(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
March 27, 2011
A Government Compromised
THE publication of the confidential US diplomatic cables emanating from India is having a significant fall out. At one stroke, it has laid bare the nature of the relationship between India and the USA during the tenure of the UPA government and earlier the NDA government. The publication and analysis of the US embassy cables accessed by The Hindu through Wikileaks is ongoing, but what has been made available so far reveals a disturbing picture. The US has acquired an influential position in various spheres – strategic affairs, foreign policy and economic policies. The US has access to the bureaucracy, military, security and intelligence systems and has successfully penetrated them at various levels. The cables cover a period mainly from 2005 to 2009, the very period when the UPA government went ahead to forge the strategic alliance with the US.
It is well known that the Manmohan Singh government went back on its commitment in the common minimum programme to pursue an independent foreign policy. The CPI(M) and the Left parties had to oppose the U turn in foreign policy from the outset. How this reversal was effected has been laid out through a number of cables setting out the efforts of the US embassy and high level functionaries of the Bush administration. The volte face by the Manmohan Singh government in voting against Iran in the IAEA in September 2005 was one such crucial event. The cables illustrate how the US government exercised maximum pressure to achieve this turn around. The Indian government was told that unless India takes a firm stand against Iran, the US Congress would not pass the legislation to approve the nuclear deal. Prior to the Bush-Manmohan Singh meeting on September 13 at New York during the UN General Assembly session, intense pressure was brought upon the UPA government. It is after this meeting between Manmohan Singh and Bush that instructions were sent to the Indian ambassador in Vienna to go along with the United States in the IAEA. After the vote the US ambassador in a cable termed it as “the most important signal so far of the UPA’s commitment to building a stronger US-India relationship”.
Other cables reveal how the United States succeeded in getting India to coordinate policy towards other countries in South Asia like Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The close cooperation with Israel under US aegis is also spelt out.
The success achieved in getting India’s foreign policy to be “congruent” to US policy is smugly stated in an embassy cable that Indian officials are `loathe to admit publicly that India and the US have begun coordinating foreign policies’.
The second area where the US influence grows appreciably is in military and security cooperation. The UPA government signed the Framework Agreement on Defence Cooperation with the United States in June 2005. The then defence minister, Pranab Mukherjee, had told the media before his departure for Washington that it was merely an exploratory visit. One of the cables from the US ambassador to the American defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld spells out the agenda which the Americans hope to accomplish during the visit. The Defence Framework Agreement was the first of this type to be signed by India with any country. It envisages a whole gamut of cooperation between the armed forces of the two countries. It is evident from the cables that the US government and the Pentagon had been negotiating and planning for such an agreement from the time of the NDA government.
SECURITY & INTELLIGENCE
The cables show the growing coordination of the security establishments of the two countries reaching a high level of cooperation after the Mumbai terrorist attack. The then National Security Advisor, M K Narayanan was seen by the Americans as eager to establish a high degree of security cooperation involving agencies such as the FBI and the CIA.
The cables also provide a glimpse of how the Americans are able to penetrate the intelligence and security apparatus. Among the forty cables which were first published by the British paper, The Guardian, there are two instances of improper contacts. In the first case a member of the National Security Advisory Board meets an American embassy official and offers to provide information about Iranian contacts in India and requests for his visit to the United States to be arranged in return. In another case the US embassy reports that it is able to get access to terrorism related information directly from a police official serving in the Delhi Police, rather than going through official channels.
In the current group of cables published, there is one which pertains to the cabinet expansion in 2006. Here there is reference to “our contact” (the name is withheld) in the government owned Gas Authority of India Ltd (GAIL). The cables show that information is sourced from not just the media but from sources within various government ministries.
The collaboration between the intelligence and security agencies of the two countries had already resulted in American penetration. Two cases of espionage had come up. During the NDA government, a RAW officer, Rabinder Singh was recruited by the CIA. When his links were uncovered, he was helped by the CIA to flee to the United States. During the UPA government a systems analyst in the National Security Council secretariat was found to have been recruited by the CIA, the contact having been established through the US-India Cyber Security Forum.
The cables show a surge in pro-American decisions in foreign policy and economic policies in the 2005-2008 period. The United States utilised every lever to get India to accept all its interests in exchange for the nuclear deal. Following the two successive votes against Iran in the IAEA in September 2005 and February 2006, the union cabinet chaired by the prime minister decided in a meeting in 2006 to join the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline project which the Americans wanted. This was a clear signal that the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline was being scuttled as demanded by the Americans. It is in this period that there was a significant increase in the military joint exercises and other areas of defence collaboration. The cables clearly show the priority the United States had in getting India to sign the Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement which is known popularly as the Logistics Supply Agreement. This would enable US naval ships and air force planes to access Indian ports and bases for refueling, maintenance and supplies. The Left had strongly opposed the signing of this agreement, a draft of which had been prepared for approval by the cabinet.
The political influence wielded by the United States is starkly revealed in another cable regarding the cabinet expansion which took place in 2006. The assessment of the cabinet reshuffle by the US ambassador states, “The net result of the reshuffle, however, is a cabinet that is likely to be excellent for US goals in India (and Iran)”. The report notes that five ministers with strong pro-US credentials have been appointed viz Murli Deora, Kapil Sibal, Anand Sharma, Ashwini Kumar and Saifuddin Soz. The report correctly remarks that the Left would be infuriated by this shuffle and predicts that “Viewing this shuffle as shift towards the US, the Left has become more alienated from the Congress and more determined to obstruct UPA’s economic liberalisation and foreign policy initiatives, all but ensuring political fireworks in the months ahead”.
The American ambassador can hardly contain his joy at the removal of Manishankar Aiyar as the minister for petroleum and natural gas and his replacement by Murli Deora. Aiyar is pilloried for his initiatives taken in the energy sector with regard to the IPI pipeline and his visit to China. Murli Deora, on the contrary is lauded for his pro-Americanism and his close links with big business.
Under the Manmohan Singh regime, the Americans have been provided licence to penetrate and influence every sector of government. It is no use blaming the Americans for utilising these opportunities. After all it is the UPA government that decided in 2007 that the mandatory mid-career programmes training for IAS officers should be undertaken in various American universities. Whether they are civil servants or military officials, the way to go ahead is to get training in the United States.
The cables show that the Americans are keen observers of the high level corruption that exists in India’s political system. Understandably the cable which reports the huge amounts of money being used for buying MPs of the opposition during the confidence vote in July 2008 has caused a furore. The Americans were willing for the Manmohan Singh government to do everything to win the vote, so that the nuclear deal goes through. Any means, fair or foul, was acceptable for the Americans. A cable from the Chennai consulate provides a graphic and accurate account of how the DMK distributes money to voters, as it did in Thirumangalam by-election and the Madurai Lok Sabha polls. With such knowledge the Americans have a correct measure of the corrupt politicians and how they can purchase them for their purposes.
The cables in the run up to the nuclear deal and the political struggle which ensued show how the United States was most interested in getting the nuclear deal through. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the coterie of officers around him who touted the nuclear deal as the next biggest thing to happen to India since independence were actually advancing America’s interests, more than safeguarding the interests of the country. As the cables make it clear, the United States was after not just the commercial benefit of a few billion dollars in sale of nuclear reactors, but getting India firmly on its side as a strategic ally.
The prime minister and the Congress leadership are trying to brazen out these exposures. They make the claim that these cables are unverifiable and cannot be treated as authentic. This is a pathetic excuse when everyone knows that the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, herself had rang up the Indian foreign minister to warn about the leakage of these cables and the consequent embarrassment they may cause.
The Wikileaks cables are a sad and revealing commentary of where Manmohan Singh and the Congress leadership have landed the country.