The United States viewed India as a “true partner” even if the Manmohan Singh government’s “capabilities are not without limits,” according to dispatches sent by the U.S. Ambassador to India, Timothy Roemer, on the eve of a visit to India by Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts in February this year.
In the latest tranche of private U.S. embassy cables published by Wikileaks, the whistleblower website, a briefing to Senator Kerry from the New Delhi U.S. embassy touched upon numerous areas of friction between the U.S. and India, including barriers to trade in agriculture, unresolved implementation measures in the U.S.-India civilian nuclear agreement and India’s strategic insecurities relating to the U.S.’s plans to eventually withdraw troops from Afghanistan.
However the report predominantly reflected the positive pitch of U.S.-India ties in 2010, following the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to Washington in November of the previous year.
In particular the cable dated February 11, 2010 expressed strong optimism on growing trade and economic cooperation as well as burgeoning defence sales. In the cable, Mr. Roemer also underscored the paradigm shift in India’s thinking on climate change negotiations, where, following the 16th Conference of Parties (COP-16) at Copenhagen in 2009, “India is beginning to understand it must address the climate issue not as a poor developing nation but rather as the major economy it has become.”
The cable however expressed concern at some dimensions of India’s internal politics, specifically questions surrounding what it labelled the 2009 “Sharm al Sheikh Joint Statement fiasco,” following which “heavyweights in the Congress, including Finance Minister Mukherjee [might] seize on any missteps to argue against a policy that reaches out to the Pakistanis.”
The New Delhi embassy also urged Senator Kerry to endorse India’s defence purchases from the U.S. during his visit, pressing home the fact that such sales were “growing quickly from roughly one billion USD in 2008, to over two billion so far this year.” Mr. Roemer added that there was good potential for over four billion U.S. dollars in sales in 2011, especially with the recent Indian Ministry of Defence approval to pursue the C-17 aircraft deal.
The most negative comment in the cable pertained to trade in the agriculture sector. In this regard the cable said that the U.S. continued to have concerns, especially after a Senate Finance Committee Report on Indian agricultural trade barriers highlighted the “essentially defensive agricultural trade policy long promoted by the Indian government.”
The U.S. was particularly interested in gaining marketing access for dairy products which were “blocked due to a series of non-scientific GOI rules,” the cable complained.