Cablegate: Current Indian Government Thinking On Afghanistan
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DE RUEHNE #2396/01 3311152
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 271152Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8726
INFO RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 1524
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 7032
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 3806
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 2009
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 6598
RHMCSUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 8683
RUEHUNV/USMISSION UNVIE VIENNA 1817
Friday, 27 November 2009, 11:52
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 NEW DELHI 002396
EO 12958 DECL: 10/01/2020
TAGS PREL, PGOV, IN, PK, AF
SUBJECT: CURRENT INDIAN GOVERNMENT THINKING ON AFGHANISTAN
REF: STATE 118297
Classified By: A/DCM Uzra Zeya. Reason: 1.4 (b,d).
1. (C) Summary: In an extended November 24 meeting, Ministry of External Affairs Joint Secretary for Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran Affairs Y.K.Sinha lamented that recent media focus on the corruption and inefficiency of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government is “undermining” international community efforts in Afghanistan. Sinha, who is the functional equivalent of an Assistant Secretary and the GOI’s senior point person on Af-Pak policy, stated that the GOI avoids “micromanaging” its dealings with Karzai but stresses instead the importance of keeping Taliban elements and Islamists out of the government. Sinha said the GOI takes a dim view of Afghan reconciliation prospects, since true reconciliation can take place only among people -- unlike the Taliban -- who adhere to the Afghan constitution and are committed to democratic government. Sinha repeatedly stressed the need for greater USG-GOI coordination and cooperation in Afghanistan that goes beyond development assistance cooperation. Turning to Pakistan, Sinha called on the USG to recognize and resist Islamabad’s “game” of promising cooperation in Afghanistan in return for USG pressure on India to improve ties with Pakistan, while also exaggerating India’s threat to Pakistan and “trying to internationalize every bilateral issue between India and Pakistan.” He stated that India has “no benchmarks” for resumption of the “paused” Composite Dialogue with Pakistan, and he delivered a bleak long-term prognosis for bilateral relations: “call me a cynic, but even if India were to lop off Kashmir and hand it on a platter to Pakistan, they would still find a reason to make trouble for us.” End Summary.
Afghanistan: “Micromanagement” No, Anti-Taliban Yes
2. (C) Drawing from reftel points, A/DCM summarized USG priorities in Afghanistan and emphasized the need for the Karzai administration to make merit-based governmental appointments and take firm steps to end the perception of a culture of impunity. Sinha stated that the GOI does not discuss corruption-related issues with Karzai, since India wants to avoid “micromanaging” the Afghan government. He lamented recent media focus on corruption in Karzai’s government, stating that such coverage “undermines” international community efforts in Afghanistan. Sinha paraphrased a statement he attributed to Prime Minister Singh to the effect that negative media attention focus on corruption detracts completely from good-news stories about tangible progress in education and other areas. “When you undermine Karzai,” Sinha warned, “you undermine your own efforts.” He said that he believes that Karzai “has gotten the message” about international community frustration with his government’s corruption and inefficiency and “realizes he must do better.” He said he observed the Secretary’s interaction with Karzai at his inauguration in Kabul, and believes that their “excellent personal rapport” will assist international community dealings with the Afghan government.
3. (C) In GOI dealings with Karzai, Sinha said the Indians stress the importance of keeping Taliban elements out of the government. He stated that the GOI works closely with the Afghan government when identifying projects to disburse the GOI’s claimed USD 1.3 billion assistance to Afghanistan. As a result of this and India’s historical links to Afghanistan, India remains popular among the Afghan people (as evidence, he claimed that a recent Gallup poll found that 56 percent of Afghans favored an Indian presence in Afghanistan while 33 percent believed that Pakistan supports the Taliban). He stated that a recent delivery of 3 tons of Afghan apples to India via air freight demonstrates the scope for increased economic ties between India and Afghanistan. When asked about GOI views on Afghan reconciliation efforts, Sinha said the Indians believe that true reconciliation can only take place among people who adhere to the Afghan constitution and are committed to democratic government. He does not believe that most Taliban and Islamists adhere to the constitution or are committed to democracy in Afghanistan.
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4. (C) Sinha repeatedly stressed the need for greater USG-GOI coordination and cooperation in Afghanistan that goes beyond development assistance cooperation. He stated that India has ability and interest in expanding military and police training for Afghans in India. Sinha was pleased to learn of discussions about placing an Indian military liaison officer at CENTCOM headquarters. “We understand the sensitivities involved, but we can help.”
Pakistan: Don’t Go For The Head Fake
5. (C) While Sinha’s remarks about Afghanistan were largely upbeat, the tone and substance of his comments regarding Pakistan were relentlessly negative. He called on the USG to see through and resist Pakistan’s “game” of promising cooperation in Afghanistan in return for “U.S. pressure on India to sort out Pakistan’s problems with India.” Sinha accused Pakistan of falsely claiming that India poses a grave threat on Pakistan’s eastern border: “if they really believed that,” he intoned, “they never would have withdrawn an entire army corps from the east and deployed it in the west.” He also claimed that an essential element of Pakistani policy is to “try to internationalize every bilateral issue between us.” To illustrate his point, he cited Pakistani claims that India is unjustly diverting water from Pakistan, accusations that he said were shown to be false by Pakistan’s recent bumper harvest in Punjab. In fact, Sinha claimed, water cooperation is the “one area of the bilateral relationship that actually works” due to the effectiveness of the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960. He confirmed that biannual meetings of the Indus Water Commission continue, with an Indian delegation expected to visit Pakistan before year-end. Sinha said Pakistan has been unable to show evidence to back its assertion that India is providing arms to anti-government fighters in Waziristan.
6. (C) Repeating the standard GOI mantra, Sinha stated that the “Composite Dialogue” with Pakistan is “paused” and will not resume until Pakistan takes “credible and verifiable” measures against terror directed at India. “We have no benchmarks” for resumption, Sinha stated, adding that improvement in bilateral ties is not dependent on a single measure such as Pakistani action against Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) supremo Hafez Saeed. Sinha stated he is “convinced that LeT is a creature of the ISI and armed by the ISI.” He recounted that Indian Foreign Minister Krishna asked Pakistani FM Qureshi during an impromptu encounter at Karzai’s inauguration lunch about constant delays and adjournments in the trial of alleged Mumbai attack conspirators. Qureshi replied that the Pakistani government can not interfere in Pakistan’s judicial process. Sinha cited this reply as proof that Pakistan is not serious about bringing Mumbai conspirators to justice “because the Pakistanis constantly interfere in the judicial process when it suits them to do so.” He delivered a bleak long-term prognosis for India-Pakistan relations. “Call me a cynic,” Sinha sighed, “but even if India were to lop off Kashmir and hand it on a platter to Pakistan, they would still find a reason to make trouble for us.” ROEMER