How will Wikileaks affect the U.S.-India dynamic?

Last week began with a bang as Wikileaks snuck out its latest offering of classified government cables and documents causing a stir in diplomatic circles. The leaked documents provide a glimpse into the U.S. State Department’s dealings with and impressions of various countries and global leaders. While the veracity of these documents will continue to remain suspect, there is little to suggest that all of the contents of the documents are doctored. Assuming that the information contained in these documents is partially true, there are some interesting and disturbing revelations for India, particularly with regard to Pakistan and China.

Image credit www.skuggen.comProbably the most disparaging of comments about India is a poor assessment of the Cold Start strategy, a military strategy to be implemented in retaliation of terrorist attacks in India. The exposed document revels U.S’ doubts about the deterrent capability of Cold Start for Pakistan, and India’s intentions of every using it given that it did not do so after the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. It also says that several senior government officials have neither “supported, endorsed or advocated” for Cold Start.

Other documents reveal how China blocked a UN Security Council vote on sanctions against Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and its leader Hafiz Saeed at the behest of Pakistan before the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai.  JuD and Hafiz Saeed have been accused by India of having planned terrorist attacks on India. Since then JuD has been put under sanctions and the Pakistan government is tasked with implementing the freeze on assets. However, JuD and Saeed continue to be operational even today.

Another set of documents show the Lashkar-e-Taiba’s annual budget, raised through private funds and charitable networks of JuD, is $ 5.2 million. Hafiz Saeed and LeT’s Zakir-ul-Rehman Lakhvi are said to continue operating and generating funds in spite of having been detained by Pakistani agencies for their involvement in the Mumbai attacks. Still other documents talk of how Pakistan would not stop supporting terrorists against India no matter how much aid poured in from the U.S.  The documents shows a Pakistan obsessed with animosity with India and no amount of money would not make a difference to its intentions about India.

These and other documents from Wikileaks vindicate India’s allegations about Pakistan sponsored terrorism against India, and their role particularly in the 26/11 attacks. While the contents of these documents might not be particularly surprising, it brings a mixed bag of emotions as far as its relations with the U.S. are concerned. On the one hand the leaked cables show how the U.S. is concerned about terrorism emanating from Pakistan, the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and a circumstance necessitated relationship filled with suspicion and distrust. On the other it raises questions about what the U.S was doing sitting on such extensive information about Hafiz Saeed and other terrorist activities in Pakistan? Why did it not act against terrorism in Pakistan with the same speed and determination as it did against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan or against Iraq? Is the U.S. genuinely concerned about terrorism as a whole, or only when it lands on its shores? Is India good only as a trading partner for America, or does it appreciate its strategic importance in South Asia? How true is the ‘natural allies’ rhetoric, or would short term strategic considerations continue to override long-term gains that the U.S-India partnership can provide each country?

India has so far chosen to maintain a stoic silence on the Wikileaks and refrained from criticizing the U.S for the leaking of classified conversations. Irrespective of how damaging the leaks are to security interests or bilateral relations, the sheer number of documents leaked (over 90000) is enough to raise concerns about the confidentiality and privacy of future interactions with the U.S. Though the revelations might not have been too startling, diplomatic bridges have been damaged as is evident from the U.S’ hurried damage control response, including plans to charge Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. With time the memory of these embarrassing revelations will be relegated to history, and all might seem well with the India-U.S relationship. But will the two countries truly be natural allies? Or will the ghosts of Pakistan and U.S’ inaction to the detriment of Indian security interests loom large over this nascent relationship?

Important links:

WikiLeaks U.S. embassy cables: as it happened

US doubts Pak will fight militants

WikiLeaks cables portray Saudi Arabia as a cash machine for terrorists.”

“Wikileaks: China thwarted action against anti-India terrorists”

Cash from Haj pilgrims used to finance 26/11: WikiLeaks”

WikiLeaks cables: Accused Mumbai plotter runs operations from jail