Obama transition team told not to include Kashmir,India in Holbrookes mandate

January 27th, 2009 - 5:22 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Jan.27 (ANI): A high-level delegation from India is reported to have warned American foreign policy experts, including three officials who were part of the formal Obama transition team — that New Delhi might preemptively make Richard Holbrooke persona non grata if his mandate officially included India or Kashmir.
The warning was conveyed at an off-the-record Aspen Strategy Group meeting held at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington, D.C. in early December, people familiar with the meeting said.
Among the Obama transition figures who attended the meeting, held as part of the Aspen Institute’’s U.S. India Strategic Dialogue, were former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig; Kurt Campbell, the director of the Aspen Strategy Group who is expected to be named assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs; and former Pentagon official Ashton Carter, a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School.
Obama administration officials, however, insist that no member of the transition team met with foreign governments or representatives of foreign governments during the transition.
One official said in an e-mail message that the Obama transition team did not have to be influenced to exclude India from Holbrooke’’s official mission, because it was “not contemplated” for the South Asia envoy’’s portfolio to have an Indian role.
According to the New York Times”, Holbrookes name as envoy for South Asia was doing the rounds as early as January 7.
“The notion of an envoy on Kashmir or that would include Kashmir came up as soon as Obama mentioned it,” one Washington South Asia expert not associated with any of the campaigns and who did not attend the dialogue, said on condition of anonymity.
“It was widely discussed by the 50 key South Asia watchers,” he added.
And while the Obama transition may not have met with any foreign governments or representatives of foreign governments in any official capacity, foreign governments including India’’s did try to influence the future administration’’s policy decisions by working the phones, meeting with Obama transition figures at the margins of conferences, at Washington receptions, and through third parties.
“The message was clearly conveyed by India to the Transition and received,” The Cable was told.
“It led to a change in how Richard Holbrooke’’s mission was publicly described and unveiled.”
“There was a whole delegation of Indians who came through in early December through the Aspen dialogue,” he said.
“They were almost all former officials. They were interacting … with people in various capacities, in addition to formal meetings inside the government. They were all over this - what Holbrooke’’s portfolio would be. The Indians were preemptively irate and were reacting in perhaps a disproportionate way” due to concerns that Holbrooke’’s mandate might officially include India or Kashmir.
The National Security Council did not respond to messages left by Foreign Policy. (ANI)

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