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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08NEWDELHI1142 2008-04-25 13:09:00 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy New Delhi
Cable title:  

AHMADINEJAD VISIT TO INDIA SEEN AS PURE POLITICS

Tags:   PGOV KNNP PARM PINR ECON ENRG EPET IR IN 
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					  S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 NEW DELHI 001142 

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E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/25/2028
TAGS: PGOV KNNP PARM PINR ECON ENRG EPET IR IN
SUBJECT: AHMADINEJAD VISIT TO INDIA SEEN AS PURE POLITICS

REF: A. NEW DELHI 01065 (NOTAL)

B. SECSTATE 43756

Classified By: Charge d'Affaires Steven J. White for reasons 1.4 (b,d)



1. (SBU) SUMMARY: India's National Security Advisor MK
Narayanan publicly confirmed that Iran's President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad will visit India for seven hours on April 29
following a trip to Sri Lanka and prior to arriving in
Pakistan. Post conveyed to senior Ministry of External
Affairs officials on April 24 USG-suggested talking points to
raise with the Iranians. Ahmadinejad will reportedly meet
with President Patil and with Prime Minister Singh to
discuss, inter alia, the proposed Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI)
natural gas pipeline deal, as well as Iran's efforts to start
an indigenous nuclear energy program. Post's contacts view
Ahmadinejad's visit as serving purely political interests,
for the Indian government's domestic constituency as well as
its bilateral relations with Iran and the U.S. END SUMMARY.


-- DEMARCHE ON GOI DISCUSSIONS WITH IRAN DELIVERED --



2. (S/NF) Per ref B instructions, on April 24 the Charge and
PolCouns conveyed reftel points to MEA Foreign Secretary
Shivshankar Menon, Additional Secretary Vivek Katju, Joint
Secretary (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran) TCA Raghavan and

SIPDIS
Joint Secretary (Americas) Gaitri Kumar. Our interlocutors
did not offer a substantive response, neither committing to
nor refusing to raise the issues.

-- AHMADINEJAD STOPPING IN DELHI BETWEEN COLOMBO AND
ISLAMABAD --



3. (C) Confirming publicly what was told to Post privately
April 15 (ref A), India's National Security Advisor MK
Narayanan announced on April 20 that Iran's President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad will visit India for seven hours on April 29 on
his way back from his two-day official visit to Sri Lanka.
Narayanan made the comments in the course of an address to
the New Delhi-hosted International Institute for Strategic
Studies (IISS) Citi India Global Forum. According to Indian
media, the visit began as a simple request by Iran for a
refueling stopover, but the GOI took the opportunity to
convert the stopover into an official visit by conveying that
it would be privileged to host President Ahmadinejad. He
will reportedly meet with both President Patil and with Prime
Minister Singh during his visit. Indian media has speculated
that the two sides will discuss, inter alia, the proposed
Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) natural gas pipeline deal, as well
as Iran's efforts to start an indigenous nuclear program.

-- PUBLIC DEBATE ON THE INDEPENDENCE OF INDIA'S FOREIGN
POLICY --



4. (C) News of Ahmadinejad's visit touched off a public
debate among India's opinion makers. Predictably, whether
one believed the visit was good for India followed
ideological lines, with Muslim and socialist supporters
hailing the "independence" the visit demonstrated for India's
foreign policy, while many moderate thinkers questioned the
wisdom of accepting Ahmadinejad at this time. The prevailing
wisdom, however, was exemplified in The Indian Express
article entitled "UPA switches on Left indicator," which
opined that the Indian government made the conscious decision
to invite Ahmadinejad in order to mollify Left and Muslim
constituencies, whose support is crucial to the Congress-led
government's survival.



5. (C) But perhaps as much as the visit itself, Indian media
quickly became seized upon the Ministry of External Affairs'
(MEA) spokesman's April 22 statement on comments made by
Deputy Spokesman Casey, which have widely been interpreted by
the Indian public as somehow "standing up" for Indian pride

NEW DELHI 00001142 002 OF 003


in response to unwarranted "guidance" on how it should
conduct its bilateral relations. Foreign Minister Mukherjee
added fuel to the fire by publicly endorsing his spokesman's
snippy retort. Since April 22, the debate over the validity
of the MEA statement has been as visible as debate over the
visit itself. Comments have ranged from the Communist Party
of India - Marxist (CPM) arguing that the Deputy Spokesman's
comments "vindicated" the Left's apprehensions of the U.S.'
"imperialistic ways," to Janata Party President Subramanian
Swamy's public statement urging India to bluntly tell Iran to
respect international treaties and that "there is no
diplomatic gain by publicly rebuking advice from friendly
countries on how to deal with Iran, as the U.S. has done."

-- PUNDITS SEE VISIT THROUGH POLITICAL PRISM --



6. (C) Post's contacts who follow Iran quickly cast the visit
in purely political terms, conveying doubt that Ahmadinejad's
welcome to Delhi will grant the Indian government the reward
it desires, i.e., gleaning approval from its dubious leftist
coalition partners. Most contacts opined that the visit can
only benefit Iran, and not the UPA government. Dr. P.R.
Kumaraswamy, (Professor at the left-leaning Jawaharlal Nehru
University in Delhi) described this as a win-win for Iran,
which will get legitimacy from India "at no cost," and
perhaps even make`GhYQ7 that India would vote against Iran in the IAEA
then "roll out the red carpet" for Ahmadinejad, adding, "I do
not see which way India's Iran policy is going." Raashid
Alvi (Member of Parliament, Congress Party) added in a
separate conversation, "The visit is really not going to make
much difference to Congress Party's electoral support base -
except for a couple days' media hype, the visit does not
offer much to India." Professor Girijesh Pant (Chairman of
JNU's West Asian Studies center) told Emboff that
Ahmadinejad's visit underlined the fact that relations
between the two countries are now limited to trade and
commerce issues only.

-- NOTWITHSTANDING TALKS, IPI PIPELINE UNLIKELY TO
MATERIALIZE --



7. (SBU) India's Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Murli
Deora is visiting Islamabad April 23 - 25 and signed a
four-party agreement on the proposed
Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) natural gas
pipeline on April 24. Minister Deora will reportedly meet
April 25 with Pakistan's new petroleum Minister to discuss
the controversial bilateral issues of transit fees and
transportation fees for the Pakistan leg of the proposed
2,700-kilometer, USD 7.5 billion IPI natural gas pipeline.
This meeting would be the first high-level bilateral
discussion of the IPI deal since June 2007. (COMMENT: Post
remains skeptical of any substantial progress on the IPI
deal, either from the bilateral meeting in Pakistan or from
the Ahmadinejad visit, even if optimistic statements will be
released for domestic political consumption. END COMMENT)

-- COMMENT: POLITICAL COVER, OR HAS THE CONGRESS PARTY LOST
ITS MIND? --



8. (C) Since news broke of Ahmadinejad's pending arrival, in
Delhi circles this visit has been as much about India's
relations with the United States as with Iran. Whether this
visit will provide the government with enough political cover
- in terms of proving the "independence" of India's foreign
policy to opposition forces - to move forward with tough
decisions on the U.S.-India relationship, including the
civil-nuclear deal, or is merely continued "business as
usual" for India on Iran, will be seen in the weeks after
Ahmadinejad departs Delhi. For the past two years, GOI
contacts have eagerly pointed out to us that they had rebuked

NEW DELHI 00001142 003 OF 003


Tehran's invitations and requests for a Presidential visit,
but now obviously they have calculated that such a visit is
in India's interests. Whether Congress can pull off pleasing
India, Tehran and Washington at the same time is about to be
put to the test.
WHITE