be high, including possibly the ouster of Finance Minister Chidambaram, Oil Minister Murali Deora, and the Reserve Bank of India Governor, as well as to secure positions for eleven UNPA members of parliament in the Council of Ministers.

7. (C) In a meeting with PolCouns on July 4, Amar Singh insisted he did not require positions for his party members, but had told the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi that Chidambaram and Deora should be sacked. He outlined his grievances against Ambassador Ronen Sen, but dismissed Sen as "too small a fish" to warrant his attention. He said the Samajwadi Party would support the government on an issue-by-issue basis. Singh declared that the civil nuclear initiative was "neither Hindu nor Muslim," and that its implementation would be in India's long-term interest.

Left Reeling, Reassessing Strategy
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8. (SBU) The Left had threatened to withdraw support if PM Singh departed for Japan, but it softened its rhetoric as the likelihood of SP support for the government grew in recent days. Senior officials of Left parties met with Communist Party (CPI-M) leader Prakash Karat on July 2, according to some reports, to express their displeasure over the approaching failure of his strategy (reftel). Following a meeting of the Left Front parties on July 4, Karat announced that they planned to send a letter to Foreign Minister Mukherjee seeking clarification on when the government planned to move forward with the IAEA and pledging "to act" absent a response by July 7. (This is milder verson of his prior threat that Prime Minister Singh's departure for Japan would trigger a withdrawal of support.) He also announced a campaign beginning July 14 against the nuclear deal and rising prices.

9. (SBU) In a bid to attract disgruntled UNPA parties to the Left's position, Karat announced the Left would continue working for the unity of "secular forces" to prevent "communal forces" from taking advantage of the situation. (The UNPA is united by little more than a vague opposition to "communalism," an umbrella term encompassing the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party and its National Democratic Alliance supporters.) Upon hearing the UNPA's denouncement of communalism at its July 3 press conference, BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu reportedly dismissed the UNPA as the "Union of Non-Performing Assets," referring to the fact that the UNPA leaders are mostly out-of-power former Chief Ministers struggling in their home states.

Electoral Arithmetic: Toward a Slim Majority
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10. (C) The support of the Samajwati Party's 39 Lok Sabha seats is necessary but not sufficient to prevent a confidence vote that could be triggered by the loss of the Left's 59 seats, but the Congress Party appears likely to cobble together a majority. The 545-member Lok Sabha currently has two vacancies, so 272 votes are necessary for a majority. Core UPA member parties hold 224 seats. With the addition of 39 seats from the Samajwadi Party (SP), three seats from the Janata Dal Secular (JD-S), and three seats from the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), the UPA commands a total of 269 votes, three short of the 272 majority it needs. Though the government

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has yet to comment on the pending deal, Embassy contacts believe the UPA has secured eight more votes: one each from the National Loktantrik Party (NLP), the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF), an Independent UPA supporter from Kerala, an Independent UPA supporter from Assam, and four votes from other previously undeclared Independents. This brings the total support for the UPA government to 277 votes, providing it with a slim majority.

11. (C) The Congress Party is exploring additional options to bolster this majority. Contacts report that the UPA is in discussions with two other small parties: the Marumalarchi Dravida Mummetra Kazhagam (MDMK) with four seats, and the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) with two seats. Contacts also report that the UPA has approached the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), a NDA constituent with eight seats, to abstain in the event of a confidence vote. The SAD is in the opposition, but supports the nuclear deal. Any abstentions on a confidence vote would reduce the number of votes necessary to ensure the UPA's survival. The outcome of these talks are not yet clear.

Ambassador Urges Early IAEA Announcement
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12. (C) Prime Minister Singh told CODEL Ackerman during their meeting on July 4 that "things are moving in the right direction" politically, and that he expected to "clear the issues" within a few days so that India could move forward with the nuclear initiative. On the margins of the meeting, the Ambassador conveyed U.S. willingness to seek language in the G-8 chairman's statement if India announced by July 6 that it will proceed with the initiative. Foreign Secretary Menon replied that the GOI understood the advantages of an earlier announcement and was working to arrive at some conclusion prior to the Prime Minister's departure. Menon told the Ambassador at the Embassy July 4 celebration he would keep him informed over the weekend of any developments. Also on the margins of the CODEL Ackerman visit on July 3, the PolCouns pressed Foreign Secretary Menon and the Prime Minister's envoy on the nuclear deal Shayam Saran to make the announcement before the G-8, or at least to begin work quietly with the IAEA to arrange a special Board of Governors meeting to consider the draft safeguards agreement.

Comment: Nuclear Initiative Produces Electoral Realignment
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13. (C) The Savvy political power-brokers of the Samajwadi Party are unlikely to have expressed such public support for the nuclear initiative without prior guarantees from Congress Party leadership that they have sewn up sufficient votes from other parties to constitute a majority. Prime Minister Singh's confidence as expressed to Representative Ackerman reinforces this conclusion. The SP's reticence to outright support the government may be linked to its ongoing efforts to woo other UNPA members, possibly through a half-measure such as pledging to support the government only in the event of a confidence vote. Comments from SP leaders also suggest an interest in a more durable electoral alliance with the Congress Party -- with which it shares a secular, socialist ideology -- but first it must overcome a bitter legacy of rivalry based on ego and competition for a similar vote base. The Congress Party's Muslim support could bolster the SP in its local power base of Uttar Pradesh where it is struggling against Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). All of the relevant players -- the Congress Party, Samajwadi Party, the Left -- seem to be operating under the assumption that the political drama over advancing the nuclear initiative will reach its climax before the G-8 summit.


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