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Pakistan ‘number one partner against al Qaida': Nicholas Burns

P. Sainath


MUMBAI: “The U.S-India relationship was far more advanced in the private sector than government. India was not an ambivalent power, but one without a clear sense of global identity, with one foot still in the non-aligned camp and the other foot in the global actor camp.” That is how the then U.S. Under Secretary of State, R. Nicholas Burns, characterised India and its equation with the U.S. in a meeting held in Canberra on December 4-5, 2007. This is revealed in a cable, dated January 3, 2008, from the U.S. Embassy in Canberra ( 136155: secret/noforn).

Mr. Burns gave this assessment to his Trilateral Strategic Dialogue counterparts from Australia and Japan “at the TSD senior officials meeting (SOM).” Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Secretary Michael L ‘Estrange and Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka represented their countries.

According to the cable, Mr. Burns stated that “Pakistan was our number one partner in the fight against al Qaida, and we supported the Musharraf government. Therefore, what happened in Pakistan was fundamental to our national security. U/S Burns also noted we are also paying attention to the Pakistan-India Composite Dialogue; while a hoped-for movement on Kashmir had been ‘put on ice' by recent developments in Pakistan, the situation was markedly better than 1998 or 2001-2002.”

The Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister was less enthusiastic. “Yabunaka shared his personal judgment that Musharraf was out of touch with the rest of Pakistan.” Yabunaka also “expressed concern about command and control of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.”

Among other things discussed was “Afghanistan: Concern about Faltering Support in NATO.” Mr. Burns “said Afghanistan had become an existential crisis for NATO, at odds with the ‘one for all and all for one' credo.” Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) Secretary Michael L ‘Estrange “argued the desire of the Afghan government to engage elements of the insurgency was of concern; we needed to avoid any perception of weakness. Handled in the wrong way, this situation could undermine the coalition.”

Further, “Burns briefed on U.S. efforts to recruit Paddy Ashdown to coordinate international civilian efforts; he requested Australia and Japan reiterate to Afghanistan's President Karzai and UNSYG Ban the need for a strong leader on international civilian efforts in Afghanistan. Both Secretary L 'Estrange and DFM Yabunaka agreed to do so.” The reference is to British politician Paddy Ashdown, former member of the British Parliament and leader of the Liberal Democrats for over a decade. In the 1990s, Ashdown forcefully lobbied for military action against Yugoslavia.

The cable also summarises the presentation of Peter Varghese, who is currently Australia's High Commissioner in India but at that time holding another office. “Delivering an intelligence assessment, Australian Office of National Assessment Director General Peter Varghese said India was undergoing a historic transition, especially in regards to economic policy. Politically, while the nation had some sense of its intentions vis-a-vis China and South Asia, it had yet to articulate a strategic worldview. Much of India's future would be defined by its competitive relationship with China, which would shape its relations with the rest of East Asia. India would probably be less patient in its diplomatic relations than China, Varghese noted, but believed its ultimate interests lay with the forces of democracy and democratic change. India, Varghese concluded, viewed democracy as both a values-based and strategic asset.”

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