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Updated: March 20, 2011 05:54 IST

Indian envoy was told to seek ‘convergence’ with U.S.

Hasan Suroor
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India's Permanent Representative to the U.N. Hardeep Puri (left) with Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao at the U.N. General Assembly. According to a U.S. Embassy cable, the Americans, surprised at the timing of Mr. Puri's appointment, were keen to find out more about him. File photo
PTI India's Permanent Representative to the U.N. Hardeep Puri (left) with Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao at the U.N. General Assembly. According to a U.S. Embassy cable, the Americans, surprised at the timing of Mr. Puri's appointment, were keen to find out more about him. File photo

The opinion of the United States apparently counts so much at the Ministry of External Affairs that days after Hardeep Puri was appointed India's Permanent Representative to the United Nations in April 2009, a senior U.S. diplomat reports a senior MEA official, Joint Secretary (Americas) Gaitri Kumar, telling him that “we should let MEA know if we have any complaints.'' This revelation comes in a U.S. Embassy cable, dated May 1, 2009 (205168: confidential), accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks.

Shortly afterwards, Mr. Puri assured the same diplomat, Political Counselor Ted Osius, in New Delhi that his “specific brief'' was to seek a “higher degree of convergence'' with the U.S. In this meeting of May 1, 2009, he said he was “still learning about the [UN] reform process” but stresses that his starting point is, “if you want the Security Council to have credibility, then it is better to have India within it.”

He repeated the assurance on “convergence” to the U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, during an introductory call in New York on June 29.

According to a cable dated July 7, 2009 (215357: confidential) sent under the signature of Ambassador Rice by the U.S. Mission at the UN to the State Department and copied to the New Delhi Embassy, “Puri said the U.S.-India bilateral relationship had benefited from a ‘paradigm shift', and…his clear instructions from New Delhi regarding his posting in New York were to seek a greater degree of convergence with the United States.''

Out of the blue, “in closing, Puri raised the ‘arc of failed states' surrounding India: Nepal, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan and noted the convergence between U.S. and Indian interests. Specifically, he praised U.S. policy on Sri Lanka.”

This reference to Sri Lanka (months after the elimination of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam as a politico-military force) and Nepal (months after the resignation of ‘Prachanda' as Prime Minister), and indeed the notion of an ‘arc of failed states' in India's neighbourhood, was a completely new formulation that had, and has, no sanction in official Indian foreign policy. As First Secretary/Counsellor (Political) in the Indian High Commission in Colombo in the 1980s, Mr. Puri had played a key role in India-mediated efforts to find a negotiated political settlement to the Tamil question.

It seems that Mr. Puri's appointment as Permanent Representative at the UN in the midst of a general election campaign surprised the Americans, who saw it as a “departure from previous policy which was to defer ambassadorial appointments in the run-up to national elections in India.'' And they were keen to find out more about him.

According to the New Delhi Embassy cable of May 1, 2009, MEA Joint Secretary (Americas) Gaitri Kumar assured “PolCouns'' in a meeting on April 29 that Mr. Puri was “pragmatic'' and “an achiever'' — “noting that we should let MEA know if we have any complaints.''

The Embassy reached out to diplomats from other nations. The cable quoted a senior Japanese diplomat, Naoki Ito, who knew Mr. Puri well, as saying that he “has not been constructive in the past on the major issues that divide developed and developing nations.''

The views of three experienced journalists were also sought. They were complimentary, with one of them characterising Mr. Puri as “a seasoned, mature and widely experienced” diplomat and another noting that while not belonging to “the classical Nehruvian school of foreign policy,” he was “a staunch believer in India's independence of thought in global politics.”

Satisfied with Mr. Puri's credentials, the Embassy cable concluded: “The selection of Puri appears to signal India's desire to appoint someone with whom we can productively work, so that our relationship at the UN more accurately reflects our new bilateral partnership.'' He was very different, the Embassy was pleased to note, from bête noir Nirupam Sen – “a dyed-in-the-wool Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) advocate who made coordination with the Indians in the UN difficult.”

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

Neither I am not surprise at all with the current revelation of wiki leak nor was I surprised with the previous leak that BJP was opposing the nuclear deal just to gain political mileage against UPA. Whether we believe or not but the truth is that India has became a stand-in colony of America. Therefore it is the duty for New Delhi to seek convergence from the US. One can pity such foreign policy. India has lost the credibility to become the voice of third world countries, in this way India has played key role for dispersing the NAM from world politics. India could gain more by being the pioneer of NAM than by becoming self claimed super power of 2020.

from:  Tafhimur Rahman
Posted on: Mar 21, 2011 at 03:42 IST

Apparently the primary foreign policy objective of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seems to be to get a permanent seat for India in the UN Security Council and therefore it is important for him to befriend the United States. Dr.Singh knows that buying expensive nuclear power plants and sophisticated and modern military hardware from that country as well as leaving Pakistan in peace so that it can concentrate on doing America's bidding in Afghanistan are essential steps for working his way to the American heart. For those who realises this truth, the Wickileaks expose will not come as a surprise.

from:  K.Vijayakumar
Posted on: Mar 20, 2011 at 22:01 IST

Gurudas Dasgupta was not wrong when he wondered ,after Cash for votes leak, whether we are being ruled by Delhi or Washington.

from:  Shanthanu
Posted on: Mar 20, 2011 at 20:59 IST

The USA has always been an undependable friend. It 'uses' a country to achieve an aim and subsequently discards it. Unfortunately, the incumbent establishment in New Delhi surrendered its foreign policy to Washington from the day it assumed office some six years ago and has been faithfully carrying out America's diktat be it in Afghanistan, Iran or China. President Obama capitalised on this syndrome during his visit last year and made it abundantly clear that he wants India to become a full fledged American ally to contain China in return for a UN high table seat. If we fall for this gimmick, we will be committing political harakiri. I strongly feel that our relations with China are of far greater importance than those with USA.

from:  JK Dutt
Posted on: Mar 20, 2011 at 13:54 IST

@ akshay..To some extent, you right..We do need US for our economy and R&D to progress..But compromising our national interests and to some degree our sovereignty is a price too big to pay for it. This should be rightly understood by MMS .

from:  Ravi
Posted on: Mar 20, 2011 at 11:09 IST

It is disheartening for the ignorant and ironically interesting for the intellect to know how that all governments, mainly the super-powers like the US, irrespective of their moral standings and preachings to the rest of the world indulge in all forms of behind the scene moves to gauge their tentacles of power and imperialism over a region for their own geo-political interests. Thanks to 'The Hindu' to expose this wikileaked information, now we know no one has the ethical ground to substantiate other countries' sovereign dealings with others.

from:  Shakthi Varman
Posted on: Mar 20, 2011 at 10:52 IST

I am not surprised. The US is still the only superpower. We need their support, and if some diplomatic butter is required to make ends meet then so be it. We need their support on issues like China, UNSC and to transfer many dual use technologies to accelerate our development. Every country cajoles the US. India is not special.

from:  Akshay Kamath
Posted on: Mar 20, 2011 at 09:37 IST

This correspondent appears to find it distasteful that New Delhi was (too) sensitive to the US opinion on who should be the India's Rep at the UN (which to a large extent, a proxy for the USA). Let's turn the tables for a moment. We, in India would like an American ambassador in Delhi who would tend 'seek convergence' with us - as we recall John Kenneth Galbraith and Chester Bowles used to do. It works both ways - we like someone from a foreign country who won't rub us the wrong way and we send ambassadors and councils who won't irritate the hosts there. That just means we are being properly diplomatic, not selling our souls. Krishna Menon would have been a terrible Ambassador to USA though he would have been an admirable fit for North Korea or Cuba. Swamy Vivekananda was a fantastic Ambassador to USA, but hypothetically, would have been a failure in communicating with the Communist USSR (had it existed).

from:  Mukundagiri Sadagopan
Posted on: Mar 20, 2011 at 09:09 IST
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