The selection of Puri appears to signal India's desire to appoint someone with whom we can productively work, so that our relationship at the UN more accurately reflects our new bilateral partnership, writes Peter Burleigh
205168 5/1/2009 12:57 09 NEWDELHI 877 Embassy New Delhi CONFIDENTIAL "VZCZCXRO7204OO RUEHNEHDE RUEHNE #0877/01 1211257ZNY CCCCC ZZHZDFO 011257Z MAY 09FM AMEMBASSY NEW DELHITO RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK IMMEDIATE 7954RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6410INFO RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVERUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 7619RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 3367RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 6306RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1707RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 1314RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDCRUEAIIA/CIA WASHDCRHEHNSC/NSC WASHDCRUEIDN/DNI WASHINGTON DCRHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HIRUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 7955RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 8286RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDCRUMICEA/USCENTCOM INTEL CEN MACDILL AFB FL" "C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 NEW DELHI 000877
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/20/2019 TAGS: PGOV, PREL, PINR, IN SUBJECT: INDIA SELECTS HARDEEP SINGH PURI AS ITS NEW UN PERMREP
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Classified By: Political Counselor Ted Osius for Reasons 1.4 (B and D)
1. (C) The GOI announced the selection of Hardeep Singh Puri on April 16 as the new Indian Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Puri replaces Nirupam Sen, who has served India as Permanent Representative since 2004, and was a dyed-in-the-wool Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) advocate who made coordination with the Indians in the UN difficult.
2. (SBU) Puri's selection comes after the current government also appointed envoys to the United States and Pakistan, a departure from previous policy which was to defer ambassadorial appointments in the run-up to national elections in India. (Note: India is in the midst of a five-phase parliamentary elections that will end on May 13. End Note.)
Seeking a ""Higher Degree of Convergence""
3. (C) In a May 1 meeting with PolCouns, Ambassador Puri said he looks forward to working with U.S. interlocutors in the UN. He declared his specific brief is to seek ways to increase U.S.-India engagement to get to a ""higher degree of convergence"" between our two nations. To strengthen multilateralism in today's world, it is good for the United States and India to be seen working together. Irrespective of the outcome of India's elections, Puri remarked he was confident that both nations can build on the firm bilateral foundation created in recent years. Regarding expansion of permanent seats on the UN Security Council, Puri admitted he is still learning about the reform process and waiting to hear the views of the new Obama administration, but stressed that his starting point is, ""if you want the Security Council to have credibility, then it is better to have India within it."" Therefore, the United States and India should explore how to enhance convergence and bring this about. In closing, Puri reemphasized his desire to productively work with U.S. interlocutors as he has done in past UN assignments.
A Multilateral Expert and Pragmatic Thinker
4. (C) According to political contacts, Puri is close to senior members of India's foreign policy and national security establishments. Aditi Phadnis, Bureau Chief of the Business Standard, noted his proximity to both the Congress Party and leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). She confided that ""if the (BJP-led) National Democratic Alliance (NDA) comes to power he might be called back to serve as Foreign Secretary."" On April 29, MEA Joint Secretary (Americas) Gaitri Kumar described Puri to PolCouns as ""pragmatic"" and ""an achiever,"" noting that we should let MEA know if we have any complaints. Sandeep Dikshit, Foreign Affairs corespondent for The Hindu, stated ""Puri is a seasoned, mature and widely experienced Indian diplomat whose professional skills have been tested through several of his assignments that he accomplished successfully.""
5. (C) Views of Puri differ among embassy contacts. Japanese Political Counselor Naoki Ito said Japan knows Puri well and that he has much experience in multilateral arenas, including WTO negotiations. However, Ito disclosed that Puri has not been constructive in the past on the major issues that divide developed and developing nations. Embassy contact, Ramesh Chandran, who heads the India-U.S. Forum of Parliamentarians was upbeat about Puri, whom he has known for many years. Noting Puri's Moscow-educated, UN predecessor Nirupam Sen's proclivity to cling to a leftist non-aligned mentality, Chandran favorably compared Puri whom he contended has a much more modern and 21st century way of thinking. Hindustan Times Foreign Affairs Editor Amit Baruah observed that Puri ""largely has served MEA at a time when India witnessed a big shift in its foreign policy thinking."" He further noted that although Puri does not belong to the classical Nehruvian
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school of foreign policy, ""he is a staunch believer in India's independence of thought and action in global politics.""
6. (C) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee may have felt that the UN post was too important to lie vacant for long, especially as the world grapples with the international financial crisis and as India continues its quest for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. The selection of Puri appears to signal India's desire to appoint someone with whom we can productively work, so that our relationship at the UN more accurately reflects our new bilateral partnership.
7. (U) Hardeep Singh Puri is a senior member of the Indian Foreign Service (IFS). Prior to his appointment, he served as a Secretary (Economic Relations) in the Ministry of External Affairs. A 1974-batch IFS Officer, he is known in diplomatic circles as an expert on WTO issues. He was India's Ambassador to Brazil from 2006-2008 where he played an instrumental role in expanding the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) partnership into economic cooperation. He is experienced working in multilateral institutions and has served as India's Permanent Representative to UN institutions in Geneva. Puri was on deputation to the Ministry of Defence as Joint Secretary for the Navy as well as Planning and International Cooperation from 1994-1997. His first overseas assignment was in Japan from 1976-1978. He is married to fellow IFS officer, Lakshmi Puri, and has two daughters. He has master's and bachelor's degrees from Delhi University. He is a Sikh and speaks Punjabi, English, Hindi, and has a workable knowledge of Japanese.