New Delhi: Washington preferred Pranab Mukherjee as India’s defence minister instead of AK Antony, secret US cables exposed by WikiLeaks say.
The US believes Antony goes very slow in signing key bilateral military deals and also on other matters.
The US, however, is excited about India’s increasing reliance on it for arms imports, in the wake of the latter getting "frustrated" with its time-tested ally Russia following massive delays and price hikes in defence projects.
The US embassy cables also highlight American desperation for exporting more and more weaponry to New Delhi as well as become signatory to bilateral "foundational agreements" in order to take further the strategic relationship.
However, the cables said "bureaucratic inertia and recalcitrant officials" in the defence and foreign ministries of India continue to "complicate attempts to improve the partnership", which in turn frustrates the US.
On the other hand, the US heaped praise on India’s armed forces for their "uniformed leadership", especially the Navy.
The cables made special mention of Mukherjee, who the US believes is "a minister who has demonstrated the ability to conclude bilateral agreements without painstaking reviews".
The remarks in praise of Mukherjee were made in relation to his involvement in the discussions on the EUM (end-use monitoring) pact, which allows US to periodically inspect its defence equipment and technology sold to India.
The US was assured by none other than Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao last year that with the Left parties no longer "constraining foreign policy", the "Indian government shared the US perspective and the only issue now was how to educate the naysayers" on foundational agreements.
However, so far India has not been able to finalise the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA), Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum Agreement (CISMOA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA).
And, Antony is leading the pack of those opposed to these pacts.