It went ‘overboard' on human rights and non-proliferation issues.

In private, New Delhi looks down its nose at the ability of its largest trading partner, the European Union, to coordinate on policy and conduct effective diplomacy, classified U.S. Embassy cables charting the progress of the strategic partnership, and accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks, shows.

The cables, sent between 2004 and 2008 (22519, 40254, 82606, 130916, 171651: all confidential) showed reservations among policymakers at the level of the Ministry of External Affairs and in intellectual circles about cooperating on a strategy beyond economics. Instead, New Delhi preferred to negotiate with the big countries of Europe separately.

The revelations come even as India and the EU appear poised to ink a Free Trade Agreement projected to bring a $40-billion increase in trade. This has required lengthy negotiations over the last few years.

MEA officials, reported Ambassador to India David C. Mulford, described the EU approach to South Asia in 2004 as “obvious, shabby, shortsighted and full of contradictions.” They also saw it as “naive, overly pro-active” and possessing a “tendency to go overboard” on delicate issues.

Bhutan, Burma (Myanmar), Nepal and Kashmir were raised as particular flashpoints by MEA Director (Europe I) Dammu Ravi in a conversation with U.S. Embassy officials in 2004. Mr. Ravi also said New Delhi found the presidency of smaller EU nations more difficult because they brought human rights and non-proliferation issues to the top of the agenda, which was received in India as “intrusive and preachy.”

Though cables from 2005 onwards reflect steady progress in cooperation between Europe and India, attitudes in New Delhi appear not to have changed much. Prime Minister Tony Blair's vaunted visit in 2005 saw spars over EU protectionism, while substantial progress was made in relations with Britain. The 2006 India-EU summit was marked by lack of consensus on nuclear energy, Burma and Iran. The 2007 EU-ASEAN-China Summit was marred by lack of adherence to diplomatic protocol by some EU member-states, which sent junior staff.

A cable previewing the India-EU summit 2008 shows that MEA Director (Europe West) G.V. Srinivas anticipated pressure from the EU on human rights and climate change issues. In comparison, Political Counselor Guillaume Bazard of the French Embassy expected progress in bilateral negotiations with France.

The Joint Action Plan, according to Professor (European Studies) Umma Bava of Jawaharlal Nehru University, was “a large wish list… [which] allows you to fine- tune specific goals.” She said economic relations were sound but the rest of the EU strategy was “like an orchestra out of synch. They all appear to be on the same page, but playing different lines.”

The U.S. appears to have been interested in strategic developments and elicited much information from various European diplomatic colleagues.

(This article is a part of the series "The India Cables" based on the US diplomatic cables accessed by The Hindu via Wikileaks.)