US, India are friends but suspicious too: WikiLeaks

US, India are friends but suspicious too: WikiLeaks

The cables show that in May 2008, an acrimonious exchange took place between then foreign secretary Shiv Shankar Menon and then US ambassador David Mulford over Iran, after a short stopover by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in New Delhi.

Though admitting that he did not like Ahmadinejad's "self-congratulatory, self-referential" style, Menon cautioned the US against telling India what to do, especially in public.

"This government has to be seen following an independent foreign policy, not responding to dictation from the US," Menon said. India must work with Iran to deal with Afghanistan, he continued.

The Guardian said that some 4,000 cables from the US embassy in New Delhi reveal "a difficult but increasingly warm relationship between a prickly emerging power anxious about its security despite its size and increasing wealth and a superpower that is keen to be friends but very much on its own terms".

In the cables, American diplomats complain of bureaucratic inertia, a lack of capacity, oversensitivity, corrupt or populist politicians, a bureaucracy stuck in the era of "the cold war" and a profound suspicion of their motives.

However they seem to recognise that a respectful and conciliatory approach to the booming and increasingly self-confident India pays dividends.

On the eve of his trip to South Asia in December 2009, Richard Holbrooke, Barack Obama's late special representative to Pakistan and Afghanistan, was told by the US embassy in New Delhi that India was becoming "much more amenable".

Three months later, John Kerry, chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, was told by the embassy that India was a "raucous democracy", with a government that was "a true partner" of the US.

There were some issues on which the two sides differed, such as Iran and Myanmar, and several areas of tension - including US policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan - "but, on the whole, the news was good".

For its part, the Indian government appears keen to obtain US assistance, especially military or counter-terrorism technology, and diplomatic support on issues like getting a permanent seat on the UN Security Council but reluctant to make many reciprocal gestures.

A complicated regional environment, the Kashmir issue, concerns about terrorism and nuclear civil technology both unite and divide the two powers, the Guardian said, quoting the leaked embassy cables.

US diplomats appeared impressed by India's "vibrant and diverse" democracy, seeing it as a natural ally and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as a natural friend.

Another priority for the Indians was the fear that the US would withdraw from Afghanistan, allowing a "fanatical" regime to take over and Pakistan to exert significant influence there.

The cables reveal sharp differences over Mhanmar. US diplomats say they would prefer India to be less friendly towards the ruling junta and work to encourage democracy.
One Indian was reported as saying that democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's "day has come and gone". Another spoke about India's economic interests in Mayanmr.

The Americans told Washington that they had seen evidence that Iran was buying off (Indian) journalists, clerics and editors in Shia-populated areas of Uttar Pradesh and Kashmir, doling out large sums to stoke anti-Americanism.

One cable describes Indian officials "loathe to admit publicly that India and the US have begun coordinating foreign policies".

However, top Indian officials still told American visitors that there was a lack of a "big idea" to energise Indo-American relations.

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