With friends like these … WikiLeaks underlines fragile US-India ties

March 21, 2011


For all the talk of India’s increasingly strong partnership with the United States, what the latest WikiLeaks documents published in The Hindu show are far slower, foot-dragging ties with a suspicious Delhi in one corner and a frustrated Washington in the other struggling to find common ground and trust.

The really worrying thing is that these reports come with a time lag of at least a year, before corruption scandals and policy stagnation effectively paralysed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government. Despite U.S. President Barack Obama’s gushing words for an “emerged” India last year, one wonders if now the level of U.S.  complaints have reached a crescendo.

The WikiLeaks reports published have so far sparked one political bombshell – the cash for votes scandal as the ruling Congress party pushed through a 2008 confidence vote. But other reports on Monday highlight more mundane, but deep-seated irritants.

One senior U.S. diplomat talked of  “Brezhnev-era controls”. Former U.S. ambassador David Mulford noted how much easier it was to do business under the former BJP-led coalition and complained of problems that were “multiplying and festering.”

“We note that under the NDA government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee it was easier to meet Indian officials and get business done, even in the paranoid Ministry of Home Affairs, but the Congress government has reverted to type, indulging in the sorts of Brezhnev-era controls on its people of which Indira Gandhi would have approved. The Nehru dynasty needs to become more like the Tata dynasty,” Mulford is quoted by WikiLeaks as saying in one secret cable.

The one man who seems to come off well from the reports is Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, whom U.S. diplomats saw as the go-to man in the administration, with his power second only to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Family scion Rahul Gandhi is dismissed as a lacklustre leader.

Foreign policy is also shown to be another irritant in ties. Another U.S. diplomat – this time related to India’s decision to invite President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Delhi – said India was asserting its foreign policy independence to win over voters, especially among its Muslim vote base.

History is repeating itself. On Sunday, the government said it “regretted” airstrikes against the Libyan government.

For Washington, India is one niggly partner.


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I thought Montek rather than Pranab M was the chosen one. The US has far more to answer for through the leaks than any other country. Including how they became public.

I think not voting on the no fly zone was far more principled than voting for it in Libya and secretly encouraging support for the regime in Bahrain. I think the US is stuck in its own mindgames – between its principles and its interests. Invariably interests, specially short term ones, always seem to win the day.

I think that the US needs to understand that establishing better and stronger relations does not mean toeing the line or kowtoing. This post seems to suggest that it does in fact want absolute obedience!. Both countries have to learn to accept their differences. India for example has long contested the need for the US to be such a charitable arms donor to Pakistan. Arms which are always used against India. Yet India has learnt to live with it. The US too should get used to healthy differences of opinion and not be seen to get into a sulk over anything and everything that India does in its own interests. Only then will a partnership flourish.

Posted by DaraIndia | Report as abusive

Mr.Scrutton seems to have an axe to grind with India. Like Mr. DaraIndia says in his comment,stronger relations does not mean being another American poodle. Strong reliable friends are those that can separate right from wrong and call you on it. If you want “Yes men”, I think the U.S should look for another country that will toe its line and do its bidding.
I believe India is doing the right thing by standing on its belief.

Posted by I_Chanakya | Report as abusive

The impact of Wikileaks on current affairs and politics in India, as well as US/Indian relations is very pronounced. The current debates and conflict in India are extremely interesting to follow for those of us at wikileaks-movie.com and we are paying close attention to the national partnership struck between Wikileaks and The Hindu. We’ll see what continues to unfold. Hopefully the truth regarding bribery and corruption by leading politicians will be proven without a doubt. Moreover it is astonishing to watch some of the Wikileaks related debates and presentations by politicians on You Tube. The fist pounding is fierce! The political parties and leaders in the great country of India sure know how to go at each other!

Posted by wikileaks-movie | Report as abusive