On WikiLeaks, India, Pakistan and a partisan media

December 10, 2010

SOUTHASIA SIACHENReading through some of the WikiLeaks cables, I have been struck by how easy it might be to take the fragmentary and often outdated information contained in them and make a case to support either side of the India-Pakistan divide.  Now it turns out someone did, but without even the support of the underlying cables, according to this version of Pakistani media reports by the Pakistan blog Cafe Pyala of alleged Indian skulduggery, including in Baluchistan. 

As Cafe Pyala notes, Pakistan’s The News and various other papers cited the alleged cables as proof of alleged Indian involvement in creating trouble in Baluchistan and Waziristan. These allegations were included amongst others that anyone who follows the subject closely hears being bandied about between India and Pakistan. (Reporting on those allegations is much harder, for reasons I will discuss below.)

But according to Cafe Pyala these cables may not even exist, but are rather the work of intelligence agencies telling the media what is to be found in them.  ”Small wonder The News and Jang give the source of the report as ‘Agencies’,” it says. “Question: How stupid do the ‘Agencies’ really think Pakistanis are?”

This is terribly confusing, as it is hard enough to make sense of the WikiLeaks cables on India and Pakistan, without having to filter out what intelligence agencies/media  say about what may or may not be in that huge database of leaked U.S. embassy reports.

As it is, we have to keep in mind the idea that the cables are only as accurate (we assume) as the ambassadors who penned them were able to make them,  given that they themselves were dependent on sources who might, or might not, have been telling the truth.  They are not gospel (and odd that in Pakistan which tends to distrust everything the Americans say, they are being treated as such.)

So two points – one on Baluchistan, and the other on the media in India and Pakistan.

For background, Islamabad accuses India of using its presence in Afghanistan to destabilise Pakistan, particularly by funding and arming separatists in Baluchistan. India denies this, and says it is interested only in promoting development in Afghanistan.  The  Indian consulates in Kandahar and Jalalabad particularly trouble Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, which sees them as bases for alleged nefarious activity by its rival,  India’s Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) spy agency. 

As far as I can make out, there is nothing in the WikiLeaks cables on Baluchistan that I haven’t already heard. And if I have heard them, you can be sure that governments have heard them too and tailored their policies accordingly, so we shouldn’t treat them as a game-changer. 

On Baluchistan:

A U.S. embassy cable sent shortly after the 2008 Mumbai attack says the British High Commission in Islamabad feared an Indian response might include, ”at a minimum, increase GOI (government of India) covert activities in Balochistan or even an aerial bombardment of LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba) camps in Azad, Jammu and Kashmir (AJK). ”

The Guardian newspaper, which was given advance access to the cables, adds that “The British fears of ‘ramped-up’ Indian aid to militant nationalists in Balochistan highlights an assertion found elsewhere in the cables: that British intelligence strongly believes New Delhi is covertly supporting the insurgency in reaction to alleged Pakistani support for LeT.”

I have not yet found any cables which give an independent U.S. view of the allegations of Indian involvement in Baluchistan. If someone has the links, do please post them.

A separate series of cables, reported by The Guardian with links to copies of the cables, highlights tension between Pakistan and Afghanistan over the fate of  fugitive Baluch separatist leader Bramdagh Bugti, whose grandfather was killed in a military operation in Baluchistan in 2006. If you search for Bugti on The Guardian website you can find more of the back-story on this.

I personally thought this was common knowledge, but maybe it is more controversial, and complicated, than I realised.

On the media:

I don’t know what is happening in Baluchistan. I listen to British, Indian and Pakistani analysts and sources to try to form an informed view. Short of going there, hanging around outside/inside the Indian consulates in Kandahar and Jalalabad, and spending time with Baluch separatists, I can’t possibly know for sure. But I’m still a bit troubled that the media is not asking enough questions - in either country.

A quick trawl of recent stories on Google threw up this story from the Times Now TV channel (I’m using this as a convenient example to explain a point, but it is not untypical):

“Government sources on Saturday (November 27) denied former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s claims that India is responsible for creating unrest in the Balochistan region. Sources told TIMES NOW that India’s conduct on Balochistan was like an open book … ”

Whatever is going on in Baluchistan, it is not “an open book”.  You can’t have an open book in a region where journalists can’t travel easily and safely. 

And you don’t have ”an open book” when it comes to India and Pakistan. When I first started researching the Siachen war - another battle between India and Pakistan that took place away from the public eye – I had the (with hindsight  naive)  idea that at the very least I would be able to match Indian and Pakistani versions and where I found them to overlap, discern a kernel of truth. In the end, I discovered I often could not even match accounts by people who fought on the same side on the same day.  So let’s none of us assume we know what is happening in remote Baluchistan.

Comments

We should probably call this as PAKILEAKS – that is, Pakistani interpretation of Wikileaks.

In Pakistan, people seem to have vivid imagination. Their media is able to spin stories from thin air and there is enough crowd to believe those stories. No facts are needed. No validation is necessary. All one needs is good story telling capability and stories take their own dimensions in Pakistan.

One just needs to throw in the word “India” into anything and all interpretations align immediately. India is one uniting factor in Pakistan. Even Wikileaks have not been left untouched.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive
 

Looks like some of the newspapers have openly admitted to not verifying the facts before publishing. Pakistan’s intelligence department is being looked at with suspicion of triggering this misinformation.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive
 

Who says Pakistan does not has free media. They can publish any BS. Takers are always there, and that is the whole point of spreading misinformation. Flo$ging is in order for the responsible! Who is behind all this misinformation?

Posted by rehmat | Report as abusive
 

@Myra
Do not worry about your incapability to match overlaps of these unique creatures. They do not know themselves what they are talking about. They are simply reading what they have read somewhere else in another paper. mr musharaf was no more than a con man, I am not sure if he could copy the Indian trick of climbing a Rope?

Rex Minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive
 

rehmat: “Flo$ging is in order for the responsible! Who is behind all this misinformation?”

BBC article points at Pakistan’s ISI. Myra’s next article points at the same. Sometimes misinformation can lead to major disasters. Countries with nuke buttons are dangerous in this regard. They can act without any thinking or analysis. Was this done to instigate more violence against India? Pakistanis seem to have become emotional and unstable of late. Any kind of rumors, misinformation etc can create chaos. Both the newspapers and the ISI need to be condemned harshly for what they are doing.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive
 

KPS
“Agency” has learnt well from the CIA. I do not think if the follwing is true:
“Was this done to instigate more violence against India?”

It is desperation on ISI’s part since they lack substantial evidence so far of Indian involvement in Baluchistan. So they did this. Now even after withdrawing people will still continue to believe in the cooked up wikileak.

Posted by rehmat | Report as abusive
 

rehmat: “It is desperation on ISI’s part since they lack substantial evidence so far of Indian involvement in Baluchistan. So they did this. Now even after withdrawing people will still continue to believe in the cooked up wikileak.”

When Mumbai attacks happened, Omar Sheikh, the famous killer of Daniel Pearl, simply picked up a phone from his jail cell, called the Indian defense ministry and talked like a Pak general about bombing India. It sent shock waves in the defense circles. How this guy, sitting in his jail cell could make an international call, and knew the exact number of the key people in Indian defense dept is anyone’s guess. Somebody wanted India to react out of emotion and use that to their advantage. Mumbai attacks, Parliament attack etc were run with an aim of provoking India into a war. All that was absent was emotional heads in India.

Now imagine the scenario where things are in the reverse. Let us say for hypothetical purposes, some major terrorist attack happens inside Pakistan. This attack is done in a commando style operation and all leads trace back to some Indian “non-state-actor” group or its intelligence agency. And on top of that, let us say some guy inside India does what Omar Sheikh did. Do you think Pakistan will wait? Based on the influence of Pakileak propaganda, Pakistani generals won’t even think for a minute. Retaliation would have been driven by absolute emotions and they have been itching to try their nukes.

Persistent poking from Pakistan has not succeeded in provoking India into a major retaliation yet. India moved its troops, flexed its muscles etc. But that’s about it. It was not the fear of Pak nuclear retaliation. It was more to do with losing all international business overnight. But any small provocation from the Indian side towards Pakistan or even a false proof like the Pakileaks is good enough to charge these emotionally blind people to react. They are very unstable now. And that is the danger India is facing. This is something that gets no sympathy from anyone else. We are alone in this regard.

I have no idea what the sleeping beauties in Delhi are up to. Are they preparing any counter strategies for all kinds of likely scenarios? We have a mentally sick nation sitting right next to us with nukes ready to go. There are plenty of Rex Minors in Pakistan today who rely on rumors and facts that float in the air to make their claims and justifications.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive
 

“Omar Sheikh, the famous killer of Daniel Pearl, simply picked up a phone from his jail cell, called the Indian defense ministry and talked like a Pak general about bombing India”

Actually, I think he called Zardari, pretending to be Indian foreign minister Pranab Mukherji.

Posted by Mortal1 | Report as abusive
 

Mortal,

You are correct. Thanks for the clarification:

http://www.latestnewsonline.net/india/pr anab-laughs-off-omar-sheikhs-hoax-calls/ 50587.html

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive
 

@KPS

I can understand the India-Pak war is not as serious as blasphemy cases but I hope Omar Sheikh is charged with serious charges for provoking Pakistan to shift its defense into offense against India!!! This guy need to go. Gallows are waiting for this guy for a long time, no idea why the delay.

I would like to say that we need to be cautious in generalizing anything. We JUST CANNOT do that for Pakistan as a nation nor should Pakistanis do about India. Let us keep our comments to their govt and army and intelligence and NOT nation as a whole. It is counterproductive. I hope you take it positively.

“Persistent poking from Pakistan has not succeeded in provoking India into a major retaliation yet. India moved its troops, flexed its muscles etc. But that’s about it. It was not the fear of Pak nuclear retaliation. It was more to do with losing all international business overnight.”
***Latter is true if you look at that one travel warning to the Westerners last time Indian troops were moved to the India-Pak border forced them back. I hope nuclear retaliation is also taken into view too for our own sake. Having crackers is not enough if we have not educated the masses about safety. In any case there is no way war can solve anything. Pakistan is a case in point. Kashmir issue has worsened with violence and hardened Indian stance.

Back to the Baluchistan issue, ISI knows that India is not involved at the level they are doing the propaganda.

Posted by rehmat | Report as abusive
 

Rehmat: “I can understand the India-Pak war is not as serious as blasphemy cases but I hope Omar Sheikh is charged with serious charges for provoking Pakistan to shift its defense into offense against India!!! This guy need to go. Gallows are waiting for this guy for a long time, no idea why the delay.”

Omar Sheikh is under protection right now. He is able to make phone calls to the President of Pakistan at will. Why would he go to the gallows? He still has many missions to accomplish on behalf of you know who. Soon, there will be a jail break and Omar Sheikh will disappear. And Pakistan will still be “looking for him”, while keeping him in a safe house.

“I would like to say that we need to be cautious in generalizing anything. We JUST CANNOT do that for Pakistan as a nation nor should Pakistanis do about India. Let us keep our comments to their govt and army and intelligence and NOT nation as a whole. It is counterproductive. I hope you take it positively.”

My impressions arise after reading comments from some Pakistanis here, albeit educated ones. I hope I am wrong. I certainly do have my gripe about Pakistan’s military cartel and its ISI. They definitely have gone rogue.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive
 

@Rehmat
“Back to the Baluchistan issue, ISI knows that India is not involved at the level they are doing the propaganda.”

I have a few people in my family who retired from Indian Military and I can tell for sure that FEAR of Indian Intelligence is THE BIGGEST BOGEY created by Pakistan EVER. Indian intelligence is anything BUT intelligent. Filled with absolute stupid and fools the RAW and IB are an absolute burden on Indian taxpayers’ money. And Kargil was the proof. Had Indian intelligence been any intelligent then Kargil could and would not have happened, mumbai would not have happened and so many things could have been stopped. And Pakistanis continue to believe in lies of their ISI that RAW is out to cut their country in half. Ha ha ha. That is the height of false propaganda. India is NOT at all involved in any level in Baluchistan. Extreme was when on Sri Lanka cricket team’s tour to Pakistan, the Pakistanis blamed Indian RAW for attacks on Lankan team when video footage clearly showed extreme lack of security on part of Pakistani agencies. Can you beat that?

The current Wikileaks fake emnating from Pakistan is just an addition to the existing ghost stories created by ISI which ofcourse satisfy the hunger of stomachs of ORDINARY people in Pakistan. Surprisingly people in Pakistan do not need wheat or rice but only false hatred propaganda to survive. God knows when will Pakistan stop its hatred campaign.

ISI has successfully INFECTED minds of ordinary Pakistanis with names like RAW and IB. These are nothing but bogeys. All you Pakistanis free your minds of these bogeys and see the light of day.

Posted by 777xxx777 | Report as abusive
 

777xxx777: “Surprisingly people in Pakistan do not need wheat or rice but only false hatred propaganda to survive.”

I agree entirely. For some reason Pakistan’s leaders have tried to maintain unity of their country by creating virtual monsters out of India – Hindus are out to get Muslims, RAW is behind all turmoils, India poses existential threat to Pakistan, India is bullying etc. This mindset results in unnecessary apprehension and over reaction that make things worse. Lack of progress and continued slide towards radicalism and backwardness has made things even worse. Fear of India has been the uniting factor for Pakistan and its very survival. It is like being on an overdose of steroids. At some point it will destroy things from within. What can we do to change their perspectives? No matter what we tell them, they seem to keep going in the same circle of thought process.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive
 

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