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An American diplomat seemed impressed by Congress youth leader Rahul Gandhi, judging by a leaked cable to Washington.
The cables sent from the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi since 2005 and made public this week by WikiLeaks contain descriptions of a range of meetings with top leaders as well as accounts of some of the regular occurrences of life here.
We previously excerpted from some of the more politically dramatic cables. Here are some more highlights:
‘Young Man in a Hurry’
Charges d’Affaires Peter Burleigh meets with Congress youth leader Rahul Gandhi on May 23, 2009:
“Gandhi conceded that many educated, upper middle class urban Indians dismiss politics as a dirty business, but he countered that there is a massive wave of interest in politics and service by younger Indians in small towns and rural areas. Noting that young people make up a majority of India’s population and electorate, Gandhi said that for many, politics is a ‘black box’ to which entry is opaque. Noting unselfconsciously that most Indian politicians got into politics through family connections or friends, he said that establishing an open and transparent process of candidate recruitment starting at the most basic level and democratizing the party would do much to aid Congress in the coming years by bringing in fresh faces and new ideas.”
He summarized his impression of the Congress party chief’s son like so: “Gandhi came off as a practiced politician who knew how to get his message across and was comfortable with the nuts and bolts of party organization and vote counting. He was precise and articulate and demonstrated a mastery that belied the image some have of Gandhi as a dilettante. Given his commitment to party building, it seems unlikely he would seek a Cabinet position anytime soon.”
Sonia Gandhi’s ‘Italian Personality is Clearly Evident’
An August 2006 meeting between ruling Congress Party chief Sonia Gandhi and the wife of then California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is described in a cable entitled “A garrulous Sonia Gandhi opens up to Maria Shriver,” transmitted by then deputy chief of mission Geoff Pyatt:
“Mrs. Gandhi was reluctant to provide details regarding her decision to turn down the Prime Minister post after the UPA’s surprise 2004 electoral victory, stating that ‘I am often asked about this, but tell people that I will write a book someday with the whole story.’ She would only say that she ‘felt better’ that someone else became PM and ‘did not regret’ her decision. Shriver congratulated Mrs. Gandhi for her resoluteness and described her as ‘courageous.’”
In the same conversation, when the two women had moved on to discussing facilities for the disabled in their respective countries, “Mrs. Gandhi conceded that Indian government institutions for the intellectually disabled are ‘nothing to write home about,’ leaving parents and NGOs to deal with the problem, and that in rural areas, such children are ‘often hidden’ and their disability ‘kept secret.’”
On the policy front, “Mrs. Gandhi pointed out that ‘population control’ is a political taboo in India after Indira Gandhi was voted out of office over this issue. Although she insisted allegations of forced vasectomies and other abuses were ‘highly exaggerated’ and ‘politically motivated,’ the historical memory has forced the UPA [United Progressive Alliance, the Congress-led coalition] to focus on raising awareness and providing basic health services and means that progress on reducing the birth rate will be ‘slow.’”
The cable concluded by saying: “Despite her carefully erected Indian persona, her basic Italian personality is clearly evident in her mannerisms, speech and interests. She presents an intriguing enigma of a warm private personality that remains concealed and is available only to her closest confidants and family members.”
Mr. Pyatt is now principal deputy secretary in the South and Central Asian affairs bureau of the State Department.
‘Valentine’s Day Vignettes: Rainbows and Pink Hearts’
Ambassador Timothy J. Roemer describes life in India, including how Valentines’ Day was celebrated last year in this February 2010 cable:
“February 14 marked the first time some couples were able to paint the town pink in India. On July 2, the Delhi High Court overturned some provisions of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a colonial-era law that outlawed same gender sex between two consenting adults. The GOI allowed the historic ruling to stand after deciding not to appeal it.
Over six months later, Archie’s, India’s largest greeting card company, gave the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community another cause for celebration by selling cards targeted for the community in 500 stores across New Delhi and major Indian cities to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Archie’s spokesman Yohan Arya told the Times of India that the company had been considering making available several LGBT cards for some time. They decided the time was right after the July 2 high court judgment. ‘The court judgment …clearly said that it’s legal to be gay… so we felt this was the right time to add these cards,’ Arya added. (It is not yet known how well these new cards sold.)
New Delhi also embraced the LGBT community by focusing on them as customers for Valentine’s Day celebrations. Clubs and lounges were buzzing with theme parties and special cocktails, with some bars openly encouraging LGBT couples – the first time this has happened in New Delhi.”
Congress Party spokesmen could not immediately be reached for comment. The U.S. embassy in Delhi has said the State Department does not comment on materials that may have been leaked, including on their authenticity.
Fuente: India Real Time