‘Pranab’s appointment as FM concerned US’

The latest from the WikiLeaks reveals how top US policy makers always kept an eye on India.

Updated: Mar 18, 2011, 12:54 PM IST

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: A day after the cash-for-votes exposé, a secret US cable released by WikiLeaks, Thursday, claimed that President Obama’s administration was concerned about the changing economic leadership in India.

As per a report published by a leading daily, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had in September 2009 asked various questions related to India`s “New Government Economic Leaders’’ to its Embassy in New Delhi.

The details of the cable, sent by US Secretary of State, reveals how the US administration was concerned about who will take charge of the finance portfolio and what New Delhi’s economic policies will hold for them.

The publication of the cable reveals how Hillary Clinton sought answers from the US Embassy about senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee’s appointment as Finance Minister, his association with any industrial or business groups and his priorities in the upcoming Budget.

The cable also exposed the US concerns about the factors which led the finance portfolio finally going into the hands of Mukherjee and why the ruling coalition overlooked Montek Singh Ahluwalia- the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission and a noted economist.

The personal equation between India’s two key figures- Mukherjee and Ahluwalia- and weather they get along well was one of those questions which were of concern to Hillary Clinton.

As per the report, the questionnaire was sent to the US Embassy in Delhi just few months ahead of Dr Manmohan Singh starting his 2nd term as Prime Minister after UPA’s victory in the General Elections in 2009.

The queries, which mainly focused on the New Delhi’s new point-man to handle the crucial Finance portfolio, further talks about Washington’s expectation about P Chidambaram returning as Finance Minister or Ahluwalia’s elevation to the post.

Not only this, the US Secretary of State had also sought answers to things like the relationship between Mukherjee and the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, DV Subbarao, the RBI Governor’s opinion about Chidambaram’s ouster from the Minister of Finance slot and its impact on the coordination and functioning of the Finance Ministry and the RBI.

The details contained in the September 14, 2009 cable (225053: secret/noforn) suggest that the US administration wanted to know “How does Ahluwalia feel about remaining in this position? Which, if any, particular agenda items will he be pushing? Does he get on well with the prime minister?”
“What are Mukherjee`s primary economic concerns and his views on Prime Minister Singh`s economic reform Agenda? How quickly does he plan to 5-pursue these reforms? What is his ability to enact reforms?”

The US Secretary of State known for her sharp vision was interested in knowing about how much importance does Pranab attached to US-India bilateral economic relationship and where does he see the relationship headed?

The US was particularly interested in knowing what will be the major areas of concern for Pranab and what will be the avenues available for the two sides to expand economic co-operation.

New Delhi’s views on expanding US-China economic relationship vis-à-vis its ties with Washington was significant to the US administration.
The cable also exposes how Washington’s analysts were keeping an eye over the fast changing economic scene in India.

The WikiLeaks quotes Clinton telling the New Delhi Embassy, “Washington analysts are closely monitoring the newly appointed economic leaders in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition government. We are interested in their views regarding future economic policy, opportunities for bilateral economic cooperation, and their ability to work together as a cohesive team. As time and resources permit, we would highly value any information on the following topics and questions, and plan to incorporate post reporting into finished analysis for policymakers.”

However, the queries posted by Washington also focused on the attitudes and likely directions of a few Ministers and top officials.
How the Indian leaders viewed the global financial crisis and what significvant steps they were about to take to address it was something that troubled the US administration.

Another top leader who featured in the cable was Minister for Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma. Why was he elevated to the post and what were his larger ambitions was something which the US was interested in.

The cable also revealed Hillary asking questions such as “Why was Kamal Nath moved to the road transport and highways portfolio? What are Nath`s views on the change? Does Sharma get along with Mukherjee and Prime Minister Singh?” And also, “What is Sharma`s relationship with Ahluwalia?”

The startling revelations made by the whistle-blowing website once again indicates how the change of guard in New Delhi and its stand on international issues has always concerned the top US policy makers and analysts, who have always kept a hawk’s eye on India.