POLITICAL flux. Is the ghost back to haunt India's relations with the world? The rout of the ruling BJP in three important state elections has dredged up this question again, that too at a sensitive juncture when New Delhi is embroiled in crucial diplomatic manoeuvres on many fronts. Will Pakistan gain strategic leverage in bilateral dialogue from a Centre perceived to be weaker than before? Is the US likely to put the brakes on any significant decision-making in talks on the proliferation issue? Is it now more difficult for the BJP to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)?
The Clinton administration, as it is wont, declined to comment on the BJP's electoral failure or even if it would affect the ongoing US-India talks. But an official did say that the election results were "probably an indication to the BJP that they should pay more attention to domestic rather than foreign policy issues."
In less official analyses, the poll results tend to be read as a 'correction', strengthening the view of India as a political entity with an inherent balance. "The elections show that India remains meta-stable," says India-watcher Stephen P. Cohen. "That is, the system itself contains countervailing forces which bring most policies—and political parties—back to the broad centre where most of the electorate is concentrated."
But, in the short term, this may mean that the US will just wait and watch. Says Cohen, recently appointed to the India/South Asia studies project at the Brookings Institution in Washington: "New Delhi will now be torn between moving towards the centre, where most of the votes are, or moving to a more confrontationist position vis-a-vis the US, which would please some of the activists. I can't begin to estimate which way they will move—perhaps in both directions at the same time."
On the signing of the CTBT, Cohen feels a government forced on the defensive is "likely to backtrack on several issues". Tere-sita C. Schaffer, for-