India allied with Nato countries in voting against resolution on Guantanamo prisoners

Within days of breaking ranks with developing countries to vote against a Cuba-sponsored UN resolution condemning the ill-treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, a senior Ministry of External Affairs official telephoned the Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi to “make sure” the Indian “gesture” had been noticed.

An Embassy cable dated April 25, 2005 (31383: confidential) sent to the State Department under the name of Charge d'Affaires Robert O. Blake, Jr. was quick to acknowledge the “positive gesture”: “India's willingness to vote against the Guantanamo resolution reflects New Delhi's firm line on GWOT (Global War on terrorism) issues and suggests we may be getting through with our reminders to the GOI that countries aspiring to UNSC permanent membership need to step up to the plate occasionally.”

The cable, accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks, reported: “Following up earlier approaches by the Charge, MEA Joint Secretary (Americas) S. Jaishankar called PolCouns on April 25 to make sure we had noticed the GOI's April 21 ‘no' vote on the Cuba-sponsored UNHRC resolution condemning US practices at Guantanamo. Jaishankar noted that most South Asian countries (Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) had abstained, while other major powers including China, South Africa, Malaysia and Mexico voted for the resolution (which failed 22-8-23). He argued that India, in going on record against the Cuban resolution, associated itself with a group composed mainly of NATO allies and other close partners like Japan and Australia.”

Dr. Jaishankar, who was one of the nuts-and-bolts negotiators of the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal between 2005 and 2007, is now India's Ambassador to China. Mr. Blake, who like Dr. Jaishankar is a career foreign service officer, went on from India to become Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, and is currently Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs in the State Department.

“This was a positive gesture for the GOI,” commented the April 2005 cable cleared by Mr. Blake, “made easier by the fact that New Delhi could invoke its policy of generally opposing country-specific UNHRC resolutions. That policy results in incongruities such as democratic India abstaining on a UNHRC resolution to sanction North Korea and opposing resolutions against Cuba and Belarus. As with the DPRK, the path of least resistance in this instance would have been an abstention.”

The cable interpreted “India's willingness to vote against the Guantanamo resolution” as reflecting “New Delhi's firm line on GWOT [Global War On Terror] issues” and suggesting that “we may be getting through with our reminders to the GOI that countries aspiring to UNSC permanent membership need to step up to the plate occasionally.”

The policy shift was also seen as providing “a useful starting point for discussion at the May 17/18 Global Issues Forum regarding US-India efforts to better synchronize our approach to multilateral human rights issues and coordinate in global efforts at democracy promotion, as we have done recently in Nepal.”

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