The talkative Indian and transmitting American

The WikiLeaks expose lays bare our collective character and the perils for those in public life


Ajay Singh | March 26, 2011

Imagine if an archive is created of US cables exposed by WikiLeaks, how would it interest scholars like Amartya Sen? The Nobel laureate may have discovered the “argumentative Indian” after studying the tradition of dialectics in ancient Indian books, but the scholars who research wikileak cables may be persuaded to come up with a new formulation – “the talkative Indian”.

Indians love to talk. Perhaps this explains the unusually robust growth of the telecom sector which ultimately spawned the 2G scam. But that is a different story. For, WikiLeaks is all about an outsider’s view of India’s public life. And it does not present a pretty picture.

The leaked cables are an eye-opener in many ways. Had the expose not happened, we would have never been able to confirm the interest of the US in the appointment of a particular person as India’s finance minister. The fact that the tough-talking home minister betrayed his meekness to the US interlocutors on David Coleman Headley would have never seen the light of day. Similarly, the US ambassador appears confident of making India change its stance on Iran through the influence of the secretary of state.

The most significant aspect of the whole episode, however, is the willingness of Indians to reveal all before foreigners in general and the US diplomats in particular. This is particularly interesting in view of the fact that a team of senior Indian police officials was denied even elementary access to the FBI office in connection with the Mumbai blasts at the initial stage. But for an outsider, India appears to be an open country where all top politicians and bureaucrats appear too eager to indulge a US diplomat and more often reveal more than they really know.

On the other hand, the WikiLeaks expose is also a testimony to the perseverance and efficiency of the US diplomats who maintain a mine of accurate information on India’s public affairs. They have been truthfully reporting their meetings with any person of consequence on Indian affairs in order to enable their bosses in Washington to formulate a coherent policy. Thanks to the leaked cables and the glib leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, we know that Hindu nationalism has just been a tactical stance for the Bharatiya Janata Party.

That the US diplomats have been truthfully narrating their encounters with important people in the corridors of power has caused a major embarrassment for the Manmohan Singh government. In one such cable, a US diplomat narrated the unlawful manner in which Singh’s government secured the vote of confidence in parliament in 2008.

In fact, this ghost has an uncanny habit of revisiting the culprits when they expect it the least. The manner in which the government won the vote of confidence on the Indo-US nuclear deal  appeared to be questionable parliamentary conduct right from the word go.

That Indian MPs are bought and sold like commodities was evident when some BJP MPs waved wads of currency notes to prove this point. This enduring image of degradation of parliament was ignored by the political leadership in 2008. The Congress leaders were convinced that they had buried the past
after their victory in the Lok Sabha elections in 2009.

But WikiLeaks has exposed the skeletons in the cupboard. These cables cannot be construed as an evidence to prove culpability in the court of law. But these are evidence enough to show the low-esteem in which our politicians are held abroad, particularly in the US.

While WikiLeaks has dented the image of Indian politicians at large, it has not caused loss of face only in the case of the cables dealing with the Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. In the entire WikiLeaks controversy, Modi has emerged stronger after the cables not only described him as an able and efficient development-oriented politician but also certified him as “incorruptible”. These cables also indicated the unease of the US administration at having denied Modi visa on the premise of his complicity in anti-Muslim Gujarat riots. While it showed the US’s double-speak on Modi, the Gujarat chief minister found WikiLeaks quite amusing and had the last laugh when he thanked truthful reporting of the conversation he had with the US diplomat.



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