MEA Director Taranjit Singh Sandhu said that in light of increasing intolerance in Bangladesh and "sustained anti-India sentiment" there, India needed to bring pressure to bear on Dhaka.

26786, 02/10/2005 12:56, 05NEWDELHI1075, Embassy New Delhi, CONFIDENTIAL, 05NEWDELHI878, "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 02 NEW DELHI 001075 SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/09/2015

TAGS: PREL, PTER, ECIN, ENRG, BG, IN, India-Bangladesh

SUBJECT: INDIA: SAARC DECISION SENT A MESSAGE TO DHAKA

REF: A. NEW DELHI 878

B. NEW DELHI 877

C. NEW DELHI 876

D. NEW DELHI 874

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

1. (C) Summary: The GOI remains unapologetic about the last minute cancellation of the SAARC Summit and the resulting unhappiness in Dhaka. In this context, on February 9, the MEA urged PolCouns not to underestimate the extent to which developments in Bangladesh influenced India's decision not to attend the SAARC Summit. With no apparent sense of urgency to make things right with Dhaka, the MEA explained that the GOI's decision was intended to send a message to the BDG. Despite India's strong stand, our interlocutor reiterated the Foreign Secretary's unconvincing line on the importance of SAARC to New Delhi, and added that other interactions would continue. In support of this assertion, press reports indicate that the Indian Cabinet has given the Petroleum Minister approval to enter into gas pipeline negotiations with Bangladesh. Dhaka's High Commissioner complained to the DCM about Indian mistreatment. We should look for opportunities to continue this dialogue and press for real information sharing. End Summary.

A Message for Dhaka

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2. (C) MEA Director (Bangladesh, Sri Lanka) Taranjit Singh Sandhu told PolCouns and Poloff that in light of increasing intolerance in Bangladesh and ""sustained anti-India sentiment"" there, India needed to bring pressure to bear on Dhaka. Describing a "clarity of thought"" on Bangladesh throughout the GOI, he urged PolCouns not to ""lessen the importance"" of events there in New Delhi's decision not to attend the SAARC Summit. Sandhu underlined that the King's takeover in Nepal was not the sole motivator for India's change of heart, asserting that developments in both countries took place independent of each other. The Director added to his list of Bangladeshi offenses that ""sitting ministers"" and senior politicians have made statements against India recently, with the intention of raising passions, and concluded that this is not the ""SAARC spirit.""

3. (C) While maintaining that it was about time New Delhi sent a message to Dhaka, Sandhu countered that the signal was not necessarily a negative one, rather it was meant to encourage Bangladesh to be ""introspective."" India is not trying to fault the BDG, but wants them to realize the danger to themselves from leaving certain issues unchecked, he argued.

""The US Doesn't Get It""

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4. (C) Somewhat incredulous that the USG continues to ask for concrete evidence to support India's claims regarding creeping ""Talibanization,"" Sandhu said that even a layman could see what has been going on, and cited recent US press coverage of Islamic extremism in Bangladesh, such as the January ""New York Times Magazine"" expose. PolCouns pointed out that the information presented in the reftels had all been reported in the press, which the Director argued only further proved his point. PolCouns noted that an FBI agent for the legatt office in New Delhi was on his way to Dhaka to help on the January 27 attack, and added that we had made very clear US concern about half-hearted investigations of these politically motivated attacks. Sandhu remained skeptical of US investigators' ability to get results in Bangladesh. PolCouns offered, in the interest of maintaining US-India dialogue on this issue, to come back with our further insights on the situation in Bangladesh.

Still Neighbors

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5. (C) While he did not convey any sense of GOI urgency about stopping the backward slide in bilateral relations, Sandhu attempted to express optimism that initiatives already in the works, such as gas pipeline discussions, would continue, and that New Delhi remained committed to regional cooperation in SAARC. Sandhu insisted that economic interaction between the two countries would not stop, but added that India needs to see the BDG pay attention to New Delhi's political and security concerns. While refuting the suggestion that India was at a dead-end with Bangladesh, the Director noncommittally predicted the SAARC Summit would happen ""sooner or later."" Contrary to the criticism that New Delhi had acted in the opposition Awami League's favor in sinking the Summit, Sandhu asserted that India's decision ""had nothing to do with parties."" He added that India should not be seen as a bully, emphasizing that someone needed to call attention to what was going on in Bangladesh.

High Commissioner Cries Foul

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6. (C) In a lunch with the DCM, the Bangladeshi High Commissioner Hemayet Uddin vented his frustration and anger at the way India quashed the SAARC Summit. Uddin claimed that the GOI made its announcement on February 2 without first notifying either the Ministry in Dhaka or the High Commission in New Delhi, and was especially stung that in his statement, Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran singled out Bangladesh as a culprit. Despite his vitriol, the High Commissioner highlighted some positive developments in the relationship, including plans to begin train service connecting Calcutta to India's Northeast, and the Tata

Corporation's planned USD 2 billion investment in Bangladesh which will include the use of local gas supplies and might ""smooth the way"" for fuel sales to India.

Comment

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7. (C) The GOI's official line that SAARC is an important aspect of India's foreign policy is contradicted by the meltdown over the Dhaka Summit. This is unfortunate, not because of the organization's great potential to accomplish regional integration, but because India's commitment to SAARC would demonstrate New Delhi's willingness to sit down with its neighbors and generate some much-needed good will. While the MEA harbors undisguised disdain for the Government of Bangladesh, there are other stakeholders in the relationship, in particular Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar, who has successfully moved the Indian Cabinet to give its blessing to his dialogue on a gas pipeline through Bangladesh.

8. (C) We will also engage with senior-level MEA SAARC experts on the Summit issue, and expect to hear a more nuanced line from that side of the Ministry. Sandhu accepted PolCouns' suggestion that the US and India continue this discussion at higher levels, and post recommends that we find an early opportunity to revive our SA-led regional dialogue, with a special focus this time on the situation in Bangladesh.

MULFORD

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