U.S. urged India to stand with Europe and America in recognising Unilateral Declaration of Independence

There were U.S. pressures on India to recognise Kosovo's independence early, but New Delhi worried that a parallel would be drawn between Kosovo and Kashmir, U.S. Embassy cables have revealed.

The cables, classified by Political Counselor Ted Osius of the New Delhi Embassy, were accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks.

Even before Kosovo's Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) in February 2008, U.S. Ambassador to India David C. Mulford “urged” India to join the United States and “key European countries in recognizing Kosovo's independence as early as possible after its expected declaration” (140972: confidential, dated February 12, 2008).

“Recognition from India would indicate global solidarity and help stave off instability in Kosovo and the region,” the cable quotes the Ambassador as having said.

In response, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon “thanked the Ambassador for conveying the U.S. position,” but stated that the Indian government was yet to decide “how to respond to a declaration of Kosovo independence.”

Diplomatic analysis in the cable suggests there were “two political tensions that will make the Indian government lean against recognition of Kosovo.”

First, India's “historical alignment with Russia…makes non-recognition the default position,” according to the cable.

More importantly, “the Indian government's fear that Kosovo independence will set a precedent for Kashmir independence will also work against an immediate Indian recognition for Kosovo.”

The U.S. Mission's two main contentions were that “the situation in Kosovo presents a unique situation that sets no precedent, and that recognition will help stabilize a region fraught with challenges,” both of which Mr. Osius resolved to “convey…to the appropriate Joint Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs.”

The Embassy continued to raise the issue with the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi. On February 21, Mr. Osius delivered a political démarche — diplomatic code for a move or manoeuvre — on recognition, to Joint Secretary for the Americas Gaitri Kumar, and Joint Secretary for Central Europe V. Ashok, “neither of whom provided a substantive response” (142815: confidential, dated February 25, 2008).

However, three days earlier, the MEA released a statement indicating that India's position was that Kosovo did not meet all the three conditions required to qualify for recognition, namely, “a defined territory, a duly constituted Government in charge which is accepted by the people and which has effective control over an area of governance.”

“It has been India's consistent position that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be fully respected by all states,” the cable quotes the statement as saying. “We have believed that the Kosovo issue should have been resolved through peaceful means and through consultation and dialogue between the concerned parties.”

The statement asserted that India had “taken note of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence by Kosovo,” had identified “several legal issues involved in this Declaration,” and was “studying the evolving situation,” it said.

Mr. Osius reiterates prior suspicions about India's reticence, noting that the “Indian media has produced several stories on the subject with an angle relating Kosovo to Kashmir.”

The cable cites press reports of two Kashmiri separatists' reactions to the Unilateral Declaration of Independence. Shabir Shah of the Democratic Freedom Party said it “strengthened our resolve to achieve freedom for Kashmir.” Syed Ali Geelani is quoted as saying that the “creation of a Muslim state within the European heartland has strengthened our resolve to achieve our right to self-determination.”

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