This Article is From Mar 15, 2011

WikiLeaks cable: 'Pro-US' Cabinet reshuffle

WikiLeaks cable: 'Pro-US' Cabinet reshuffle
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 09 NEW DELHI 000657 SIPDIS SIPDIS USDOE FOR U/S DAVID GARMAN, DAS DPUMPHREY, RAJ LUHAR, THOMAS CUTLER, STATE FOR EB/ESC E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/30/2016 TAGS: PGOV PINR PREL ECON ENRG EPET EMIN EAID MASSREF: A. NEW DELHI 166 B. NEW DELHI 165 C. 05 NEW DELHI 9343 D. 05 NEW DELHI 8809 E. 05 NEW DELHI 8507 F. STATE 1151 NEW DELHI 00000657 001.2 OF 009 Classified By: Ambassador David C. Mulford, for reasons 1.4 (B,D) Â1. (C)

Summary: The UPA's January 28 cabinet shuffle signifies a determination to ensure that US/India relations continue to move ahead rapidly, and strengthens the cadre of modernizing reformers at the top of the GOI. Removing contentious and outspoken Iran pipeline advocate Mani Shankar Aiyar from the Petroleum portfolio, the UPA replaced him with the pro-US Murli Deora, who was one of several figures inducted with long-standing ties to the Indo/US Parliamentary Forum (IUPF) and the Embassy.

The UPA also inducted a large number of serving MPs, including seven from the IUPF who have publicly associated themselves with our strategic partnership. To ensure that there are no foreign policy ripples before the President's visit, PM Singh retained the critical MEA portfolio and is likely to hold on to it until after the next session of Parliament concludes and Congress has weathered crucial Assembly elections in Kerala and West Bengal in May. Viewing the shuffle as a shift towards the US, the left has become more alienated from Congress and more determined to obstruct UPA economic liberalization and foreign policy initiatives, all but ensuring political fireworks in the months ahead. The net effect of the reshuffle, however, is a Cabinet that is likely to be excellent for US goals in India (and Iran). End Summary.

Â2. (U) After our analytical paragraphs, this cable includes a full Cabinet list plus bios of new entrants. See paras number 17 and 18. An Eventful Weekend -------------------

Â3. (U) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced a major cabinet shuffle and President Kalam swore in the new members on January 29. Eighteen new personalities were inducted, including 10 Ministers, one Minister of State with Independent Charge, and 11 new Ministers of State. All the new faces were from Congress, including three senior Congress leaders from Maharashtra - Sushil Kumar Shinde (Power), AR Antulay (Minority Affairs) and Murli Deora (Petroleum). Although PM Singh retained the Foreign Affairs portfolio, he announced that he would try to shuffle the Cabinet again after the Budget Session of Parliament (the third week in May.) Most expect him to name a new Foreign Minister at that time. The two top names making the rounds are Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Rajya Sabha MP and former Maharaja of Kashmir Karan Singh. Longtime Embassy contact Anand Sharma was named Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. In the most significant development, the GOI replaced Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar with Murli Deora (Aiyar was retained and was given Panchayati Raj, Youth Affairs & Sports as a consolation prize.) The PM maintained on January 29 that regional considerations took priority, as Congress wanted to provide opportunities to deserving individuals from Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. He also noted NEW DELHI 00000657 002.2 OF 009 that there was a need to ""accommodate MPs with a lot of talent. The Aiyar Controversy ---------------------

Â4. (C) Our Foreign Ministry contacts welcomed Aiyar's departure, commenting that his energy diplomacy had encroached on MEA turf too many times, leading to MEA appeals to the Prime Minister's Office to intercede. Despite the PMO warning to back off, Aiyar's Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MPNG) continued to interfere with MEA attempts to craft policy, our contacts said, citing Pakistan, China, Burma, Bangladesh, Iran and Sudan as areas of intergovernmental conflict. Aiyar's unwillingness to step back reportedly led to the PM's decision to remove him from this high-profile portfolio, and cements MEA's position as the lead bureaucracy on strategic policy making.

Â5. (C) Aiyar's dismissal as Petroleum Minister will leave MEA officials breathing easier, and put MEA back in charge of policy toward these energy suppliers, including the ""problem children"" of Sudan, Burma and Iran. Unlike Aiyar, who cultivated a reputation for anti-Americanism, Murli Deora has been associated with the US/India relationship for years. Lacking Aiyar's ambitions (or entrepreneurial zeal), he will be a more cautious Minister. Clearing these lines of authority should make the PM's job of coordinating India's often-conflicting interests in energy security, trade, investment, anti-terrorism and stronger ties with the West a bit less muddled. His departure also weakens the holdouts fighting a rear-guard action against stronger engagement with the US, who would prefer that India hold true to its non-aligned traditions. Local journalists speculate that Aiyar's parting shot was the leak on January 28 of the USG demarche (ref A) protesting Indian investment in Syrian oil projects, spun by opponents of US-India engagement as another attempt by the US to dictate policy to India.

Â6. (C) Our contacts (protect) in the Government-owned Gas Authority of India Ltd. (GAIL) confirmed that Aiyar had vexed the PMO and MEA by positioning the MPNG to usurp the lead on India,s strategic posture for energy security issues, inducting Additional Secretary Talmiz Ahmad, a senior career diplomat, to lead on oil and gas diplomacy, and taking a pro-active stance on the proposed Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) natural gas pipeline (Reftels B and C). Before Aiyar,s ouster, a Planning Commission energy expert (protect) told us that Aiyar,s international forays in search of oil and gas equity had been taken as ""fishing expeditions"" at Aiyar,s initiative, and that any significant deals would be subject to Cabinet scrutiny before approval. The GAIL contact said the MPNG,s civil bureaucracy had run a whispering campaign against Aiyar calling him autocratic and disrespectful of IAS officers, including a public criticism of MPNG Joint Secretary (for International Cooperation) Prabh Dass in front SIPDIS of government-run entities.

Â7. (C) Aiyar's replacement as Petroleum Minister, Murli Deora, is a stalwart supporter of stronger US-India ties, and one of the few high-profile Congress leaders who embraces the PM's vision of the bilateral relationship. He is currently the Chairman of the India-US Forum of Parliamentarians, a NEW DELHI 00000657 003.2 OF 009 non-partisan, industry-sponsored counterpart to the US Congress's India Caucus that advocates closer political and economic ties to the United States. Deora is a Gandhi family loyalist and a wealthy Mumbai-based industrialist, and is currently serving his fourth term as a member of the Lok Sabha. Deora's only vulnerability, as a Mumbai politician, is his long-standing connection to the Reliance industrial group, which includes significant energy equities.

Â8. (C) One analyst at Petrowatch, an industry publication in Mumbai, noted that Aiyar,s dismissal removes a powerful supporter of the Iran Pipeline project and speculated that it could signal a shift in the GOI's energy-related foreign policy. Our GAIL contact said the private conglomerate Reliance probably lobbied heavily for Deora, particularly in view of Aiyar,s clashes with Reliance during the five year rule of the National Democratic Alliance. Deora said his priority is to strengthen the chronically loss-making public sector oil firms and tackle the fuel subsidy issue, drawing on his experience as chairman of the standing committee on finance. While we expect Deora to more faithfully uphold the PM's foreign policy vision, the MPNG Petroleum Ministry is likely to be less pro-active and energetic in its drive to acquire foreign oil and gas assets than it was under Aiyar's globe-trotting leadership. New Delhi energy analysts have questioned the wisdom of removing Aiyar, predicting that his departure puts several nascent energy partnerships and deals in doubt (including a much-trumpeted pact to cooperate with China on energy purchasing signed during Aiyar's January visit to Beijing). In the end, however, the high-profile deals have all been of highly tentative nature, and Aiyar's self-promoting maverick diplomacy was too much for PM Singh to accommodate. The New Minister of Power -------------------------

Â9. (C) The new Minister of Power, Sushil Kumar Shinde, a close political ally of Sonia Gandhi, fills the ministerial slot vacated by the death last December of Minister PM Sayeed, who was viewed more as a figurehead political appointee. The power ministry is pivotal, in that the power sector must attract huge investment, while being politically-sensitive to needed price increases; and rapid long-term growth in power generation capacity and production is crucial to achieving the GOI goal of sustained 8% annual GDP growth. The power sector,s reliance for growth on most forms of generation - nuclear, hydroelectric, coal-thermal, gas-thermal, wind, and solar - underscores the political sensitivity of related issues outside the Power Ministry's purview, such as seeking natural gas from Iran or alternative foreign sources, civil nuclear energy cooperation with the US, or social and environmental aspects of increasing coal production.

Â10. (C) The UPA Government appointed Shinde as Governor of Andhra Pradesh State after he led the Congress party to victory in the 2004 State Assembly elections in neighboring Maharashtra, where he had been elected Chief Minister in 2003. Shinde was Sonia Gandhi's election campaign manager when she first contested for the Amethi Parliamentary constituency in Lok Sabha. Shinde, age 65, was born into a poor cobbler's family of the disadvantaged (scheduled) Dalit NEW DELHI 00000657 004.2 OF 009 Caste in Solapur district. In 1971, he quit his job as a sub-inspector in the state police intelligence wing to run for and win a seat in Maharashtra,s legislative council. By 1981, he became Finance Minister in Maharashtra,s Government, serving for nine years. The New Minister of Coal and Mines ----------------------------------

Â11. (C) A vindicated Shibu Soren, was re-inducted into the Union Council of Ministers as Minister of Coal. The thickly-bearded tribal leader had been forced to resign in July 2005, both as Minister of Coal and as Chief Minister of Jharkand State, after getting embroiled in a number of criminal cases, including being arrested for inciting arson and violence during a deadly rally in 1975. Earlier he was acquitted of accepting bribes to support the minority government of the late Prime Minister Rao. Soren was elected to parliament in 1980 and to the Bihar State Assembly in 1981. He founded in 1972 the Jharkhand Liberation Front, which successfully achieved Statehood for the coal-rich tribal region of Jharkhand. He has been President of the JLF since 1990.

Â12. (C) Coal now accounts for over 50% of India,s power generation and is projected to remain at 52-55% for at least 20 years thereby requiring sustained production growth to underpin rapid growth in India,s power sector, potentially with close US. cooperation in clean coal technology. Greater exploitation of India,s huge coal reserves faces issues of environmental protection and social disruption in areas with coal seams below tribal areas. And Good News on Kashmir ------------------------

Â13. (C) Another welcome addition to the cabinet is Kashmiri Congress Party Rajya Sabha member Saifuddin Soz, a long-standing contact of the Embassy's Political section. Soz, a Sonia Gandhi confidant, worked discreetly and diligently behind-the-scenes to help launch the PM's dialogue with Kashmiri separatists such as the Mirwaiz, Yasin Malik, and Sajjad Lone. For his loyal service and his successes on Kashmir diplomacy, Sonia has elevated him to the Cabinet. In doing so, she also ensured that a prominent and well-respected Kashmiri Muslim would occupy the important Water Resources portfolio. Kashmir has tremendous water resources, including massive untapped hydroelectric potential. Given the on-going dispute between India and Pakistan over the construction of the Baglihar dam on the Chenab river near Jammu, and Soz's new job's supervision of the India-Pakistan Indus Waters Treaty, it is clear that Soz will play a key role in Delhi's efforts in Kashmir and its dialogue with Pakistan. Soz -- a professor -- is a moderate, earnest gentleman who has been a good friend of the US. He could potentially be Chief Minister of Kashmir one day, or rise even higher in the Cabinet, if he does a good job as minister. Comment - A Boost to US Energy Interests ----------------------------------------

Â14. (C) Our initial assessment is that appointment of the NEW DELHI 00000657 005.2 OF 009 three new energy ministers will boost USG interests by enhancing bilateral cooperation under the US/India Energy Dialogue (Reftel F) prior to US. Department of Energy Under Secretary David Garman,s visit to New Delhi (expected Feb SIPDIS 8-9). Aiyar,s dismissal, following on USG demarches against oil and gas cooperation with Iran and Syria, will probably disrupt the recent momentum built by Aiyar and MPNG Additional Secretary Talmiz Ahmad in favor of the Iran-Pakistan-India natural gas pipeline, as well as cooperation with Syria, as Deora conducts a thorough review of these transactions. And a pro-US Shift ------------------

Â15. (C) The Cabinet shuffle contained lots of good news for the USG, confirming the UPA government's determination to maintain rapid progress in the India/US relationship. The demotion of Aiyar was the most significant indicator. The new entrants with strong pro-US credentials include Saifuddin Soz, Anand Sharma, Ashwani Kumar, Kapil Sibal and Aiyar's replacement Murli Deora. Seven of the new faces are also members of the pro-American Indo/US Parliamentary Forum, while the induction of so many entrants from the Rajya Sabha reflects the declining importance of a mass political base. The timing of the shuffle and the PM's retention of the MEA portfolio were dictated by the impending POTUS visit, and reflects the PM's commitment to ensure that there is no foreign policy surprises before the visit. That Angers the Left --------------------

Â16. (C) The undeniable pro-American tilt of the Cabinet shuffle has infuriated the Left, which will view it as a throwing down of the gauntlet and an invitation to open warfare. The editorial comment of the pro-Left ""Hindu"" was typical ""Mr. Aiyar paid with his job for...going against the Government's strategic pro-US policy and its increasing acceptance of unilateralism and unipolarity."" Increasingly infuriated by what they view as Congress subservience to the US, the Left is likely to become even more uncooperative in the aftermath of this move. Congress hoped to pacify the Left by bringing in Jairam Ramesh, who has been close to the Communists while in the National Advisory Council and Vayalar Ravi (Overseas India Affairs), who has been a consistent critic of the UPA's economic liberalization and pro-US tilt. These moves are unlikely to mend the growing rift between the Left and Congress, however, making increased confrontation more likely. The New Cabinet ---------------

Â17. (U) After the Cabinet shuffle the current shape of the Cabinet is as follows: Cabinet Ministers Manmohan Singh--Prime Minister, External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee--Defense Arjun Singh--Human Resource Development Sharad Pawar--Agriculture, Food & Civil Supplies NEW DELHI 00000657 006.2 OF 009 Lalu Prasad Yadav--Railways Shivraj Patil--Home P Chidambaram--Finance Kamal Nath--Commerce & Industry Ram Vilas Paswan--Chemicals & Fertilizers, Steel Jaipal Reddy--Urban Development PR Dasmunshi--Information & Broadcasting, Parliamentary Affairs Mahavir Prasad--Small Scale, Agro & Rural Industries PR Kyndiah--Tribal Affairs, Development of North East TR Baalu-- Shipping, Road Transport & Highways Shankarsinh Vaghela--Textiles HR Bharadwaj--Law & Justice Sushil Kumar Shinde--Power Mani Shankar Aiyer--Panchayati Raj, Youth Affairs & Sports Sis Ram Ola--Mines Meira Kumar--Social Justice & Empowerment K Chandra Shekar Rao--Labor & Employment A Raja--Environment & Forests Dayanidhi Maran--Information Technology & Communications Anbumani Ramdoss--Health & Family Welfare Shibu Soren--Coal (new) AR Antulay--Minority Affairs (new) Vyalar Ravi--Overseas Indian Affairs (new) Murli Deora--Petroleum (new)-IUPF member Ambika Soni--Tourism & Culture (new) Saifuddin Soz--Water Resources (new) Santosh Mohan Dev--Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises (new) Prem Chanda Gupta--Company Affairs (new) Kapil Sibal--Science & Technology (new) Ministers of State with Independent Charge Oscar Fernandes--No Portfolio allotted yet (new) GK Vasan-- Statistics & Program Implementation (new) Renuka Choudhury--Women & Child Development (previously Tourism & Culture) Subodh Kant Sahai--Food Processing Vilas Muttemwar--Non-conventional Energy Sources Kumari Selja--Urban Employment & Poverty Alleviation Praful Patel--Civil Aviation Minister of State E Ahamed-- External Affairs Suresh Pachauri--Personnel, Parliamentary Affairs BK Handique--Chemicals & Fertilizers (previously defense) Mrs. P Lakshmi--Health & Family Welfare D Narayan Rao--Coal & Mines Shaqeel Ahmed--Information Technology & Communications Rao Inderjit Singh--Defense (previously MEA) Narainbhai Rathwa--Railways KH Muniyappa--Road Transport & Highways MV Rajashekharan--Planning Kantilal Bhuria--Agriculture, Food and Civil Supplies Manik Rao Gavit--Home Affairs Sri Prakash Jaiswal--Home Affairs Prithviraj Chavan--Prime Ministers Office Taslimuddin--Agriculture, Food and Civil Supplies Mrs. Suryakanta Patil--Rural Development, Parliamentary Affairs NEW DELHI 00000657 007.2 OF 009 A Narendra--Rural Development Mohammed Ali Ashraf Fatimi--Human Resources Development R Velu--Railways SS Palanimanickam--Finance S Regupathy--Home Affairs K Venkatapathy--Law & Justice Ms. S Jagadeesan--Social Justice & Empowerment EVKS Elangovan--Commerce & Industry Mrs. Kanti Singh--Heavy Industry Namo Narayan Meena--Environment & Forests Akhilesh Prasad Singh--Agriculture, Food & Civil Supplies Pawan Kumar Bansal--Finance (new) T Subbirami Reddy--No portfolio allotted yet (new)- IUPF member Anand Sharma--External Affairs (new)- IUPF member Ajay Maken--Urban Development (new) - IUPF member Pallam Raju--Defense (new) - IUPF member CS Sahu--Labor (new) Akhilesh Das--Steel (new) Jairam Ramesh--No portfolio allotted yet (new) Ashwani Kumar--Industry (new) - IUPF member Ms. D Purandareswari--Human Resources Development (new) - IUPF member Dinsha Patel--No portfolio allotted yet (new) Bios of New Entrants --------------------

Â18. (C)(All Bios): Sushil Kumar Shinde - Minister for Power - A long time Congress party activist and Gandhi family loyalist, Shinde was the Governor of Andhra Pradesh until he took this position. Prior to that, he was Chief Minister of Maharashtra. He has held many positions in the Congress party including General Secretary and Congress Working Committee Member. He is a dalit and his inclusion in the cabinet is seen as an attempt to reach out to the community. Shibu Soren - Minister for Coal - Leader of the regional party Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), Soren is considered to be the father of the JMM movement that ultimately led to the creation of Jharkhand state. He was a minister earlier in the cabinet, quit after he was charged with arson and rioting for acts he committed during the hey days of the JMM movement in the 1980s. The charges have since been quashed and so Soren comes back into the cabinet. AR Antulay - Minister for Minority Affairs - Another Gandhi family loyalist, Antulay is from Maharashtra and has been Chief Minister of the state. He was infamous in the early 1980s for floating fictitious trusts and amassing money in the name of Indira Gandhi that led to the fall of his government in Maharashtra. Antulay has been in the political wilderness since then, but as a Muslim was rehabilitated as a concession to the Muslim community. Vyalar Ravi - Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs - Another old time party loyalist, Ravi is the first UPA Minister from Kerala, and his induction was a concession to that state, where the Congress government faces the voters this year. Ravi also comes from a backward caste. NEW DELHI 00000657 008.2 OF 009 Murli Deora - Minister for Power - Long considered as a key fund raiser for Congress, Deora has been a parliamentarian for many years, as well as President of the Mumbai District Congress Committee. He is well-known as a friend to the business community and pro-US. His son, Milind, is also a member of the Lok Sabha. Ambika Soni - Minister for Tourism & Culture - Having cut her political teeth under the tutelage of Sanjay Gandhi, Soni is a long term Gandhi family loyalist. Since Sonia Gandhi's entry into active politics, Soni has been one of her close confidants and supporters and was for many years the Secretary in charge of the Congress President,s office. SIPDIS Always quick to defend the party and Sonia on any issue, Soni,s induction into the cabinet is seen as a reward for her loyalty. Saifuddin Soz - Minister for Water Resources - A veteran parliamentarian from the Kashmir valley, Soz was environment minister in the Gujral government and his was the crucial vote that brought down the Vajpayee government in March 1998. Soz was expelled from the National Congress for defying the party whip and voting against the BJP-led government. Soz,s induction into the cabinet is a reward for his hard work to promote the ongoing dialogue between the government and the Kashmir separatist groups and allows Congress to claim credit for appointing a Muslim and Kashmiri to the Cabinet. GK Vasan - Minister of State for Statistics and Program Implementation - Son of the veteran Congress leader GK Moopanar, Vasan is from Tamil Nadu and is the President of the state's Congress party. His induction is a concession to Tamil Nadu, where Congress hopes to benefit in elections later this year. Pawan Kumar Bansal - Minister of State for Finance - A Congress MP from Chandigarh, Bansal is a long time party loyalist. He recently became the subject of controversy after providing MP development funds to the Chandigarh Golf Club in return for a privileged membership. T Subbirami Reddy - No Portfolio - Another major fund raiser for the Congress party, Reddy is an industrialist and film producer. Known as the best party-giver in town, Reddy has been in Parliament since 1989. He is from Andhra Pradesh. Anand Sharma - External Affairs - A Congress spokesman, Sharma is a former President of the Youth Congress and a well-known Gandhi family loyalist. He is very friendly to the US, where one of his two sons receives treatment for autism. Sharma is a Rajya Sabha MP from Himachal Pradesh. Ajay Maken - Urban Development - One of the younger MPs in the Lok Sabha, Maken is serving his first term. He was widely praised for his performance as Minister for Power and Transport in the Delhi government and Speaker of the Delhi Assembly. A tough task master, he is credited with initiating power reforms in Delhi. M Pallam Raju - Defense - Educated at Temple University, Philadelphia, Raju is a Lok Sabha Member from Andhra Pradesh. A member of the house from 1989-91 and an engineer by profession, Raju worked in the US and Norway before coming NEW DELHI 00000657 009.2 OF 009 back to India and joining politics. CS Sahu - Labor - A first time member of the Lok Sabha, Sahu has been in Congress politics for a long time, serving as Mayor of Behrampur, Orissa. A lackluster politician, his induction into the council is mainly to give representation to Orissa. Akhilesh Das - Steel - A member of the Rajya Sabha since 1996, Das is the publisher of a leading Hindi daily ""Jansatta, "" and was Mayor of Lucknow. Das has a Ph.D. in Management Studies from Agra University. Jairam Ramesh - No portfolio - Along with Manmohan Singh, considered one of the leading members of the Congress Economics brain trust, Ramesh is a Rajya Sabha member. Close to Sonia Gandhi, he is one of her key advisors on economic issues. Ashwani Kumar - Industry - A long standing Rajya Sabha member, Kumar is another Gandhi family loyalist. He is a very successful Supreme Court lawyer and strong proponent of closer US/India ties. D Purandareswari - Human Resources Development - A Daughter of former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister NT Rama Rao, Purandareswari is serving her first term in the Lok Sabha. She has been brought into the Cabinet as a reward for her strong performance in the house. Dinsha Patel - No portfolio - A member of the Lok Sabha from Gujarat since 1996, Patel is a veteran Congressman. He was a member of the state assembly from 1975 to 1996. He has been brought in to give representation to the powerful Patel community of Gujarat.

Â19. (U) Visit New Delhi's Classified Website: ( MULFORD