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Cablegate: Iran's Ahmadinejad to Visit India April 29

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O 151131Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1333
INFO RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
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RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 5607
RUEHUNV/USMISSION UNVIE VIENNA 1453
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RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 6290
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S E C R E T NEW DELHI 001065

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E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/15/2028
TAGS: PREL PGOV IR IN
SUBJECT: IRAN'S AHMADINEJAD TO VISIT INDIA APRIL 29

Classified By: Charge d'Affaires, a.i., Steven White for Reasons 1.4 (B , D)

1. (SBU) This is an action request for SCA and NEA. Please see paragraph six.

2. (S/NF) A senior Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) official notified PolCouns on April 15 that Iranian President Ahmadinejad will visit India on April 29. The official said she was providing the Embassy with this information prior to the MEA informing even other agencies within the Indian government, and before the information was to become public. She noted that Prime Minister Singh had rejected previous requests either to visit Tehran or for Ahmadinejad to visit India, but has now finally accepted a visit from the Iranian leader.

3. (S/NF) Comment. Our interlocutor did not explain why the Indian government is accepting Ahmadinejad at this time, but, in giving us the forewarning, was clearly aware of U.S. sensitivities over such a visit. As Post has reported, India's policy on Iran has been to maintain seemingly healthy but low-key relations, while conforming with UN Security Council Resolutions pertaining to Iran's nuclear development program. By accepting Ahmadinejad, the ""low-key"" part of the relationship is removed.

4. (S/NF) Comment continued. In Post's estimation, the reason for agreeing to an Ahmadinejad visit at this time is to appease the UPA government's domestic Left and Muslim constituencies, i.e., asserting the independence of India's foreign policy, as well as its healthy relations with Muslim neighbors, at a time when the Communists are scoring points with the electorate by criticizing the government for becoming too close to America (and Israel) at the expense of Indian sovereignty.

5. (S/NF) Comment continued. It is conceivable that this could be part of a broader GOI plan, in typical Indian give-and-take fashion of governance, to make a gesture to Left and Muslim constituents before going ever so slightly forward with the civil-nuclear agreement. Post notes that one theory for when the government would move forward on operationalizing the civ-nuke deal is after the current parliament budget session ends May 9, and that meeting with Ahmadinejad would provide a level of political cover for entering into what is seen by critics here as an agreement to cement Indo-U.S. relations. Post is urgently seeking a meeting with the MEA Joint Secretary responsible for Iran to seek further clarity on this visit and raise concerns about Ahmadinejad and the Iranian government. End comment.

6. (S/NF) Action request for SCA and NEA: The Foreign Ministry official offered for the Indian government to pass any messages the USG might want to give to Ahmadinejad during the April 29 visit. Post requests guidance, if any, on whether the USG wishes to accept this offer and, if so, what the message would be.

WHITE

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