Obama kicks BP’s ass but warns India to ease off on Dow Chemical

Barack Obama’s administration is busy kicking six kinds of shit out of BP, a foreign company whose subsidiary committed an environmental crime against US citizens, but Obama and his advisors see no contradiction or irony in trying to get Dow Chemical off the hook of its inherited Bhopal liability for contaminating the water thus causing cancers and birth defects among of tens of thousands of Indian citizens.

The Times Now TV channel has obtained copies of emails exchanged on July 30 between India’s Montek Singh Alhuwalia and Michael Froman, Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor in which Froman issues a clear warning to the Indian government that pursuing Dow could have “a chilling effect on our investment relationship”.

The Times Now TV story

For the present Government, the Bhopal Gas tragedy has raised enough public anger so much so that a Group of Minister (GoM) was constituted that ensured that compensation was increased. But in all of this, despite New Delhi trying its best to build on the relation with Washington, an email exchange that TIMES NOW has accessed is a clear proof of the United States trying to strike a deal over Bhopal.

At a time when New Delhi has managed to find consensus over the Nuclear Liability Bill, the kind of demand that US President Barack Obama’s assistant makes, clearly is meant to put pressure on New Delhi. The warning of sorts is to ensure pressure is reduced on DOW Chemicals.

The government is currently working on a petition demanding Rs 1500 crore extra from DOW chemicals for the victims of the Bhopal tragedy as compensation.

The email that TIMES NOW has a copy of was written by Deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia and sent to Michael Froman, the Deputy NSA of the United States and India’s man at the World Bank – Mr Pulok Chatterjee.

This email was sent on the 30th of July just two days before a matter of crucial importance for India was to be reviewed at the World Bank. In the email, Ahluwalia says that while New Delhi enjoys United Kingdom’s support, it would also need the support of the United States which is a member of the World Bank audit committee. It is the IBRD board that was to decide on the crucial Indian matter.

First email: Montek Singh Ahluwalia writes to Mike Froman

What Ahluwalia wrote in the email:

To: Froman, Michael B
CC: Pulok Chatterji
Subject: MIKE

“I wonder of I can enlist your help on a matter relating to India’s borrowing from the World Bank. We are about to hit the arbitrary single borrower limit in IBRD which will force IBRD to cut new lending to India drastically unless the limit is relaxed. You may remember I had mentioned this as an issue when we discussed the IBRD capital increase in G20. The matter is coming up in the IBRD Board audit committee on Monday. The US is a member. The management wants a relaxation for India. Could you speak to the Treasury to get the US ED on our side? At a time when countries are graduated out of soft assistances it is normal to switch them to IBRD. But we are faced with a sharp reduction. I am asking our ED’s office to send you on my behalf a note which will be self explanatory. Larry will fully understand. Hope you can help.”

Second email: US Deputy NSA writes to Ahluwalia

On the same day, Michael Froman writes back to Montek Singh Ahluwalia. This email was just addressed to Montek Singh Ahluwalia and not to Polock Chatterjee. In this email, the warning is clear.

From: Froman, Michael B
To: Montek Singh Ahluwalia
Sent: July 30, 2010
Subject: RE

“We are aware of this issue and we will look into it. While I’ve got you, we are hearing a lot of noise about the Dow Chemical issue. I trust that you are monitoring it carefully. I am not familiar with all the details, but I think we want to avoid developments which put a chilling effect on our investment relationship.”

TIMES NOW’s Senior Editor Srinjoy Choudhary who has broken this story for TIMES NOW tried speaking to Montek Singh Ahluwalia. On both the occassions, Ahluwalia did not deny the existence of the email exchange:

Q. This relates to when India asked for addl extension of borrower limit at IBRB, you had written to Micheal Froman, and Michael Froman has written back to you as well, saying fine, but there is a lot of noise we are hearing on Dow Chemicals and we want this noise to come down. Sir, can you tell us what the Indian Government will do on this.

A: What is your question. I am not engaged in any interaction on the issue of DOW chemicals

Q. But sir Michael Froman wrote to you. He emailed you.

A You know, let me put it this way, what I’m saying is that I have at no stage engaged in any interaction or reacted on these issues. These are sub-judicial issues. What others are asking about it, ask others about it.

Q. Yes, I agree, but you wrote on the IBRD extension limit.

A. You know I can’t remember if I wrote to him, or spoke to him.

Q. And he has written back saying that you know fine.

A. By the way, I do not interpret any communication from Froman as indicating that the two are linked. It is true that the U.S businesses, U.S Govt, they may be concerned about what is happening on that front. We have not, I have not interacted on that issue. I’ve never expressed a view on that issue. And basically there are other parts of the Govt dealing with it, and it’s going through due process.

Q. Sir, I entirely accept your point, but.

A. I think that is all I have to say. Because we will just be repeating ourselves.

Q. Sir one more, one more question.

A. No..No, I’ve said what I had to say.

Q. But sir, you forwarded a message….

(Montek walks away.)

Minutes later, as Ahluwalia emerged from his meeting, Srinjoy Choudhary tried speaking to him again asking him persistent questions about the email exchange. Again, Ahluwalia does not deny the existence of the email exchange or what the US Deputy NSA had said.

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