November 27, 2010



The media has reported that the US has warned India and other key governments across the world about a new potentially embarrassing release of classified documents by the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks which may harm the American interests and create tension in its ties with its "friends". State Department Spokesman P J Crowley has been quoted as saying: ""We have reached out to India to warn them about a possible release of documents."

2. Naturally, there has been considerable speculation as to what could be the contents of the leaks that could embarrass India. One could only speculate and there is always a danger of speculations in such matters going wrong. Yet, I would make the following observations even at the risk of their proving to be off the mark:

* Most of the Wikileaks till now have been of documents relating to contemporary (post-Cold War) events, particularly relating to Afghanista and Iraq. There has not been much leak of documents of the Cold War period.

* Initially, Wikileaks released thousands of documents relating to Afghanistan. Subsequently, it released documents on Iraq. This showed that the source or sources of Wikileaks in the US Government had access to documents of the State Department and the Pentagon relating to Afghanistan and Iraq and had very little access to documents on other subjects.

* It is, therefore, possible that the documents involving India which have reached Wikileaks relate to India's policies on Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran.

* Among the various events relating to Afghanistan and Iraq in which India figured during this period, four could be sensitive from India's point of view.

Firstly, the pressure on the Atal Behari Vajpayee Government by the administration of George Bush to send a Division of the Indian Army to Iraq. By July,2003, the Vajpayee Government had decided to say no to Washington DC, but there was a lot of voices in Delhi in favour of accepting the US request.

Secondly, the papers captured by the US intelligence after the occupation of Iraq from the Iraqi Government Departments showing or corroborating the alleged involvement of a leader or leaders of the Congress (I) in contacts with the Saddam Hussein Government for acquiring preferential quotas for the import of oil from Iraq.

Thirdly, the pressure exercised by the Bush Administration on the Manmohan Singh Government for voting against Iran in the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. The Government of India succumbed to this pressure as a quid pro quo for the Indo-US civil nuclear co-operation agreement of July,2005.

Fourthly, the analysis and assessment made in the State Department and the Pentagon regarding Pakistani allegations of Indian involvement in Balochistan.

3. Is it possible that Wikileaks might have also got hold of diplomatic cables between the US Embassy in New Delhi and Washinton DC on Indian political leaders, bureaucrats and policy-making? If one goes by the demonstrated access of Wikileaks till now, one would rate this danger as low, but one can never be certain. ( 28-11-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )

Warning and apology before whistle blows

New Delhi, Nov. 27: US officials in Washington and New Delhi have spent the past 48 hours apologising in advance for any uncharitable words they fear some of their own may have used against Indians that are about to be leaked.

Whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks has threatened to release, in the next few days, classified US documents that may harm Washington’s interests, embarrass its friends, and create tension between them.

No one yet knows what exactly will be leaked but the Americans have reason to worry. Papers declassified a few years ago had shown US President Richard Nixon referring to Indira Gandhi as an “old witch” during the Bangladesh war, and his secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, observing: “The Indians are bastards, anyway.”

Indian officials, though, are worried less about insults and more about whether WikiLeaks might expose the intelligence practices and personnel that New Delhi employs to secure its interests in the region, particularly Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Sources said the Americans were now privy to these practices because of closer counter-terrorism cooperation with India and that, via them, these details may have landed in the hands of WikiLeaks.

The website says the size of the next release will be “seven times” the 400,000 Iraq-Afghanistan war logs it published last month, deeply embarrassing Washington.

In Delhi, some recalled the April 2003 leak of a US study on military relations with India, but said the WikiLeaks documents may have more serious implications for India’s security.

The 2003 study, based on interviews with 40-odd US policy makers, described Indian bureaucrats and generals as people who could be “easily slighted or insulted”, were “difficult to work with”, and were “obsessed” with history rather than the future. One commentator said Indians “cannot think strategically”.

The interviewees criticised Indians’ obsession with protocol, and the country’s “rigid and centralised” bureaucracy that was inimical to individual decision-making.

In 2003, New Delhi had not reacted to the report probably keeping the balance of power in mind, but the situation may have changed a little since then. Agencies quoted US state department spokesperson P.J. Crowley as saying: “We have reached out to India to warn them about a possible release of documents.”

The Americans can only draw hope from another set of declassified records that showed Kissinger saying about Indira, five years after the 1971 war, that “I wish we had a man as strong as she in our cabinet”.


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