Reference ID 09NEWDELHI288
Created 2009-02-17 08:08
Released 2010-11-30 21:09
Origin Embassy New Delhi
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 NEW DELHI 000288 SIPDIS EO 12958 DECL: 02/16/2017 TAGS PREL, PGOV, PTER, IN SUBJECT: INDIAN FOREIGN SECRETARY: “HUGE STAKE” IN SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE HOLBROOKE’S SUCCESS Classified By: AMB David C. Mulford for Reasons 1.4 (B, D)
¶1. (C) Summary. In a meeting between Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and Special Representative Richard Holbrooke on February 16, Menon: -- stated that India “has a huge stake” in the Special Representative’s success in his new role and promised to support Holbrooke’s efforts publicly to alleviate negative media speculation about the Special Representative’s mandate; -- gave his assessment that the intentions and capabilities of the Pakistan Army were the key determinants of Pakistan,s internal situation and the cause of friction between India and Pakistan; -- said that India wishes to collaborate closely with the U.S. on Afghanistan, and offered support for U.S. views on the suitability of an August 20 election date; -- suggested that after consulting internally, he may travel to Washington to provide GOI input into the U.S. review of Afghanistan policy; and -- provided a brief on the GOI’s initial reaction to Pakistan’s response to the Mumbai terror attacks. End Summary.
¶2. (C) Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke, accompanied by Ambassador, met February 16 with Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon. Also in attendance from the U.S. side were Paul Jones, Deputy for Holbrooke; Ashley Bommer, Representative Holbrooke’s assistant; and an Embassy notetaker; the Indian side also included Joint Secretary (Americas) Gaitri Kumar and Joint Secretary (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran) TCA Raghvan. Holbrooke explained his responsibilities as Special Representative and emphasized the importance of Indian views in the formulation of the new administration,s Afghanistan and Pakistan policy. He also provided Menon with a brief readout of his trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan
¶3. (C) Menon cited the numerous times he had worked both publicly and privately with Holbrooke in the past, and said he was very happy to see Holbrooke in his new incarnation. The Indian government, too, was pleased with Holbrooke’s appointment, he stated, adding “We have a huge stake in your success in this role.” He agreed with Holbrooke’s assessment that in regard to the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan “you can’t solve one without the other.”
¶4. (C) The Indian government was aware of the suspicions the media had created about Special Representative Holbrooke’s mandate (i.e., that it included Kashmir), Menon said. While the media would always speculate, Menon promised that the GOI would publicly support Holbrooke’s efforts, adding that it would repeat the message “India has a huge stake in your success” in its public comments.
¶5. (C) Turning to Pakistan, Menon observed that the mood there had deteriorated over the past year, saying it had gone from euphoria after the return of a civilian government to worries over security and the economy. The U.S. has influence, however, “where it matters most,” Menon said, referring to the Pakistan Army, arguing that most of the problems in Pakistan can be traced to the capacity and intentions of Pakistan’s military. Not only must Pakistan’s army shift its attention from east to west, Menon asserted, but it must also cut its links to jihadi organizations, who have gone global over the past five years. Supporting Pakistan’s army is not the answer, he said, suggesting that changing its operating assumptions would be more effective. Menon noted that the Indians had felt last week’s meeting at the Munich Security Conference between National Security Advisor MK Narayanan and General Petraeus had been especially productive.
¶6. (C) Menon pointed out that in the wake of the Mumbai terrorist attacks, India had consciously not attempted to take any measures to destabilize Pakistan’s civilian government, and had made every effort to continue trade and travel relations. However, Pakistan’s Army continued to make things difficult for India, through ceasefire violations, infiltrations and continued support for terrorist groups. NEW DELHI 00000288 002 OF 002 Menon noted that India, in the wake of the Mumbai attacks, had consciously not built up troops on the border with Pakistan, as it had following the 2001 attack on its Parliament.
¶7. (C) Turning to Afghanistan, Holbrooke noted that the focus now was on the elections. He lauded India for the effective contribution it had made to Afghanistan reconstruction, which Menon said is now up to $1.5 billion. Menon acknowledged Pakistani suspicions about India,s intentions in Afghanistan and explained that India has made numerous efforts over the past few years to try to allay Pakistan’s concerns, only to be rebuffed. Menon said that he, as High Commissioner, had offered to President Musharraf to sit down and explain exactly what India was doing in Afghanistan, without even asking for a reciprocal explanation from Pakistan, but that Pakistan officials -- not just Musharraf -- “have avoided it in every way.”
¶8. (C) India has no interest in any specific candidate in Afghan elections, Menon stated, but believes the upcoming election process should not add to instability. Equally important is that the election process is credible, therefore making Afghanistan’s democracy credible. Menon noted that Afghan Lower House Speaker Mohammad Yunis Qanuni was currently in Delhi, and said India supported the Election Commission,s proposal for August 20 polling. Menon stated that the GOI was also planning to tell Qanuni that controversy over the exact date of the election should not be allowed “to bring the house down,” adding that to do so would only be in the Taliban’s interest. Holbrooke urged Menon to tell Qanuni to accept the August 20 election date. (Note: Menon offered to brief Post on the Qunani meeting, and Post will report septel on any readout provided. End Note.)
¶9. (C) Responding to Holbrooke,s brief of the Afghanistan policy review currently underway in the USG, Menon said he would consult with his government on what would be the best way for India to provide input. He suggested that, after consultations, he would like to travel to Washington for high level talks with the new team. Menon assured Holbrooke, that on the issue of Indian cooperation with the U.S. on Afghanistan, we could be assured that India wished to work closely with us.
¶10. (C) Menon asked if the U.S. was considering including Iran in a Core Group on Afghanistan. Holbrooke referred to his interview with Tolo TV where he emphasized the need for all of Afghanistan’s neighbors to be part of the solution, but said no policy decisions had been made. Menon said he believed a contact group did not have to be formally set up yet, but rather if we “let it cook,” it would form itself. Menon noted the interest China has had in such a group for the past two years, and added that Iran has been signaling to India for the last four months that it was interested.
¶11. (C) Menon offered an initial GOI assessment of the Pakistani response to India’s dossier on the Mumbai terror attacks. Saying that it was “remarkable that we got this far,” Menon thanked the U.S. for its role in pressing Pakistan to act. Still, Menon maintained, Pakistan has further to go to bring justice to the perpetrators of the attack, and it is not clear whether Pakistan will continue on this positive track or, citing the Daniel Pearl case, recede when public pressure wanes. Menon also speculated that many of the “30 questions” submitted by Pakistan were added after the investigation by politicians in response to domestic pressures. “We haven’t reached the point of no return yet” for Pakistan’s government to positively conclude the investigation, Menon stated. Menon also offered that he did not believe the Mumbai attacks themselves would play a major role in India’s upcoming elections, because efforts to capitalize politically on such a heinous event would likely backfire on any political party.
¶12. (SBU) Ambassador Holbrooke has cleared this message. MULFORD