In a meeting with SA A/S Christina Rocca and Charge on April 18, MEA Joint Secretary (Americas) S. Jaishankar was upbeat about Foreign Minister Natwar Singh's recent meetings in Washington and about new opportunities for Indo-US cooperation since Dr. Rice's March 16 visit.
31045 4/19/2005 12:23 05NEWDELHI2933 Embassy New Delhi CONFIDENTIAL 05NEWDELHI2895 "This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
" "C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 NEW DELHI 002933 SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/19/2015
TAGS: PREL, PARM, MASS, TRGY, ETTC, PK, IZ, IN, NSSP
SUBJECT: INDIA REQUESTS CENTCOM LNO, NEW INFO ON IRAQ, AND CONTINUED USG EFFORTS TO WIN OVER INDIAN CRITICS
REF: NEW DELHI 2895
Classified By: Charge Robert O. Blake, Jr., for Reasons 1.4 (B, D)
1. (C) Summary: In a meeting with SA A/S Christina Rocca and Charge on April 18, MEA Joint Secretary (Americas) S. Jaishankar was upbeat about Foreign Minister Natwar Singh's recent meetings in Washington and about new opportunities for Indo-US cooperation since Dr. Rice's March 16 visit. However, he cautioned about the disconnect between the two governments' positive perceptions of progress versus the more skeptical optics of entrenched naysayers in India, and encouraged the USG to focus on winning over the critical Indian press by promoting the new strategic dialogue, addressing concerns about US reliability as an arms supplier, and highlighting opportunities for government and industry joint ventures in the defense sector. To buttress India's strategic interests in West Asia, Jaishankar requested an Indian liaison officer (LNO) in CENTCOM as a counterpart to the same position in PACOM that ADM Fallon offered during his visit. Finally, he reiterated GOI interest in assisting in Iraq's reconstruction, and asked for a list of 20-30 priority projects from the new Iraqi government that the GOI can consider based on Indian interest and expertise. He affirmed that the GOI is still interested in providing training for Iraqi security forces in India. End Summary.
""Cricket Summit:"" Better Body Language
2. (U) At the start of the meeting, Jaishankar remarked briefly on the positive atmospherics of Musharraf's current visit to Delhi, observing that even the body language of the Pakistani and Indian leaders seemed to indicate that the visit would yield a very different outcome from the failed Agra summit of 2001.
Focus on Indian Optics
3. (C) Jaishankar, recently returned from meetings with Foreign Minister Natwar Singh in Washington, offered a critique of some of the recent press coverage about the FM's meetings. Since Secretary Rice's meetings in New Delhi on March 16, he commented that ""the actual changes (in the bilateral relationship) are more profound than the optics of change."" He urged a greater focus on changing the ""Indian optics,"" which he described as being ""more entrenched in skepticism"" than in the US. As an example of the disconnect, he cited Indian media interpretation of Secretary Rice's reference to the USG's NPT obligations in an April 13 Wall Street Journal article as evidence that the US will not work with India on civil nuclear energy. Jaishankar, on the other hand, said that he had interpreted the article to mean that the US was willing to assist India for now within the constraints of its NPT obligations.
Charm Offensive for the Defense Sector
4. (C) The Joint Secretary went on to describe Indian defense correspondents as the most dubious of change in the Indo-US relationship. To make in-roads into this constituency, he suggested that DOD/DSCA Director LTG Kohler speak to a group of defense correspondents during his April 20-22 visit to New Delhi. PolCouns described a roundtable discussion for defense writers hosted by the Embassy on April 8, during which analysts were divided about whether the Indian Air Force (IAF) is truly interested in acquiring a US multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA). Some analysts believe that the IAF is only interested in US participation in the MRCA tender to bid down the price of competitors' planes, especially the French Mirage. PolCouns expressed greater concern, however, about public comments from some GOI sources that reinforce doubts about US reliability that may negatively impact the IAF decision. The Charge recalled the most recent example in a meeting between Transportation Secretary Mineta and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL)
Director on April 14, where the HAL chief made harsh comments about US unreliability (Reftel).
5. (C) Jaishankar stated that he is aware of ""skepticism in the system,"" but believed it was only an ""articulate minority"" that aired their doubts about the US publicly, while the ""silent majority"" of the GOI is neutral or positive. He also pointed to ""conversions"" such as Navy Chief Admiral Arun Prakash who had been doubtful about the US as a partner only a few months ago, but had ""turned around"" as a result of his visit to the US in March. He added that the Chief of Air Staff will ensure that the tender is undertaken according to the established rules and encouraged LTG Kohler to address the issue of GOI interest directly during his meetings in New Delhi later this week. (Mission followed up with GEN Kohler's staff.)
6. (C) To enhance the US MRCA bid, the Joint Secretary also urged the US to highlight its comparative advantage in joint defense ventures with the private sector. This would dovetail with the GOI's new initiative to increase government-industry partnership in defense (""the Kelkar Committee""). It also reflects an area where US competitors Russia and France do not have a record to point to in India.
Want to Play on the CENTCOM Team
7. (C) In response to Charge's reminder of CINCPAC ADM Fallon's invitation for an Indian liaison officer (LNO) to PACOM, Jaishankar asked if the US would also host an LNO at CENTCOM. He argued that many areas of Indian concern are west of the PACOM/CENTCOM divide, and that a relationship with CENTCOM would be helpful if India is to provide training in Iraq in the future. If both are possible, he added, it would be good to seek approval from the Indian system at one go. A/S Rocca reiterated her recommendation that relevant CENTCOM visitors to the region should consider visiting Delhi as well, but urged Jaishankar to focus first on getting an LNO to PACOM first, and not tie it to a similar request to CENTCOM.
Still Interested in Iraq
8. (C) Jaishankar reiterated GOI interest in assisting in Iraq's reconstruction. Recalling Ambassador Richard Jones' recent request that the GOI consider judicial training for Iraqis, Jaishankar stated that the GOI is more interested in providing civil service training in India. According to Jaishankar, it would be most helpful if the new Iraqi government could give the GOI a list of 20-30 priority activities from which the GOI could choose projects based on their interests and expertise. He added that he hoped to get such a list before July. A/S Rocca and Charge urged Jaishankar to communicate directly with the Iraqi Embassy in New Delhi. A/S Rocca also suggested the possibility of having someone from Washington brief the GOI on needs in Iraq, which Jaishankar welcomed.
9. (C) Finally, PolCouns inquired about the status of an earlier request to provide police training for Iraqis in Amman vice Delhi. Jaishankar stated the GOI is still interested in police training, but he would have to clarify where the training could take place.
10. (U) USG Participants:
State Assistant Secretary for South Asia Christina Rocca
Embassy New Delhi Charge Robert O. Blake, Jr.
Embassy Political Counselor Geoffrey Pyatt
Embassy PolMilOff Stacy Gilbert (notetaker)
Embassy PolOff Viraj LeBailly
MEA Joint Secretary (Americas) S. Jaishankar
MEA Director (Americas) Renu Pall
MEA Deputy Secretary (Americas) Santosh Jha
MEA Under Secretary (Americas) Raj Srivastava
11. (U) Baghdad minimize considered.
12. (U) A/S Rocca cleared this cable.