India’s babus lack capacity, are stove piped and slow-moving: Americans (wikileaks)

India’s old-world and “capacity-constrained” bureaucracy is the biggest impediment to improving relations its relationship with the US, US embassy officials told Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a briefing paper prepared for her July 2009 visit.

According to the Peter Burleigh, the in-charge of the American Embassy in New Delhi, even as the defence forces of the two countries have tried to exchange expertise and help each other, officials sitting in Delhi are still stuck in the cold-war mentality and have been unhelpful.

He also felt that the UPA2 government would be better positioned to improve Indo-US ties because of its independence from “anti-American coalition partners” (read the Left Parties.) He also urged Clinton to take advantage of India’s “readily apparent eagerness” to emerge as a major power in global politics.

“India’s goal is to become a regional power and global player. The ambition at the top echelons of the government is readily apparent, as India vigorously pursues its number one foreign policy goal — a permanent UNSC seat.

“India uses its voice in the G-20 and active engagement in multilateral fora like the East Asia Summit and Brazil-Russia-India-China (BRIC) Summit to raise its profile. The same ambition drives military modernization efforts and spurs India to take on greater security responsibilities, not only in longstanding UN peacekeeping operations, but also in joint security efforts such as anti-piracy operations off Somalia,” Burleigh advised Clinton.

He also advised her to address Indian concerns that the Indo-US relationship is no longer what it used to under the Bush administration, under the new Obama administration. “..they believe the new administration has focused on China as the key player on Asian issues,” he warned.

In uncharacteristically undiplomatic language, Burleigh painted Indian bureaucracy as the villain that prevents India from moving forward on many crucial issues — including co-operation with the US.

“There is a lack of capacity in every sector of the Indian bureaucracy..” he noted, adding that “bureaucratic inertia and recalcitrant officials in the Ministries of External Affairs and Defense” were making it difficult to move forward on tighter co-operation.

“India’s bureaucracy remains stove piped and slow-moving, and in many instances populated by senior officials who came of age during the Cold War, steeped in the “”non-aligned”” rhetoric of the 60s and 70s, and perhaps afraid to take forward leaning stances.”

But the government has become more open to American help after the Mumbai attacks, he added.

“In general, however, progress on increased tangible programs reains slow, and as in the defense relationship, India often foregoes opportunities through failing to respond to offers within needed time frames,” he added.
Hillary Clinton completed her five-day tour of India on 25 July 2009.