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Cablegate: Commonwealth: New Syg Looking to Step Up Engagement with Usg

VZCZCXRO1597
PP RUEHMR RUEHPB
DE RUEHLO #2770/01 3081142
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 031142Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY LONDON
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 LONDON 002770

SIPDIS
NOFORN

STATE FOR EUR/WE, INR/B, G (JOAQUIN FERRAO), AND DRL/MLGA
(LAURA JORDAN)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/30/2018
TAGS: PREL KDEM EAID PINR UK
SUBJECT: COMMONWEALTH: NEW SYG LOOKING TO STEP UP ENGAGEMENT WITH USG REF: A. COLOMBO 982 B. LONDON 2304 Classified By: Ambassador Robert Tuttle, reasons 1.4 (b/d).

1. (C) "The Commonwealth is a strategic partner for most of what the USG wants," new Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma told the Ambassador in an October 29 courtesy call. Sharma said the USG "should not confuse the Commonwealth's low-key approach as ineffective," pointing out that he would like to step up the organization's engagement with the U.S. Briefly outlining his priorities, Sharma said he wants to work on reform of international institutions, increasing governance stability in individual states, lowering the temperature of "culture conflict in the world," and forging new links in development and technology.

2. (C) Highlighting where the Commonwealth can add value, Sharma said the Commonwealth can play a vital role in making the reform of international institutions a more inclusive process because of the diverse nature of its member states. Sharma also termed the Commonwealth a vehicle of quiet change which shares the U.S.'s democratic values. Citing an example, he said the Commonwealth had been working for the past three years to help bring about the first democratic presidential elections in the Maldives (reftel A). Commonwealth officials often cite Pakistan's temporary suspension and the organization's hard-line on Zimbabwe as evidence of its influence.

Comment -------

3. (C) While the Commonwealth's influence is limited, it does share our values on governance and development, and the organization does hold some cache amongst its members, especially because of the preferential visa regimes and trade terms accorded to members. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, while it only has two people working on the portfolio, has told us HMG would welcome greater U.S.- Commonwealth engagement, especially with regard to Sharma's drive to make the organization more relevant and to play a leading role on reforming international institutions. They also suggested the Commonwealth is a good forum for "soft LONDON 00002770 002 OF 003 access" to the G-77, where traditional UN voting blocks do not apply. Embassy London will continue to explore ways that the USG may derive benefit from more strategic engagement with the Commonwealth, possibly through partnering on initiatives like the Community of Democracies and election observer missions.

Bio Note: Kamalesh Sharma -------------------------

4. (C/NF) Intelligent and engaging, Kamalesh Sharma has a vision for the Commonwealth and wants to make the organization relevant to the current international climate by pairing technology with development and by low-key engagement on good governance and transparent trade. Sharma understand how the USG operates and wants to step up the Commonwealth's engagement with the U.S.

5. (U) An Indian diplomat, Sharma became Commonwealth Secretary General on April 1, 2008, following the appointment made by the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in November 2007 in Kampala, Uganda. He was previously India's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom (2004 - 2007), where he was very involved in Commonwealth affairs, including representing India at Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group meetings on several occasions and leading India's delegation to the Commonwealth Foreign Ministers meeting in Malta in November 2005.

6. (U) From 2002 - 2004, Sharma served as the UN Special Representative to East Timor. From 1997 - 2002, he was India's Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York. A career Indian diplomat, he has held an ambassadorial rank five times.

7. (U) Sharma was educated at Modern School and St. Stephen's College in Delhi and at King's College, Cambridge University in the UK. He was a fellow at Harvard University. Sharma is married with two adult children. His interests include literature, cosmology, cricket, Indian and Western classical music, and jazz. Visit London's Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXXLONDON 00002770 003 OF 003 TUTTLE

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