Dilip Sinha told DCM and Poloff on March 27 that the visit of an Iranian Vice President to New Delhi and port call of Iranian warships were insignificant and should not trouble the US.
58266 3/27/2006 13:50 06 NEWDELHI 2091 Embassy New Delhi CONFIDENTIAL 04 NEWDELHI 6804 | 06 NEWDELHI 948 "VZCZCXRO2787OO RUEHBC RUEHDBU RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHLH RUEHMOS RUEHPWDE RUEHNE #2091/01 0861350ZNY CCCCC ZZHO 271350Z MAR 06FM AMEMBASSY NEW DELHITO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1807INFO RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVERUCNISL/ISLAMIC COLLECTIVERUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 1139RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 4326RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 4361RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 7270RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL 2528RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 5012RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 9066RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 7531RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 2973RUEHCI/AMCONSUL CALCUTTA 2719RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI 2577RUEHKP/AMCONSUL KARACHI 3043RUEHLH/AMCONSUL LAHORE 2287RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI 1815RUEHPW/AMCONSUL PESHAWAR 2955RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DCRHEHNSC/NSC WASHDCRUEIDN/DNI WASHINGTON DCRHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HIRUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 9872RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FLRUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 2114RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HIRHMFISS/HQ USSOCOM MACDILL AFB FLRUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC" "C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 NEW DELHI 002091
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/26/2015 TAGS: PREL, ENRG, EPET, MOPS, IR, IN SUBJECT: INDIA DENIES FLIRTING WITH IRANIANS
REF: A. NEW DELHI 948 B. 04 NEW DELHI 6804
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Classified By: Ambassador David C. Mulford for Reasons 1.4 (B, D)
1. (C) Summary: In response to DCM's questions and concern about a Defense News article detailing Indian ""training"" of the Iranian Navy in Cochin, Joint Secretary (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran) Dilip Sinha told DCM and Poloff on March 27 that the visit of an Iranian Vice President to New Delhi and port call of Iranian warships were insignificant and should not trouble the US. Navy Chief Arun Prakash told visiting USMC Commandant Hagee that the Iranian visit consisted only of a port call by a cadet ship, with no training component. While New Delhi's underlying posture toward Iran has not changed, the GOI clearly does not mind letting the press play up positive stories about the Iran relationship to counteract the domestic criticism it received following the September and February IAEA votes. End Summary.
WARM RECEPTION FOR IRANIAN VP
2. (C) Sinha told the DCM and Poloffs that Iranian Vice President Isfandiar Rahim Mashaee was in India to attend cultural events, including a convention to honor a pioneering Urdu poet. Outsiders should not be concerned about the visit, he added, which had little political content. Indian media reported that PM Manmohan Singh discussed energy cooperation with the Iranian VP on March 25, agreeing to continue Efforts to construct the Iran-Pakistan-India and to schedule another meeting of the India-Iran Joint Commission, a forum for negotiating ongoing bilateral issues, including energy.
3. (C) Mashaee, who is also the Chair of Iran's Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization, visited Agra, Hyderabad and Bhubaneshwar after New Delhi. Political section contacts in India's Shia center of gravity in Lucknow who have previously reported on the Iranian Mission's efforts to promote anti-American sentiment among India's Shia community (Ref A) told us that Mashaee's visit helped to defuse the building anti-government sentiment among Shias over India's close ties to the US and votes in the IAEA. They suggested the attention the PM gave the VP may have helped stave off future criticism of the GOI by radical Shia clerics who had encouraged demonstrations after the IAEA votes.
NAVY EXERCISE PLAYED UP IN MEDIA
4. (C) Flagging US and Indian press reports of India-Iran joint naval exercises, the DCM pointed out to Sinha that military cooperation with Iran, including reported Indian training for 222 Iranian personnel, was of serious concern to the US given Iran's current terrorism and WMD programs and past military actions against the US. It could also seriously complicate efforts to convince the US Congress to approve the Civil Nuclear Cooperation initiative. The DCM stressed that the US would see military cooperation with IranQs fundamentally more worrying than simple economic ties. He encouraged the GOI to prepare a response on this issue for Foreign Secretary Saran's March 28-29 Washington visit. Sinha replied that, contrary to press reports, the Iranian
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visit was a routine port call, and training was not part of the planned visit. Nonetheless, he stated, the two Navies have had a long engagement and have frequently conducted personnel exchanges and training. India has strictly avoided sharing hardware with Iran, he added.
DOWNPLAYED BY THE NAVY
5. (C) Meeting with visiting Commandant of the Marine Corps General Michael Hagee, Indian Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Arun Prakash said that the Iranian visit consisted only of a port call by a cadet ship, with no training component. The only Indian support provided to the Iranian Navy was refueling of their ships, he added. DIA septel will report on General Hagee's discussions in detail along with additional Indian Navy denials of the Defense News story regarding joint training.
COMMENT: STILL TRYING TO FIND THE RIGHT BALANCE
6. (C) As discussed Ref B, the GOI still feels very acutely the pressure brought to bear on its Iran policy through domestic political opponents, Muslim groups, and the Iranian Embassy working through those actors. New Delhi likely sees events such as the VP's visit and the naval exercises as an opportunity to smooth feathers with Iran and its domestic critics without changing its actual stance of opposition to Iran's nuclear program. India is clearly rattled by Iran's refusal (after the IAEA votes) to confirm the preferential price for the sale of five million tonnes of LNG per year, and perceives that some conciliatory motions would help salvage its important energy relationship. However, we have made clear to the GOI that dallying with Iran is not only dangerous for regional stability but also puts at risk Congressional support for the civil nuclear deal.
7. (U) Visit New Delhi's Classified Website: (http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/sa/newdelhi/)