Hillary checks out pranab, and the competition


Staff member
Mumbai March 18:

“To which industrial or business groups is Pranab Mukherjee beholden? Whom will he seek to help through his policies? What are Mukherjee's priorities in the upcoming budget... ?”

“Why was Mukherjee chosen for the finance portfolio over Montek Singh Ahluwalia? How do Mukherjee and Ahluwalia get along?” These were among the questions U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton posed in a cable to the New Delhi Embassy in September 2009, a few months after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh settled in for a second term. The questions are focussed on India's “New Government Economic Leaders,” particularly on the Finance Minister.

They seem to imply that Washington had been expecting either P. Chidambaram to return as Finance Minister or Montek Singh Ahluwalia to be elevated to that post. “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?” Also, “What is Mukherjee's relationship with the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, D.V. Subbarao? How does Subbarao view the removal of Chidambaram from the Minister of Finance slot? What impact has his removal had on relations between the finance ministry and the RBI?”

The September 14, 2009 cable (225053: secret/noforn) asks: “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 sharp Secretary of State also asks: “What are Mukherjee's views of the US bilateral economic relationship and where does he see the relationship Headed? What areas of cooperation is he eager to advance? How does he see the US-China economic relationship in comparison to the US-India relationship?”

Washington analysts, writes Ms. Clinton to the New Delhi Embassy, “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.” The topics include the attitudes and likely directions of a few Ministers and top officials.

“What policies are Mukherjee and other leaders considering to address the global financial crisis? What does Prime Minister Singh think about Mukherjee's new role as finance minister?” Ms. Clinton wants to get the measure of Minister for Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma. “Why was Sharma chosen for the job? What are his larger ambitions? 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?”

Other queries on Mr. Sharma: “What policies does Sharma plan to pursue? How does he view India's trade policies? What are his views on Prime Minister Singh's plans for gradual economic reform? What does he perceive as India's primary trade obstacles? What are Sharma's views on the World Trade Organization (WTO)? How will he approach initial meetings with his counterparts? What does he think of previous Minister of Commerce Kamal Nath's actions over the past five years? How close will Sharma remain to the NAMA-11? Is he willing to begin discussions with the US to advance WTO negotiations? How does Sharma view US-India economic relations?”

“How does Sharma view India's current Foreign Direct Investment guidelines? Which sectors does he plan to open further? Why is he reluctant to open multi-brand retail? What are his views on the special economic zones?”