Cablegate: Towards an India-Eu Strategic Partnership
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 NEW DELHI 007078
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/04/2014
TAGS: PREL PGOV KNNP IN FR GM UK NP BT
SUBJECT: TOWARDS AN INDIA-EU STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP
REF: A. NEW DELHI 6983 B. NEW DELHI 6554 C. NEW DELHI 2999 D. NEW DELHI 969 E. NEW DELHI 4391
Classified By: DCM Robert O. Blake, Jr. Reasons 1.4 (B,D).
1. (C) Summary: Following two relatively rocky summits, and the postponement of this year's meeting, New Delhi hopes the November 8 India-EU Summit will yield tangible progress, MEA Director (Europe - I) Dammu Ravi told Poloff on November 2. The GOI priority is to kickoff a new ""strategic partnership"" with Europe, although the parties have yet to fill it with much substance. Collaboration on climate change, science and technology, and cultural cooperation are likely to be the major emphases of the Indian delegation. New Delhi is much more interested in engaging bilaterally with major EU players like the UK, France, and Germany, and is frustrated when smaller EU members hold the Presidency, not only because of their perceived lack of gravitas, but also because they are prone to sermonizing on human rights and nuclear proliferation. The MEA is skeptical of the EU's ability to present a coherent foreign policy, and privately describes the conglomerate as naive, overly pro-active, and short-sighted, particularly when it comes to developments in South Asia. Despite the rhetoric on strategic partnership, New Delhi will continue to emphasize bilateral relations with London, Paris, and Berlin at the expense of the EU, as evidenced by the October 27-28 visit of French FM Barnier. End Summary.
Towards ""Strategic Partnership""
2. (C) India and the EU are ""slowly broadening our areas of interaction,"" from primarily an economic focus to a greater political dialogue, MEA Director (Europe - I) Dammu Ravi told Poloff on November 2. As India's largest trading block, with USD 28 billion per year in two-way trade (compared to USD 18 billion with the US), economic issues have traditionally served as the driving force behind India's relations with EU member states. While finance and trade will continue to dominate New Delhi's ties with Europe, India has responded positively to EU overtures to move toward a ""strategic partnership."" This strategic partnership will strengthen collaboration in five key areas, including: multilateral conflict prevention; the fight against terrorism; non-proliferation and human rights; strengthened economic partnerships; development policies to help India meet the millennium development goals; and intellectual and cultural exchanges.
3. (C) According to local media, the goal is eventually to pattern the strategic relationship after the US-India Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP), including the transfer of non-military technology and joint research in the civilian nuclear field, although there is no endorsement of anything approaching the level of US-India engagement in this area. MEA's Ravi asserted the GOI hope for greater interaction in the areas of science and technology, specifically mentioning biotechnology and nanotechnology. Underlining on-going Indo-European cooperation on Galileo, and satellite launches, Ravi commented that India's large pool of scientifically literate manpower offers many ""natural opportunities for collaboration.""
Expectations for the Summit
4. (C) Given the disappointing results from the 2002 and 2003 summits, India views the November 8 Hague meeting as an opportunity to get the process back on track. The postponement of this year's gathering due to the illness of Dutch PM Jan Peter Balkanende created anxieties about a reprise of the 2003 summit which then-EU President Silvio Berlusconi failed to attend due to stomach ailments, despite high-level attendance on the Indian side. (Note: The 2002 Summit was overshadowed by strong public differences between India and the EU over Kashmir, dialogue in South Asia, and cross-border terrorism, a situation reflected by the absence of any mention of these subjects in the joint statement.) In view of the past problems, India is hoping for a successful event this year, Ravi told us, explaining that New Delhi plans to arrive there ""at full strength,"" despite the fact that ""these events are largely symbolic anyway."" The GOI delegation will include the PM, FM Natwar Singh, NSA JN Dixit, Commerce Minister Nath, and Foreign Secretary Saran.
5. (C) In a soon-to-be-published interview with the ""Financial Times,"" PM Manmohan Singh identified a variety of economic and social issues for which he would like to see a stronger partnership between the EU and India, and specifically mentioned climate change. Ravi noted New Delhi's satisfaction with the EU's recognition of India as an influential actor in the global war against terrorism, WMD, and climate change, and said the EU's desire for a strategic partnership with New Delhi indicates Brussels' recognition that India is a rising global power.
Big Powers and Small States
6. (C) While emphasizing that ""India does not discriminate"" between the larger and smaller EU states, Ravi observed that India draws a distinction between those with more influence and power, such as the two permanent Security Council and multiple G-8 members. In India's experience, smaller countries (such as Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, and Greece) tend to focus more on sensitive issues such as human rights and non-proliferation, while the larger countries such as France, Germany, and the UK emphasize economic issues, defense, and military cooperation. The GOI also discusses human rights and non-proliferation with these countries, but such subjects are more palatable in a larger strategic context. He added that India views many of the small EU member countries as ""intrusive and preachy.""
7. (C) The difference between the large and small European states' approach to India becomes a problem when countries like Ireland and Denmark assume the EU presidency, Ravi commented, explaining that they bring human rights and non-proliferation issues to the top of the agenda. While Brussels' institutions are broadly supportive of ties with India, and will not hold them ""hostage"" to certain issues, New Delhi looks forward to the UK's assumption of the Presidency in January, Ravi stated.
8. (C) As the world's most populous democracy and an aspiring global power, India views criticism from smaller European countries as an indication that they do not take New Delhi seriously as a global player. Jawaharlal Nehru University European Studies Professor Salma Bava characterized the July 2003 GOI decision to refuse aid from countries other than the US, UK, Germany, Japan, the EU, and Russia as an attempt to demonstrate New Delhi's rising power status. Although the decision has since been partially reversed, the GOI hoped to remove financial leverage from those countries prone to sermonizing about human rights, she surmised.
A ""Difference in Perception"" on South Asia
9. (C) Indo-European differences of opinion on political matters are most pronounced over developments in India's backyard. Whether regarding Burma, Nepal, Bhutan, or Kashmir, MEA officials have expressed annoyance with the EU approach to South Asia, describing the EU as too ""obvious, shabby, shortsighted and full of contradictions,"" naive, overly pro-active, and possessing a ""tendency to go overboard"" when it comes to delicate issues (Refs A and C).
10. (C) According to MEA Director Ravi, the EU has supported or pursued policies ""which will not help South Asia in the long run."" The EU instinct is to internationalize issues, such as Nepal and Kashmir, that India believes are better located in the bilateral realm. The EU has not yet realized that when it comes to South Asia, ""India understands the issues best,"" he opined.
11. (C) Ravi echoed Joint Secretary (Nepal and Bhutan) Ranjit Rae's recent assessment that the EU has illustrated its naivete on Nepal by pursuing an interventionist, UN-tinged approach. He underlined the lack of unity within the EU on Nepal, observing that some member states believe the best approach is to support the Monarchy, while others argue for military intervention. Europe should carefully choose its words ""because what they say could have extreme consequences."" He also emphasized the Indian perception that the EU is unbalanced when dealing with Bhutanese refugees in Nepal. ""Encouraging the sides to talk is one thing,"" but the EU has a reputation for being ""partisan"" in favor of the refugees, he stated.
Clumsy on Kashmir
12. (C) According to JNU's Bava, the clumsy EU positions on Kashmir have fed Indian skepticism of the EU as a political entity. EU Ambassador Francisco da Camara Gomes' June comment that Kashmir is ""an integral part of India,"" not only created an uproar among Kashmiri separatist groups but served to illustrate Europe's lumbering approach to one of India's most sensitive subjects. An EU parliamentary group that traveled to Kashmir shortly after the remarks described Kashmir as a ""nuclear flashpoint,"" and termed the Kashmir Valley as ""the world's most beautiful prison,"" while encouraging tripartite talks involving India, Pakistan, and the Kashmiris, seriously annoying New Delhi (Ref B).
Bilateral Engagement at EU Expense
13. (C) As the EU has yet to formulate a common foreign policy, it is a difficult entity to deal with politically, the MEA's Ravi observed. According to Professor Bava, the lack of political consensus within the EU, on Iraq for example, prevents New Delhi from viewing Brussels as a serious interlocutor on political affairs. The EU does not present a unified front on these issues, encouraging the GOI to cultivate bilateral political relationships, often at the expense of the EU as an institution. Bava agreed that India benefits from the political differences among EU member states, speculating that the GOI will continue engaging the Europeans bilaterally, despite plans for an India-EU strategic partnership.
14. (C) Although a new development in India's relations with the EU, ""strategic partnerships"" between New Delhi and individual European countries are already well underway. The MEA has described the GOI's bilateral relations with the UK, Germany, France and Italy as ""strategic partnerships,"" always emphasizing the bilateral aspect of relations during high-level visits to New Delhi. (See Ref E for information on the latest Indo-German interaction.)
15. (C) During French FM Michel Barnier's October 27-28 visit to New Delhi, strategic issues, including defense, civilian nuclear cooperation, and the GOF's project to sell six Scorpene submarines were high on the agenda. Offering an upbeat assessment of the visit, which followed the February visit of former FM de Villepin (Ref D), the MEA's Ravi described Paris as ""largely supportive"" of India's initiatives. France never criticizes New Delhi's nuclear ambitions, and acknowledges that the GOI non-proliferation record is as ""clean as can be,"" he stated. Expressing New Delhi's disappointment that the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) ""bottlenecks the way France wants to cooperate"" on nuclear issues, Ravi said Indian officials had encouraged France to be more forthright in engagement with other NSG members, and to convey the message that ""India is different.""
16. (C) Prior to Barnier's visit, Indian officials in Paris and Foreign Secretary Saran in Delhi conveyed a strong message on India's desire to cooperate with France in the nuclear arena, pointing to an increase in Indian impatience for the NSG to accommodate India on fuel supplies and other nuclear technology. During the visit, FM Natwar Singh and NSA JN Dixit repeatedly offered a less pointed message. According to the French Embassy, Barnier indicated in response that Paris was sympathetic to India's concerns, but that the NPT and NSG created substantial obstacles that would not easily be overcome. The French Embassy said after the fact that, if there was a move within the NSG to find accommodation for India, Paris would be sympathetic, but that France (""unlike Russia"") would not be willing to breach the NSG unilaterally for India's benefit. Press reports focused on the French invitation for India to participate in the International Thermonuclear Reactor project (ITER), noting that it would bracket India with key international players, including all five nuclear powers. However, the MEA has not confirmed these reports.
17. (C) The November 8 India-EU summit will provide the first concrete indications of just how much weight the GOI is willing to give to the EU as a serious political partner. Despite New Delhi's positive noises about a ""strategic partnership"" and hopes for a successful summit, political relations with the European Union will likely continue to take a back seat to New Delhi's bilateral relations with the larger EU member states. Over the long term, significant differences of opinion about the approach to conflicts in South Asia, as well as New Delhi's strategy of cultivating relationships primarily with those countries the GOI believes to be of major power status, will constrain the India-EU political relationship.