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Viewing cable 07NEWDELHI2037, INDIAN OFFICIAL SEES BANGLADESH AT CROSSROADS, SRI

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07NEWDELHI2037 2007-04-27 12:12 2010-12-16 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy New Delhi
VZCZCXRO9374
OO RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDBU RUEHLH RUEHPW
DE RUEHNE #2037/01 1171227
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 271227Z APR 07
FM AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5220
INFO RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 6051
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 3507
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 2007
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1136
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 4890
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEIDN/DNI WASHINGTON DC
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 4541
Friday, 27 April 2007, 12:27
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 NEW DELHI 002037 
SIPDIS 
SIPDIS 
EO 12958 DECL: 01/11/2012 
TAGS PREL, PGOV, BG, BM, CE, IN 
SUBJECT: INDIAN OFFICIAL SEES BANGLADESH AT CROSSROADS, SRI 
LANKA DETERIORATING, BURMA RELATIONS BECOMING UNIDIMENSIONAL
Classified By: PolCouns Ted Osius for Reasons 1.4 (B, D)
1. (C) Summary. In a meeting with PolCouns on April 26, MEA Joint Secretary Mohan Kumar:
-- said that the caretaker government in Bangladesh has reached a crossroads by allowing Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia to return, stating such a move weakens the government and will force it to reassert itself in some way; -- suggested the U.S., UK and India agree on a core message to give the Bangladeshi caretaker government, one that supports the government while it remains on a path toward credible elections but clarifies that the military needs to remain out of politics; -- provided his assessment that Chief Advisor Fakhruddin is not in control of the government, but rather the executor for a military which looms in the background; -- praised the progress which has been made between the Indian Border Security Forces and the Bangladeshi Rifles; -- asked for U.S. assistance in getting Bangladesh to open its economy; -- stated Indian influence in Burma is waning, suggesting that U.S. pressure to bring Burma before the UN Security Council was counterproductive; -- denied reports that India had provided Rangoon with T-55 tanks; -- offered to verify whether India will fulfill a request by a Burmese general to provide infantry weapons and ammunition; -- confirmed that the Indian Navy is stepping up patrols in the waters between India and Sri Lanka; and -- expressed concern over China’s participation in the port project in Hambantota, Sri Lanka.
End Summary.
Bangladesh At a Crossroads
-------------------------- 
2. (C) PolCouns met April 26 with Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Joint Secretary (Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Myanmar) Mohan Kumar to discuss India’s assessment of recent events in the region. Also initially in attendance was British High Commission PolCouns Alex Hall-Hall, who had coincidentally been discussing Bangladesh with Kumar when PolCouns walked in. Kumar and Hall-Hall described their conversation, agreeing that the recent decision by the caretaker government (CTG) in Bangladesh to allow Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia to return had put that country at a crossroads. The government had gone back on its strategy to remove the two women from the political scene, they assessed, would be weakened, and the question now was whether the government will reassert itself by pushing the election schedule forward, or by digging in its heels and seeking to remain in power longer. Kumar presented a third option, that either the military or one of the women would stir up civil unrest, which could then be used as a pretext by the military to step in and take political control, although he admitted he did not believe a military coup was likely. Kumar suggested that now would be an opportune moment for the U.S., UK and India to agree on a core message to take to the caretaker government, pressing for elections and voter list reforms, providing support for the government as long as it sticks to a schedule for elections, and making clear that the military needs to remain out of politics. Hall-Hall noted that any coordination needed to remain invisible to the Bangladeshi public in order to avoid the perception of some sort of conspiracy.
3. (C) Kumar said India is concerned with the time frame for Bangladeshi elections, given -- in his analysis -- that the government has been weakened. He believed the interim government would benefit by moving up elections to the first quarter of 2008. He noted that he had been the notetaker for the April 4 meeting between Prime Minister Singh and Chief Advisor Fakhruddin, and his impression was that Fakhruddin “was not a free agent.” Fakhruddin made no commitments and could not clearly explain the government’s strategy, leading Kumar to believe Fakhruddin was merely the executor of the military’s political control.
4. (C) Kumar stated that good progress had been made in talks between India’s Border Security Forces and the Bangladesh
NEW DELHI 00002037 002 OF 002
Rifles. The five-day February meeting between high-level officials was “fantastic,” he said, adding that guards on both sides of the border have cooperated better since the meeting. (Note: Kumar’s comments echo what Bangladesh Embassy Political Minister Mashfee Binte Shams told Poloff earlier in the week, that the BSF and BDR have relieved border tensions and improved communications. End Note.)
5. (C) The U.S. and UK could help India by pressing Bangladesh to open its economy and trade, Kumar suggested. Companies such as Tata, which have made efforts to enter the Bangladeshi manufacturing market, are reporting to Kumar that the CTG is impeding its entry into Bangladesh. Kumar said he has met with representatives of the Asian Development Bank, who have been positive regarding the potential for infrastructure projects in the region, but in terms of assisting with India-Bangladesh trade have only suggested some smaller connectivity projects.
6. (C) PolCouns referred to press accounts of the recent visit to New Delhi by Burmese Quartermaster General Lt. Gen Thiha Thura Tin Aung Myint Oo, which reported that Lt. Gen Tin had come requesting infantry weapons and ammunition in return for the junta’s help in flushing out insurgents based along the border. Kumar said he was unaware of any promises India made to provide such materiel, but would check on the report’s veracity. He stated India is losing influence -- and gas deals -- in Burma to China, and suggested that American pressure on India to press the junta on democracy and human rights was counterproductive. The more the U.S. presses India to bring Burma before the UN Security Council, he said, the more the Burmese tell India to “go to hell.” PolCouns strongly countered, pointing out the junta’s horrible record on human rights and democracy dating back years, and stressed to Kumar that any assistance to the Burmese regime by India would be poorly received by Washington.
7. (C) India-Burma relations have deteriorated to being unidimensional, Kumar said, with the only cooperation being on the anti-insurgency campaign along the border. India is not getting any gas contracts from Burma (“We’re getting screwed on gas” were Kumar’s exact words, reflective of his candid nature), nor is it getting the transit rights it seeks which would open a bridge to East Asia. Burmese officials have told Kumar that they “hate” the Chinese and would prefer not to cooperate with China, but do so because they feel Beijing is more reliable than New Delhi. He claimed a recent report that India was planning to provide Burma with T-55 tanks was untrue.
8. (C) The situation in Sri Lanka is “bad, really bad - beyond bleak” in Kumar’s judgment. Characterizing the government and the LTTE as two sets of people with scant regard for the international community, Kumar was skeptical that political progress could be achieved anytime soon. He confirmed reports that the Indian Navy has stepped up patrols in the Palk Strait, and said that India and Sri Lanka are doing coordinated patrolling to prevent the smuggling of weapons from the Tamil Nadu coast. Kumar said it would be helpful to get the American assessment of the port being built in Hambantota, which he estimated China was willing to spend $500 million to help develop. He noted that China has increased its influence with President Rajapaksa, opining that Rajapaksa had a “soft spot” for China following his visit to Beijing in March.
9. (SBU) Bio note. Kumar confirmed he has been selected to become the Deputy Chief of Mission at the Indian Embassy in Paris, likely to assume the position in August. KAESTNER