During a 20-minute discussion of Pakistan, Chidambaram asked Burns to treat groups "aimed at India" in the same way we treated "the groups directed against Americans in Afghanistan."
6/11/2009 6:04:00 PM
Embassy New Delhi
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S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 NEW DELHI 001213
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/10/2019 TAGS: PGOV, BG, ECON, NP, PHUM, PK, PREL, PTER, IN SUBJECT: HOME MINISTER MEETS U/S BURNS
Classified By: Charge D'affaires Peter Burleigh for Reasons 1.4 (B, D)
1. (S) Summary: In a productive and serious June 10 exchange with Under Secretary Bill Burns, Home Minister P. Chidambaram offered his sober assessment of India's internal and external security challenges: from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka to ongoing insurgencies in "the hinterlands" of India. Chidambaram thanked Burns for continuing U.S. assistance, particularly the passing of actionable intelligence, and outlined a "technology-driven approach" to India's national security reorganization and a major effort to beef up police numbers and capabilities at the state level. The Home Minister would like to visit the U.S. "soon," and would welcome tours of NCTC and "regional CT centers," to learn better "how intelligence is passed from the center to the local level." The meeting offered a strong foundation on which to continue building U.S. relationships with the Indian institutions most immediately concerned with protecting India from terrorist attacks. End Summary.
Pleased with Law Enforcement Cooperation
2. (C) Chidambaram reflected on India's security challenges in a June 10 meeting with Under Secretary Bill Burns, Assistant Secretary Robert Blake, Principal Director of Policy Planning Derek Chollet, and Charge d'affaires Peter Burleigh. India's Ambassador to the United States, Meera Shankar, also participated. The Minister commented on the "excellent and unprecedented cooperation" between the FBI and Indian law enforcement agencies, including assistance with equipment as well as the Mumbai investigation. He noted that India would "accommodate practically all of your requests related to Mumbai."
But Need more US Help with Pakistan
3. (S) During a 20-minute discussion of Pakistan, Chidambaram asked Burns to treat groups "aimed at India" in the same way we treated "the groups directed against Americans in Afghanistan." Burns noted we took very seriously the continuing threats to India and the U.S. posed by a number of terrorist organizations, including Lashkar-e-Taiba. It was unfortunate, said the Minister, that the United States was unable to stop Pakistan from allowing terrorist groups to form and launch against India. "We know you have tried, but it seems to go nowhere." Nearly every day, Chidambaram continued, you share intelligence with us related to infiltration into India. Turning to Kashmir, Chidambaram added that the level of infiltration would grow as early as next week as the snows melted. There were indications the insurgents were better equipped this year than in the past. "They have parkas, boots. They are very well-prepared."
4, (C) Returning to the prospect of another attack on Indian territory, Chidambaram noted that "the people of India will expect us to respond. We won't have any other choice." U/S Burns stressed that the U.S. is pressing Pakistan to take action against all terrorist groups. He further acknowledged that although some steps had been taken, we were likewise frustrated by the lack of demonstrable action against some groups. Burns added that we would redouble our efforts, both at the political and professional levels.
Focus on Improving States' Security Capacity
5. (C) Turning to U/S Burns' query about potential changes in the Indian government's organization, the Home Minister explained that India's constitutional structure dictated that state law enforcement agencies needed to take a strong lead in building security capabilities. As the Mumbai attacks revealed, he said, states did not have the capacity to
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respond and were not equal to the task. It was the federal government's goal to build up the states' abilities, and to bring them to understand the importance of improvement. India had established a Coastal Command that will monitor 7,000 miles of coast.
6. (C) In response to U/S Burns' assurance that the U.S. would be pleased to provide any support that would be helpful, the Minister noted that India has provided a "wish list" to NCTC and that he appreciated the Charge's letter offering U.S. assistance. The Charge asked the Minister to be sure to let us know if there were any areas on the request that are not being met. (Note: Post is not aware of a request to NCTC. The Minister may have been referring to the letter from the Indian Embassy delivered to the FBI in January. End Note.) Turning to the question of port security, U/S Burns relayed that the United States would be pleased to send a team to India to further explain the Megaports Program and the Secure Freight Initiative. The Home Minister was aware of the offer, and said that the exchange on port and container security had been interrupted because of the Indian elections. Chidambaram now wished to proceed.
7. (C) U/S Burns invited the Home Minister to visit the U.S., pointing out there are several counterparts who would like to welcome him. The Minister replied that he hoped to travel to the U.S. soon, and would like to visit NCTC and one of the regional CT centers. He explained that India had a smaller version of the NCTC, and, even though it was working, it needed to be upgraded.
Left Wing Extremism
8. (C) In response to U/S Burns' questions about his priorities as Home Minister, Chidambaram pointed to combating terrorism and left-wing extremism. Four to five states in central India were gravely challenged by the extremist threat, he explained. He felt that insurgencies in the northeast were slightly more manageable, but three of seven states in that area faced serious threats. The separatists in the northeast were able to flourish because of the safehavens they had established in Myanmar and Bangladesh. Myanmar was "totally uncooperative." The new Bangladeshi government had made promises to cooperate, but had been diverted by the rebellion of the Bangladesh Rifles. It would be a big accomplishment, the Minister added, if India could eliminate insurgent leaders "holed up" in Myanmar and Bangladesh. Although there were some safe havens in Nepal, they were not the key problems for India.
9. (C) Chidambaram, whose constituency is in Tamil Nadu, observed that India had not seen a surge of refugees from Sri Lanka as a result of the final push against LTTE, but the government was concerned about the 250,000 internally displaced persons. There was a lot of unrest related to the humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka, especially among the diaspora community. Indian officials would continue to press the Rajapaksas for greater access by international organizations: "The problem is too massive in scope for that government." India would likewise continue to press reconciliation concerns. It was difficult, he said, because President Rajapaksa had not allowed anyone else to develop the political space in which to function.
Election was a Vote for Less Fractured Government, ongoing Policies
10. (C) Responding to U/S Burns' congratulations on the performance by the Congress Party in the recent elections, Chidambaram observed that the electorate had shown its desire
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for a government of "just a few partners" and noted that two of Congress' partners in this government were offshoots of the main party. The people also voted for continuity of policy, he added. Economic growth has to be translated into benefits for the people, such as roads and hospitals, and Congress had been able to deliver, he added. Key programs that had an effect on the election results were the waiver of agricultural loans, the rural employment guarantee scheme, and the ten million scholarships and 1.5 million education loans granted by the government. Chidambaram, the former finance minister, also noted that he is confident the government will not cut allocations in the near term: "The U.S. doesn't worry about its deficit. Why should we?"
11. (U) Under Secretary Burns cleared this message.