U.S. Ambassador to India David Mulford was clear in his assessment of what India's support for Palestine really was about in recent times. In a cable dated September 6, 2005, he spoke of India's “historical rhetorical support for Palestinian statehood (important for domestic politics)” (39915: secret/noforn).

“The UPA derives an important portion of its support from India's 150 million Muslims, and it came to power in May 2004 with a stated goal of recalibrating India's relations with the Muslim world, especially on the Palestinian question. Portraying itself as a defender of Muslims in India and a champion of the Palestinian cause, the UPA has made reinvigorating ties with Middle East and Muslim countries a high priority.”

The cable goes on to say: “The second goal is to rally support for India's perennial battle to be admitted in some status to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which has been critical of India's Kashmir stance. Although both of these goals derive mostly from domestic electoral political considerations, rather than strictly foreign policy objectives, New Delhi has recognized that its lacklustre relations with Arab and Muslim states have become a foreign policy liability, and is working to rectify that.”

It adds: “As part of these broader goals of deeper engagement in the Middle East, New Delhi has floated suggestions recently that it could play a mediating role in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, as a state with growing working relations with Israel and (at least) bona fides in the eyes of Palestinians (Note: Ref C reports on the latest disappointing India-Israel interaction. End Note). However, given its generally weak relations with most Middle Eastern countries and lack of gravitas, most dismiss this vision as unrealistic.”

The cable presents a discussion on the August 10, 2005 visit of West Asia Envoy Chinmaya Gharekhan: “Our contacts tell us that India's prime concern with Syria is for its influence on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, where India is trying to carve out a role for itself, after recognizing New Delhi's increasing marginalization. The other current interest, as illustrated by Gharekhan's recent Damascus visit, is India's desire to find low-risk options for re-engaging on Iraq.”