Respected senior diplomat Naresh Chandra told us July 12 that the left parties have nothing to offer except hysteria.
36415 7/12/2005 14:59 05NEWDELHI5354 Embassy New Delhi CONFIDENTIAL 05NEWDELHI5108 "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 04 NEW DELHI 005354 SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/13/2015
TAGS: PGOV, PREL, MASS, MARR, KSTC, IN, External Political Relations
SUBJECT: PM AND DEFMIN SCOFF AT LEFTIST CRITICISM OF U.S. DEFENSE TIES; WE SHOULD, TOO
REF: NEW DELHI 5108
Classified By: Charge Robert O. Blake, Jr. for Reasons 1.4 (B, D)
1. (C) Summary: To place Left Parties' continuing attacks on the New Framework for US-India Defense in context, Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have reassured critics that the agreement is in India's national interest, does not compromise Indian security or sovereignty and is consonant with India's regional and global aspirations. Unconvinced, Left parties have threatened to organize larger demonstrations against the agreement if the UPA government does not make some concessions, and continue to issue communiques assailing the UPA for continuing the Vajpayee government's pro-US policies. The Left's demonstrated ability to maintain momentum on this issue puts added pressure on the PM to manage a tightrope act: secure substantial deliverables during his visit to Washington without appearing to have compromised oft-stated Congress principles of independence and multipolarity. Notwithstanding the left's noisiness, most in India seem to support the Agreement. One senior Indian told us the left is fading fast. Another asserted that the PM is a big boy and can handle his internal problems; the U.S. - India defense caravan should keep moving forward no matter how many (socialist) dogs bark in Delhi. End Summary.
Mukherjee Faces Down Leftist Hysteria
2. (C) Mukherjee returned from the US determined to defend the agreement against Left criticism and was backed by the PM, but the unexpected virulence and determination of the Left criticism has compelled the UPA to devote considerable time and energy to respond to the allegations that the DefMin sold out.
3. (U) In an attempt to head-off the Left's threatened demonstration against the Framework Agreement only a few days before the PM's visit to the US, the DefMin met with CPM General Secretary Prakash Karat and his CPI counterpart A.B. Bardhan and others on July 7. The ""Times of India"" reported that the Left and Defmin made ""little headway"" in their discussion, with ""both sides sticking to their guns.""
4. (U) In his first interaction with the Indian media since returning from the US, DefMin Mukherjee on July 5 downplayed the Left's strong criticism against the agreement, stating, ""The Left parties have a particular ideological position with respect to the U.S. We have to keep in view that point."" Going on to address the Left's lengthy list of complaints (Reftel), he denied Left allegations that the framework would obligate India to participate in US-led operations outside the ambit of the United Nations. ""We have a clear perception that we will participate in multinational operations under the UN. That position has not changed. It is not necessary that after every mention of multinational, the word ""UN"" should be added."" The Minister also rejected another LF accusation, that the framework contradicted the principles of independence and multipolarity enshrined in the NDA's Common Minimum Program.
5. (U) On missile defense, the Minister's remarks were consistent with Congress' indigenously-focused approach, but did not rule out collaboration with the U.S. Mukherjee was categorical that India is not interested in purchasing a complete missile defense system, stating, ""There is no question of accepting a missile shield from anyone. What we are interested in is developing our own missile program and we are doing that."" The Minister noted that there were gaps in India's integrated guided missile defense program but New Delhi would only accept critical US inputs that bridged the deficiency. ""If we don't get them, fine,"" he added, indicating that India would then explore other avenues including indigenous development or via procurement other countries. Mukherjee also underscored what the UPA views as the hallmark achievement of his visit: US acceptance of India's desire for co-production and technology transfer.
Mukherjee Points Out the Advantages
6. (U) On July 8, Mukherjee underscored that the Agreement paves the way for India to ""bridge the critical gap in technology we have developed. He also rejected the Left's criticism that Congress was following its predecessor's foreign policy, noting that the policy to widen relations with the US had been formulated by the Congress Party in 1995.
7. (U) On July 11, Mukherjee again defended the Agreement, talking to Left leaders to explain the government's reasoning. For the first time, Mukherjee also defended the Agreement as being in India's national interest because it would ensure uninterrupted supplies of material in times of need and would ensure needed technology transfer.
And the PM Also Tries to Hose Them Down
8. (U) Buttressing Mukherjee's defense of the Framework Agreement, the PM dismissed the Left's criticism in an interview with ""The Hindu"" en route from the Gleneagles summit on July 6. Describing the agreement as ""an innocuous framework agreement,"" he added, ""It doesn't say anything that is against our national interest. It lists areas where the two countries can cooperate if they want to work together, so that does not mean any surrender of our sovereignty.""
But the Comrades Stick to their Kalashnikovs
9. (U) Convinced that DefMin Mukherjee and the UPA are not responding to their criticism of the agreement, Left leaders held a public meeting on July 8 that the ""Asian Age"" called a ""precursor meeting to country-wide agitation."" During the meeting, CPM General Secretary Karat reiterated the Left's opposition to provisions of the Agreement, i.e., collaboration in multinational operations outside the ambit of the UN; missile defense; shared security interest to protect the free flow of commerce; and defense co-production. Karat warned the PM not to use his first official visit as PM to the US to ""please the US at the expense of an independent foreign policy,"" and called for the agreement to be ""disposed in the dustbin."" CPI General Secretary Bardhan, in turn, cautioned New Delhi not do Washington's bidding in the hope of securing a permanent berth in the Security Council. Asked what the Left's next move would be, Bardhan said in an interview with ""The Indian Express,"" ""we shall not resort to a loud country -wide campaign just now, but shall see if the UPA government listens to us.""
10. (U) Karat, who is now visiting China, expanded his criticism in a July 10 ""Asian Age"" editorial, in which he voiced strong disapproval of ""the recent tendency to make a holy cow of strategic and security issues"" by not consulting the Left on foreign policy. Accusing the former NDA government of entering into a ""strategic alliance"" with the US, Karat characterized the agreement as an extension of the BJP agenda and ""a major step to harness India to serve the US strategic goals in Asia,"" by going beyond the previous government's commitments. Karat also reiterated the CPI(M) Politburo's July 2 denunciation of the Proliferation Security Initiative, stating that the US was bent on using the Defense Framework Agreement and the PSI to ""get the Indian Navy to patrol the Malacca Straits and other international seas."" Taking credit for keeping Indian troops out of Iraq, Karat reminded the nation that it was the Left that ""rallied the Opposition against sending troops to Iraq at a time when the Vajpayee government was on the verge of deciding to do so."" He also implied that UPA treatment of the Left mirrored that of the BJP, noting that opposition leader LK Advani had advised the NDA government to avoid consulting with the Left on security and international affairs.
The Majority Supports the Agreement Anyway
11. (U) Despite the Left's vitriol, Indian media and strategic commentators have generally been supportive of the Agreement and dismissive of the Left's complaints. Well-known defense analyst Commodore Uday Bhaskar told PolMilOff on July 6 that the agreement had ""the potential to recast a rapidly changing bilateral relationship as well as highlight India's relevance in the evolving global strategic scenario,"" adding that the agreement only consolidated various initiatives undertaken by both countries in recent years. In a July 11 editorial entitled ""Foreign Non-Policy,"" ""The Indian Express"" stated that while Left opposition to the Agreement was to be expected, their fury was not. ""In its ideological opposition to any engagement with the US, the Left was not going to let facts come in the way. If a similar agreement were to be signed with Russia or China, the Left would have hailed it as a triumph for anti-imperialist forces.""
12. (C) In a July 11 meeting with the Charge, MEA Joint Secretary (Americas) S. Jaishankar warned that the Left
SIPDIS attack on Mukherjee had been more furious than expected, and cautioned us not to underestimate the challenge the UPA will face in accelerating defense ties.
EVEN LEFT-LEANING COMMENTATOR SAYS LEFT IS A SPENT FORCE
13. (C) Respected left-leaning gray-beard security analyst and Manmohan Singh confidant Prem Shankar Jha explained to us that the squawks of the left are mere symptoms; the root cause is their fear of the U.S. national security strategy that permits pre-emptive ""war without end"" against perceived threats. The left worries that the defense agreement is a way to drag India into our ""war without end"" just as we, in our perceived perfidy, already tried with the Vajpayee government in sending troops to Iraq. However, Jha said that he personally supported the defense agreement and had written to that effect in a column soon to be published in the Hindustan Times. Jha said the agreement was good for both countries, and that the PM would not have taken such a decision lightly. The PM, said Jha, is a serious and careful thinker who clearly saw the benefits of the defense agreement and decided that he would take the flack from the left and could defend the agreement well if pressed. In the final analysis, said Jha, the left is comprised of extreme reactionaries who have been frozen into utter and irrelevent rigidity. Their resistance to change is matched only by their fear that their iron rice bowls are being broken. They say no to everything the government proposes, but offer no alternatives. They refuse to join the coalition government, but sit on the sidelines and critique everything. Now that the Congress is feeling more confident, and the BJP is engaged in fratricidal warfare, the left parties risk being completely marginalized if Congress holds a snap election. The left will never do as well electorally again, predicted Jha, and their terror is reflected in their hysterical rhetoric. The Manmohan Singh administration will proceed with ties with the United States, Jha affirmed, no matter what the left says.
They're a Bunch of Self-Serving Bums, Anyway
14. (C) Respected senior diplomat Naresh Chandra told us July 12 that the left parties have nothing to offer except hysteria. Their electoral chances will never be so good again. They survive outside the coalition, giving them freedom to attack at will, while retaining political influence that allows them to reap financial benefit by fixing appointments, diverting patronage, and skimming percentages off of deals made through their rolodexes. The prospect of electoral victory in Kerala encourages them, but Manmohan and Sonia know how to handle them, and the United States, Chandra stressed, should not pull back or slow down because of winging from the left. On the contrary, he insisted, the U.S. should keep putting proposals on the table. Manmohan and Sonia will then decide what the system can bear. He did caution, however, that the U.S. can help the PM politically at home by carefully weighing how, where, and in what tone it announces new initiatives. Announcements made in Washington give the left an opening to accuse the Center of being stooges; announcements made by the GOI in Delhi yield less readily usable material for nay-sayers. Chandra said Congress' big problem is that, even though the left are ""Stalinists of the worst sort,"" it cannot attack them head-on because they ostensibly are on the same political side.
Comment: We'll Meet Them on the Hustings, Comrade
15. (C) The soft-spoken economist-turned DefMin may have earned some combat clout this week both for his efforts to allay the concerns of the Left, as well as for his willingness to fend off the Left's unrelenting attacks. The Left's ability and determination to maintain momentum on this issue, however, clearly caught the UPA by surprise. It should not have done so, as Communist opposition to the agreement is ideologically consistent. No Communist party can safely acquiesce to such an agreement, and the Communists, facing elections in their strongholds of Kerala and Went Bengal, are in no mood to compromise. The LF will not relent on its demand that the PM not renege on the traditional Congress commitment to national independence and the re-emergence of a multipolar world order to secure substantial deliverables from the US. While in the final analysis, we should ignore the left and proceed ahead at full steam, we should recognize that the UPA may require an occasional pause to let Indian public opinion catch up with the rapid pace of transformation in our bilateral relationship.