India's eagerness to please the U.S. and more corruption are the two
main issues, which have emerged from the jungle of cables.
Like the U.S., the whistleblower organization has its fans and critics
in India. But its impact has already been more jarring, which has led to
questions about whether it has the potential of creating real change.
There has also been talk of duplicating a WikiLeaks operation nationally
to fight corruption, which is so rampant, that some have suggested that
a Middle East-styled uprising is needed to tackle it.
The recent telecom corruption case, for instance, cost the Indian
treasury $40 billion. A report by the Washington-based Global Financial
Integrity said that at least $462 billion was illegally transferred
overseas from India between 1948 and 2008.
Still, the WikiLeaks influence in India is different from the West
because only a small percentage of India's 1.2 billion people speak
English or use the internet. It is entirely possible that WikiLeaks may
play a more dramatic than a drastic role.
When it comes to battling corruption, observers say that a combination
of widespread popular rebuke cutting across economic and social ranks
combined with strengthening of existing mechanisms like the Right to
Vipul Mudgal, who raises media awareness about rural issues, says that
WikiLeaks can only play a "small part" in bringing about change but it
presence makes a strong case for passing a law to protect
whistleblowers, which India doesn't have. (Activists using the RTI to
expose corruption have been killed).
With the exception of some cables, a lot of the leaked information has
also been described as more noise than substance , which is making
officials and diplomats wary of talking to each other and to
"I don't buy that argument," says Prashant Bhushan, a lawyer who
actively battles corruption and views the current leaks as proof of New
Delhi's kowtowing to Washington.
Bhushan says there is no reason why regular political and diplomatic
conversations shouldn't be made available to the public. For others,
especially those who have been part of the bureaucracy, the perceived
influence of the U.S. over India, arising from the cables, is
exaggerated. (India did abstain on an important resolution in the
Security Council, which authorized use of force in Libya, when the U.S.
voted for it).
"Incomplete, selective and often misleading" is how Shyam Saran, a
former foreign secretary, who played a key role in the Indo-U.S. Nuclear
Deal, describes the cables to Outlook, the magazine which exposed media
hanky-panky last year.
One cable indicates that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked
questions about the appointment of Pranab Mukherjee, India's Finance
Minister, and to which business groups he belongs to and what interests
he intends to serve.
The cable is again viewed as evidence of Washington's influence in
India's internal affairs but some say that there needs to be a good
reason for making private conversations public--and chatter isn't one of
Clinton seems to be doing her job, says Shoma Chaudhury, managing editor
of Tehelka, a news magazine known for its undercover exposes in India,
which had also approached WikiLeaks to share information.
"There is nothing to expose but there are leaks," she says. "Uploading
sacks of letters doesn't serve public interest... there is just so much
scandal you can take."
Then, there is the public and media reaction to Assange who is quickly
descending into English-speaking landscape. "Gushing" is how one media
analyst described the current state of the Indian media, pointing out
that more critical thinking of the operation and man behind it, may come
Since WikiLeaks has partnered with one publication, so far, it is likely
that the strong streak of competitiveness within the domestic media will
lead to greater scrutiny of forthcoming cables, which reveals the real
stink in the garbage that needs to be cleaned.
Meanwhile, Assange has told the NDTV news channel that more explosive
material is yet to be revealed including material from Pakistan and
China, which will be of "interest" to India.
The Huffington Post