MEA Joint Secretary S. Jaishankar again urged that the USG not ""overload the Indian system"" by pursuing a SOFA [Status of Forces Agreement ] at this stage.

38759 8/18/2005 9:35 05NEWDELHI6396 Embassy New Delhi CONFIDENTIAL 05STATE143463 "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 NEW DELHI 006396 SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/19/2015

TAGS: MARR, MOPS, PREL, IN, External Political Relations

SUBJECT: MEA URGES USG NOT TO PURSUE STATUS OF FORCES AGREEMENT WITH INDIA UNTIL ACSA AGREEMENT IS CONCLUDED

REF: STATE 143463

Classified By: DCM Robert O. Blake, Jr. for Reasons 1.4 (B, D)

1. (C) DATT conveyed reftel points to MEA Joint Secretary (Americas) Dr. S. Jaishankar in a letter on August 16 (full text para 6 below). In a meeting on August 17 with DCM to introduce a new Embassy officer, Jaishanker pulled DCM aside to discourage strongly any effort by the USG to pursue at this stage a SOFA with India.

2. (C) Jaishanker said that upon receipt of the DATT's letter, he had immediately consulted MEA's files and had found no indication of any verbal assurances by then Joint Secretary Prasad. Jaishanker noted that to the contrary, the SIPDIS MEA record of a September 25, 2001 meeting with the Embassy ODC Chief and DCM showed that Prasad specifically told the embassy representatives not to seek any kind of SOFA with India.

3. (C) DCM pushed back on several counts. He first pointed out that it is appropriate for us to seek a SOFA given the growing complexity of our bilateral military exercise program. The Exercise Malabar in late September, for example, would involve carrier battle groups for the first time, and include shore leave for hundreds of US sailors. DCM also noted that the US has SOFA with all of its major military partners around the world and that every aspect of the agreement is reciprocal.

4. (C) Jaishanker took the point, but said that if the US were to table a SOFA agreement at this stage, it could complicate efforts to conclude the ACSA. Specifically, he noted that the left parties would stoutly resist immunity provisions for American servicepeople on Indian soil, despite the reciprocal nature of the provisions. He again urged that the USG not ""overload the Indian system"" by pursuing a SOFA at this stage.

5. (C) Mission recommends that the US propose to the GOI that negotiation of a SOFA be a topic of discussion at the Defense Policy Group this fall (date still to be determined). To the extent possible, the US delegation should be prepared to brief the Indians on the number of SOFA's we have in place with partners around the world, the reciprocal nature of such agreements, and the benefits to India of negotiating such an agreement.

6. (SBU) Begin text of DATT letter:

16 August 2005

Dear Dr Jaishankar,

I have been asked by my government to seek verbal assurances from the Indian Government that US military and civilian personnel present in India for mutually agreed upon exercises and activities will continue to have Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) - like protections, despite that a formal SOFA has not been signed between our two governments. In September 2001, your predecessor, Jayant Prasad, gave us verbal assurances that the US could count on SOFA legal coverage even without a formal agreement. What we seek at this time, in essence, are MEA,s re-assurances that all US DoD personnel deploying to India for purposes of exercises are still afforded diplomatic protections equivalent to the administrative and technical staff of the U.S. Embassy.

We fully realize that effecting any legal agreement such as a SOFA, or an exchange of diplomatic notes covering legal issues concerning US and Indian military personnel exercising on each other,s soil, would take quite a while, and would probably not come in time for the slate of upcoming exercises, such as Balance Iroquois 05-2, Yudh Abhyas 05-1, and Yudh Abhyas 05-2. However, as our exercise programs grow in scope and complexity such as Malabar (Oct), and Cope India (Nov), it is very important that India and US consider the legal status implications in case of accidents, or unfortunate incidents.

The Defense Attach Office of the Embassy of the United States of America avails itself of this opportunity to renew the assurances of its highest consideration. End text.

MULFORD