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AfPak, Bt food or Telangana: US diplomats spoke on Indian issues

india Updated: Sep 04, 2011 01:15 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
BT food

Wikileak through US cables has revealed that US diplomats have spoken on a range of Indian issues including AfPak relations, Climate change, Telangana and Bt food. Here are the details.



Congress opened a can of worms by conceding on Telangana
A day after the UPA government announced on December 9 that it would "initiate the process of formation of a new Telangana state", a US diplomatic cable said "the Congress Party appears to have opened a can of worms." The Telangana issue continues to hurt the Congress even now with 9 of its Lok Sabha MPs have submitted their resignations in protest against the delay in forming the Telangana.

In the internal assessment of the situation, the US cable said, "It (the Congress) is likely to be faced with a floodgate of similar demands from other statehood movements across the country; it has created a split within the Andhra Pradesh unit of its own party; and it appears to come across as weak and feeble, a party that can be easily bullied and intimidated by threats just six month after winning a decisive electoral mandate."

The Congress not only got its maximum MPs from Andhra Pradesh in the 2009 Lok Sabha election but also retained its state government.

NGOs against Bt food funded by European NGOs: Montek
A cable from the US embassy at New Delhi says Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia told US Science and Technology Advisor Nina Fedoroff that he was concerned that then Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh’s public hearings on Bt brinjals are turning out to be one-sided. He noted that many of the non-government organizations (NGOs) in India protesting Bt brinjal were in fact closely associated with and funded by European NGOs,” said the cable.

Ahluwalia, according to the cable, indicated that Minister Ramesh, among other GOI officials, had failed to make the "elementary arguments" about why GM products are safe, and commented that it was not clear if Indian opposition resulted more from process issues and paperwork delays or ideological feelings.

India cautious on Iran nuke issue
A cable from the US mission in New Delhi in October 2009 talks of the Us officials meeting with Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Joint Secretary YK Sinha (who deals with Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran Division).

Though he said that India shares the concerns about Iran's nuclear program and agrees that Iran should meet its international obligations, India supports Iran's rights to a peaceful use of atomic energy. “He remained non-committal, however, on whether India would deliver stronger public and private messages to Iran regarding its uranium enrichment facility and lack of cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency”, said the cable.

Citing sensitivities in India-Iran relations. Sinha expressed concern that sanctions would affect Indian firms and the Indian economy, which he described as dependent on Iranian oil.


American, Continental airlines tried to avoid Indian VVIPs fly on their direct flights
Former president APJ Abdul Kalam was frisked and treated like an ordinary passenger by the staff of Continental Airlines at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGI) on April 24, 2009 before he took a flight to Newark. A US diplomatic cable on 4 December 2009 reveals it became a contentious issue in a meeting of the US and Indian civil aviation representatives in the previous month.

"Continental and American reps continue to seek clear and consistent direction on the security procedures they are required to follow. Until they receive such guidance, however, both American and Continental will strive to avoid having an exempted VVIP fly on one of their direct flights. Neither wants a repeat of the Kalam incident," said the cable.

"The Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) regulations provide for exemption from security screenings for an extensive list of "VVIPS", whereas TSA (Transportation Security Administration) policy only exempts active heads of state with security detail," the cable cited, showing the differences as constraints for the US carriers in India.

"West's positions landed Sri Lanka in China’s arms, Iran's influence"
Tirumurthi, then joint secretary MEA in charge of division that deals with Sri Lanka told the US officials that the behavior of the West over the past year, opining that by "shunning" a victorious Sri Lanka over human rights issues, it had “pushed Sri Lanka into China's arms besides opening the region to the influence of China and Iran says a US diplomatic cable of January 2010.

The pattern of Chinese assistance to the needy northern areas of Sri Lanka would not uphold democratic ideals and human rights. Indian security, defense, and ethnicity-related interests are directly affected by Sri Lankan actions. In this regard, India welcomed US engagement and saw the US abstention on the IMF vote as a signal of a pragmatic approach. But Tirumurthi's comment that the Indian government is not trying to counter Chinese influence in Sri Lanka is to be taken with a grain of salt, says the cable.

"Our contact at the Sri Lankan High Commission hit the bull's eye with his comment that India might be embarassed if they could not match Chinese contributions to reconstruction", says the cable.

'Russians nuke agreement no better than US
Russians complain of getting a site (Haripur) in West Bengal for setting up the nuclear plant, and said India hyped nuclear pact with Moscow to get leverage with other countries in similar agreements, says a US diplomatic cable from its mission in New Delhi in December 2009.

The cable quotes Russian Embassy's Political Counselor, Valeriy Khodzhaev, telling the US officials that the Indians had gone out of their way to hype the nuclear agreement in an attempt to gain leverage with their other partners.

Khodzhaev, says the cable, stressed that on transfers of enrichment and reprocessing (ENR), Russia "would act in a manner strictly consistent with its international obligations" and asserted that the Russian agreement was "no better" than the US agreement. The cable says that the Russians were disappointed with the assignment of an additional reactor site in politically unstable West Bengal, communists ruled for over past thirty years.

Cable says that Khodzhaev joked that the Indian government have assumed that Russia among all the international partners would face the fewest problems in the Communist Party dominated state, but he expected serious difficulties in trying to acquire land for a Russian reactor park, regardless of who was in power.

Ramesh changed India's climate position; Saran's exit is good
After then environment minister Jairam Ramesh came back from the Copenhagen summit on climate change and briefed the parliament, US Ambassador Timothy Roemer observed that “the most telling aspect of Ramesh's performance in parliament was what appeared to be a concerted action to nudge the country toward eventual acceptance of the greater responsibilities of an emerging power in the context of the climate negotiations.”

He also observed that Ramesh “deftly handled the issue of peaking emissions, and with Prime Minister Singh sitting silently six feet away, stated India did not need to demand technology transfer at low or no cost. This marks a substantial change in India's climate position and takes it further from the G-77.”

“With Special Envoy for Climate Change Shyam Saran rumored to be retiring within a month, Ramesh will be left firmly in the driver's seat with a host of progressive ideas on the road to Mexico City,” Roemer added in the cable.

PM Singh urges international community to stay course in Afghanistan
In his meeting with US secretary of state Hillary Clinton in November 2009, Singh called for the international community staying its course in Afghanistan.

Singh said that if the international community did not stay the course in Afghanistan, terrorist elements would conclude that they had defeated the Soviets and now the United States in Afghanistan, which would have "disastrous consequences" for peace and security in the Middle East, Central and South Asia. Singh noted that the new government in Afghanistan had its shortcomings but it was important for the international community to support the new government.

Singh added that it would take time for democracy to take hold in Afghanistan, and there would only be modest returns in the short term.

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