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Cablegate: Indian Envoy Discusses Afghanistan and Pakistan

VZCZCXRO7215
PP RUEHDBU RUEHPW RUEHSL
DE RUEHLO #2557/01 3171235
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 131235Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY LONDON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3971
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 LONDON 002557

NOFORN
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/04/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER SOCI AF UK PK
SUBJECT: INDIAN ENVOY DISCUSSES AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN
DURING PRESIDENT PATIL'S VISIT TO LONDON
Classified By: Political Counselor Robin Quinville, reasons 1.4 (b/d)

1. (C/NF) Summary. During a meeting with Poloff to discuss the October 27-29 state visit of President Pratibha Patil to India, Neil Kernohan (Protect), Head of the India, Nepal, and Bhutan Team at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), told Poloff that HMG would appreciate it if the U.S. would urge Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to support reconciliation with moderate Taliban elements. Kernohan said the UK would like the U.S. to press Singh to move forward with the India-Pakistan dialogue. On the margins of Patil's UK visit, Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao expressed Indian reservations about reconciliation with moderate Taliban elements in Afghanistan. Rao reportedly said India is not prepared to move forward in its dialogue with Pakistan until there is "visible evidence" of progress on the Mumbai trials. End Summary.

2. (C/NF) Neil Kernohan (Protect), Head of the India, Nepal, and Bhutan Team at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), told Poloff November 5 that the October 27-29 state visit to the UK by President Patil was the first visit to the UK by an Indian head of state for almost 20 years. The visit was "entirely non-contentious" and "mostly ceremonial," Kernohan said. The meeting between Patil and Prime Minister Brown was "not political" but focused on "social welfare" issues, to reflect the Indian President's interests, Kernohan said. A principal aim of the visit was to boost trade ties between the two countries, he stated. There was a state banquet and events that included the UK's Indian community.

Indian Views on Afghanistan... ------------------------------

3. (C/NF) Kernohan described Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, who accompanied the President, as an "impressive interlocutor," "forceful and polite." Kernohan emphasized that Rao's participation in the visit was not publicized by HMG; Rao is a career diplomat who kept a low public profile during the visit, Kernohan said.

4. (C/NF) Rao told his UK counterpart, FCO Permanent Undersecretary Peter Ricketts, that India had strong reservations about UK policy of supporting reconciliation with so-called moderate Taliban elements. Indians strongly oppose this policy and have concluded that the Taliban will only engage in negotiations with the strategic objective of waiting for the West to leave Afghanistan, at which time radical Taliban elements would reassert themselves, Rao reportedly told Ricketts. According to Kernohan, Ricketts pushed back, noting that UK has a great deal of experience dealing with insurgencies and "there comes a point when you need to engage by political means." That is true in all insurgencies, Ricketts asserted. Rao expressed concern that "moderate Islam" is endangered in Afghanistan and, by extension, Pakistan. When the West leaves Afghanistan, "moderate Islam" will be "seriously threatened," Rao insisted. Kernohan told Poloff that HMG would appreciate it if the U.S. would urge Singh to support reconciliation with moderate Taliban elements.

...and Pakistan ---------------

5. (C/NF) Rao reportedly said India is not prepared to move forward in its dialogue with Pakistan until there is "visible evidence" of progress on the Mumbai trials. The UK has concluded that Singh, despite his pragmatic instincts, "seems boxed in and will not move forward (in talking with the Pakistanis) unless there is progress on the Mumbai trials," Kernohan said. Indian leaders are "angry" and "let down" that there has been so little progress on the trials, which keep getting delayed, despite India having turned over to Pakistan copious amounts of evidence, Rao reportedly stated to Ricketts. Rao told Ricketts that the West "indulges Pakistan too much."

6. (C/NF) Kernohan said the UK would like the U.S. to press Singh to move forward with the India-Pakistan dialogue. The UK views the timing as crucial, given the Mumbai anniversary; "we need to push the Indians," Kernohan stressed. Katy Budge (Protect), who covers India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal at the Foreign and Defence Policy Secretariat of the Cabinet Office, participated in the meeting between Kernohan and Poloff and concurred with Kernohan's description of Rao's meeting and the role the U.S. could play in engaging with India in regard to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Visit London's Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXX LONDON 00002557 002 OF 002
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