In a June 11 meeting, Prime Minister Singh assured Under Secretary Burns of his strong personal commitment to strengthening further India's ties to the United States.
6/11/2009 5:48:00 PM
Embassy New Delhi
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S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 NEW DELHI 001209
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/11/2019 TAGS: PREL, PARM, MASS, PTER, ENRG, PK, IN SUBJECT: UNDER SECRETARY BURNS MEETS INDIAN PRIME MINISTER SINGH
Classified By: Charge d'affaires Peter Burleigh. Reasons: 1.4(B, D).
1. (C) Summary: In a June 11 meeting, Prime Minister Singh assured Under Secretary Burns of his strong personal commitment to strengthening further India's ties to the United States. Singh welcomed the development of a road map that would provide structure to the strategic partnership and produce results. On Pakistan, Singh asserted that India was willing to engage with Pakistan, but must have assurances from the Pakistani government that its territory will not be used to plan and launch terror attacks against India. He was skeptical that the Pakistani military establishment had given up thinking of the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Toiba as strategic assets. Singh appreciated enhanced counterterrorism cooperation following the Mumbai attacks. Burns and Singh agreed that defense, technology, and education were all areas where ties could be expanded. End Summary.
2. (C) In a forty-minute meeting on June 11, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Under Secretary Burns discussed renewed progress in the bilateral relationship, bolstering defense ties, implementing the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement, Indian aid to Afghan reconstruction and the political situation in Pakistan. National Security Advisor Narayanan, Foreign Secretary Menon and Ambassador to the United States Meera Shankar also attended the meeting. The Under Secretary was accompanied by Charge Burleigh and Assistant Secretary Blake.
Boosting a Strong Relationship
3. (C) PM Singh stressed his personal commitment to building on past progress to strengthen further relations with the U.S. Noting that his government had a strong mandate from the Indian people in the May parliamentary elections, Singh looked forward to Secretary Clinton's upcoming visit to India and the development of a road map that would boost ties. Singh flagged security and defense relations, and counterterrorism ties as particularly important. Singh said that the U.S.-India relationship drew support from the goodwill of many Indians whose relatives were living and working in the United States. He appreciated his meeting with the President in April on the margins of the G-20 and extended again his personal invitation to the President and his family to visit India.
4. (C) U/S Burns agreed that the relationship held great promise. Noting the Prime Minister's personal leadership in the previous Parliament in ensuring passage of the Civil Nuclear Agreement, Burns noted that education, science and technology were also areas where the U.S. and India could partner together. He stressed that the U.S. saw its relationship with India as a pillar in addressing global challenges. Burns conveyed the President's regards and passed the Prime Minister a letter from the President.
5. (C) Asked by Burns for his assessment of the Pakistani leadership, Singh demurred, pointing out that the U.S. had much closer contact with both the civilian and military establishment in Pakistan. Singh said India was worried about the growing influence of the Taliban in Pakistan. He wanted reassurances that the Pakistani military had decided to deal with the Taliban menace effectively. Singh observed there was a "duality of thought processes" in Pakistan and particularly in the military. There were some who clearly regarded the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) as strategic assets. Singh said India hoped there had been a change of heart in Pakistan over time. He offered that if Pakistan truly needed to shift military forces from its eastern to western borders to fight insurgents, then Islamabad would face no threat from India.
6. (C) Singh noted that India saw the release of LeT leader Hafiz Saeed from Pakistani detention as "a confusing signal." Nevertheless, Singh said, India was committed to meeting Pakistan "more than halfway" and was not afraid of talks that could tackle the range of outstanding issues. However, he cautioned, if he as Prime Minister was talking peace while Pakistani territory was being used to plan and conduct terror
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attacks against India, then "he would look ridiculous" in front of the Indian people. Singh said India sought assurances from Pakistan like those President Musharraf had offered; Pakistan could not be a base for terror directed against India. While in a democracy there is a need to use imagination to move forward, Singh said, India also could not forget the past. Responding to Burns' observation of the progress India and Pakistan had made up to 2007 in quiet discussions, Singh asserted that India was willing to engage with Pakistan, but the Pakistan government had an obligation to stop the planning and launching of terror attacks from its territory.
7. (S) PM Singh was appreciative of the enhanced counterterrorism cooperation that had occurred following the November 26 Mumbai attacks. He singled out intelligence sharing as benefiting India, but noted that this information demonstrated that the threat of terror attacks after Mumbai was far from over and "that he did not sleep well at night" knowing about these threats.
Civil Nuclear and Defense Ties Highlighted
8. (C) Responding to the Prime Minister's request, Burns explained that the roadmap would lay out a renewed strategic partnership that would be aimed at producing practical results. He noted that there was follow-up needed on the Civil Nuclear Agreement and that the U.S. hoped to move past barriers to defense cooperation. Singh suggested that the U.S. defense industry would find tremendous opportunities in working in collaboration with India to help it modernize its armed forces. India's concerns about maintaining its sovereignty in defense agreements were not merely an issue of semantics, but Singh was confident these issues could be ironed out. Burns expressed confidence that there could be agreement on end use monitoring in defense sales. He also noted that technological cooperation in areas like clean energy held great promise.
9. (C) PM Singh spelled out India's goals for Afghanistan: India wanted a peaceful, prosperous, stable and moderate Islamic state in Afghanistan. India's USD 1.2 billion in assistance was a contribution to the education, health, and well-being of the Afghan people. While India was not able to contribute troops in Afghanistan, it fully supported efforts to stabilize and rebuild the country. Singh hoped the international community understood that this would be a long-term process and that all those working in Afghanistan "would stay the course." Burns assured Singh that the U.S. had a long-term strategy and was committed to working for a stable Afghanistan. BURLEIGH