The king is naked | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 04, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, December 04, 2010

The king is naked

Countries taken for a ride?

However strident the voice of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, it lacked the ring of sincerity. She had to defend the indefensible but she could have been more transparent and more forthcoming on the leakage of the US classified documents (popularly known as WikiLeaks expose). This might have revived confidence among the countries which the United States has hurt. They would have got some justification to give it the benefit of doubt.
No doubt, Uncle Sam has been caught with his pants down. But Mrs. Clinton's statement that the leakage was an attack on peace in the world does not wash. Nor does it condone the breach of faith that the nations repose in Washington. Published comments made by top American diplomats on the countries where they represent the US are simply lewd. These were not off the cuff remarks. They had certain thought behind them, even though devilish.
How can the leaders of these countries trust the US, which says something pleasant in their presence and entirely the opposite at their back? This is no diplomacy. It is sheer betrayal. President Obama, who swore by transparency when he was electioneering for the office, comes out a double-faced personality after the disclosures. His oratory and diction cannot hide the fact that the countries have been taken for a ride.
What can be the moral stance of the president when his secretary of state tells the US diplomats at the UN to spy on their counterparts? But then American has the example of Watergate, which made President Nixon resign on the ground that he had tapped the political discussions of the opposition party and thus misused the government machinery.
It seems as if Washington treats other countries as the fodder for its mighty machine of diplomacy. Mrs. Clinton is right in her remark that President Obama and she framed a world policy which America is trying to implement. But what sort of policy is she alluding to? No doubt, national interests come first. The US is no exception. But then why does it delude the world by pretending that Washington is guided by altruistic motives?
The Wiki tapes, naturally run down by the American officialdom, have done a great service to the world. The US citizens should be more indignant because their government has put a question mark over their credibility. If such are the means that the most powerful democracy adopts to achieve its ends, the very ideology becomes dubious. How is the US different from dictatorships since they too use oily words in public and cut throats in private?
That America wanted to have some nuclear transfer programme for Pakistan's enriched uranium to some "safe place" has been known for some time. But Pakistan did not allow the US to remove the enriched fuel from the nuclear reactor Washington had supplied to Islamabad in the early part of 60s.
President Asif Ali Zardari gave Islamabad's reaction when he said that Pakistan's nuclear weapons were under its control. Subsequently, Pakistan's foreign office spokesman Abdul Basit also clarified that "reports concerning Pakistan's experimental nuclear reactor acknowledge that Pakistan did not allow any transfer of the fuel from the experimental reactor." In other words, the US suggestion to have the fuel transferred was plainly refused by Pakistan. And America has admitted in one of the tapes that no amount of money could persuade the Pakistan army not to manufacture more bombs.
The disclosure on Afghanistan has annoyed India the most. Both Turkey and the United Arab Emirates used their clout to keep New Delhi out of the London meeting to discuss the future course of action at Kabul. Both the countries, as US documents reveal, did so to "appease" Pakistan. Since this information has come out within 24 hours of President Pratibha Patil's return from the UAE, India's foreign office wonders how the relationship would develop. It has a good understanding with the UAE and wants to sustain it.
Similar is India's attitude towards the US. It is upset with Mrs. Clinton's message to ascertain deliberations regarding the UNSC expansion among "self-appointed front runners" for permanent seats -- India, Brazil, Germany and Japan (the group of four). New Delhi has not reacted to this statement. But it has been hurt by the cable sent to the American ambassador at New Delhi. At present, its position is to let things rest at where they are although a foreign office spokesman has said, more for the US consumption, that the relationship between the two countries is too deep to be disturbed by exterior considerations.
WikiLeaks has in its possession 3,000 cables which the US embassy in New Delhi has sent to Washington. The worst is yet to come. India suspects that since the leaked documents are dated between 2005 and 2008, there would be a lot of material on its nuclear and defence deals negotiated between 2005 and 2008.
It is an open secret that there was a lot of pressure on the Manmohan Singh government on the nuclear deal. The CPI (M) left the alliance headed by Congress President Sonia Gandhi, making the deal a crucial issue. Any concession shown by either Washington or New Delhi can be disastrous for the battered Congress-led coalition.
India is facing another embarrassing situation. This is about the Nira Radia tapes, disclosing her -- she is a lobbyist -- telephone conversations with the industrialists and top journalists. Industrialist Ratan Tata has approached the Supreme Court for an injunction on the leaks which, he alleges, have violated his right to privacy. He has questioned whether India has turned into a banana republic and asked the government to punish those responsible for it. He could have named them because the Department of Income Tax says that it authorised the tapping of phones, said to be for more than 500 hours. The Home Ministry says that it had given the permission. It is a questionable order because in democracy tapping of private telephones is an attack on personal liberty.
Only a part of the conversations has been transcribed, but it establishes the nexus between business houses, politicians and journalists. I do not know why only a few journalists were picked up because some 30 of them figure in the tapes. Indian media has to have a code of ethics which journalists should adhere to in all situations.
Unfortunately, some journalists have not come up to the standard they are expected to maintain. In the few cases which are in the public domain, they have been found going beyond the limits. They behaved like power brokers and crossed the Lakshman rekha between legitimate news gathering and lobbying. Politicians are naturally jubilant because they can now say: Physician heal thyself.

Kuldip Nayar is an eminent Indian columnist.

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