PM isolated in govt on Pakistan: Wikileaks cites US envoy

Last Updated 15 March 2011, 13:16 IST

A cable sent by current Ambassador Timothy Roemer in August 2009 after a meeting with the then National Security Adviser (NSA) M K Narayanan says that "on Pakistan, Narayanan readily conceded a differing policy vision with his boss".

Narayanan had noted that he did not share Singh's "great belief" in talks and negotiations with Pakistan and "suggested that the PM was isolated within his own government in this view".

The then NSA, says the Ambassador, himself was not a great believer in Pakistan. "After the Prime Minister spoke in speeches of India's shared destiny with Pakistan, he (Narayanan) told the PM you have a shared destiny, we don't," the envoy says.

Then Roemer adds his own comments to say that Narayanan made the comments with some joviality and was totally complimentary of the PM throughout the discussion. He made a point of commending PM's intellect, economic prowess among the G-20 leaders and self-effacing manner as an accidental politician and former civil servant like him.

The three aspects of Narayanan's comments that struck the Ambassador as noteworthy were his "rather blunt" assertion that foreign policy is run out of the PMO which lent credence to media chatter about the foreign ministry being marginalised under S M Krishna.

The other aspects were his admission of differences with PM on Pakistan and his intimation that Singh is isolated within his government and his repeated reference to seeking closer ties with his officials.

The Ambassador further notes that although Narayanan's tough stance on Pakistan was well known, his readiness to distance himself from his boss in an initial courtesy call would suggest that the Prime Minister "is more isolated than we thought within his own inner circle in his effort to 'trust but verify' and pursue talks with Pakistan particularly in the wake of the hammering his government took from opposition for the Sharm-al-Sheikh statement with Prime Minister Gilani."

"This certainly confirms the risks and volatility the PM faces in opening up new dialogue with Pakistan, and means increased Government of India sensitivity to perceived pressure from outsiders, particularly the US government, to re-engage with Islamabad," the Ambassador wrote.

On the Cabinet reshuffle of January 28, 2006 the then Ambassador David Mulford had noted in his cable that the exercise signified a determination to ensure that US-India relations continue to move ahead rapidly and strengthened the "cadre of modernising reformers" at the top of the Government of India.

"Removing contentious and outspoken Iran pipeline advocate Mani Shankar Aiyar from the Petroleum portfolio, the UPA replaced him with the pro-US Murli Deora, who was one of several figures inducted with long standing ties to the Indo-US Parliamentary Forum (IUPF) and the embassy," the envoy said.

Referring to the induction of seven MPs from IUPF who had publicly associated themselves with US strategic partnership, he viewed the shuffle as a shift towards the US alienating the left from the government.

This he felt would make the Left more determined to obstruct UPA's economic liberalisation and foreign policy initiatives, all but ensuring political fireworks in the months ahead.

"The net effect of the reshuffle, however, is a cabinet that is likely to be excellent for US goals in India (and Iran)," the Ambassador said. Mulford also noted that "our foreign ministry contacts" welcomed Aiyar's departure commenting that his energy diplomacy had encroached on MEA turf too many times, leading to MEA appeals to the Prime Minister's Office to intercede.

"Despite the PMO warning to backoff, Aiyar's Ministry of Petroleum and Gas continued to interfere with MEA attempts to craft policy, our contact said, citing Pakistan, China, Burma, Bangladesh, Iran and Sudan as areas of governmental conflict.

"Aiyar's unwillingness to step back reportedly led to the PM's decision to remove him from this high-profile portfolio, and cements MEA's position as the lead bureaucracy on strategic policy making," the Ambassador said.

The envoy noted that there was a feeling in the MEA and PMO that Aiyar was usurping the lead on India's strategic posture for energy security issues and amounted to fishing expeditions before Cabinet approval.

A contact in the Gas Authority of India Limited said the Petroleum Ministry's civil bureaucracy had run a whispering campaign against Aiyar calling him autocratic and disrespectful of IAS officers including public criticism of a Joint Secretary in front of officials of government-run entities, the Ambassador's cable said.

(Published 15 March 2011, 11:08 IST)

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