Saturday, 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: )