Monday, November 29, 2010



The leakage by WikiLeaks of over 200,000 diplomatic cables exchanged between the US State Department and its diplomatic missions abroad could have serious implications for US diplomacy and for the US-led war on terror.

2. To be successful and effective, diplomacy has to be confidential. It cannot be conducted in the open. By breaching the confidentiality of diplomatic interactions and communications, WikiLeaks has made it difficult for US diplomats to function as they should. In future, their foreign interlocutors will hesitate to talk to them freely and frankly if they conclude that US diplomats cannot maintain the secrecy of the discussions on sensitive issues. This could also have an effect on the war on terror. The war is being fought not only through operational means, but also through diplomatic means. Diplomacy plays an important role in facilitating international co-operation against terrorism. This role could be made difficult in future.

3. One could note from the documents leaked that many of the important discussions on terrorism were between visiting US officials, including the US Co-ordinator of Counter-Terrorism, and rulers and officials of the countries visited. For example, the Co-ordinator had visited Saudi Arabia and discussed counter-terrorism with the rulers and officials of the Saudi Government. Similarly, he had visited Israel and held discussions with the chief of the Mossad, Israel's external intelligence agency.

4 Senior US officials had discussed counter-terrorism with leaders and officials of other Islamic countries too. The Muslim leaders and officials had discussed matters relating to terrorism freely and frankly with US officials. They had said many things in private about Al Qaeda which they would not have said in public. These cables would be read not only by analysts and media personnel, but also by the leaders of Al Qaeda and its affiliates. When they find that Muslim rulers and officials were very frank with US officials, their anger against them will increase. As it is, Islamic countries are hesitant to co-operate with the US in the war against Al Qaeda. They will be even more hesitant now.

5.WikiLeaks is reported to be having in its possession over 3000 cables exchanged between the US State Department and the US Embassy in New Delhi. It has not yet released them. As such, one does not know their contents. It is likely that some of those messages discuss sensitive matters having a bearing on India's relations with other countries and also touch upon the internal political situation in India. It is the job of diplomats to keep their Foreign Office informed of internal political developments and give their frank assessment of the leadership of the country to which they are accredited. If such frank and sensitice cables leak out, it could damage the mutual trust between the officials and leadership of the two countries.

6. The same applies to any leakage of the diplomatic cables with the US Embassy in Islamabad. In the case of Pakistan, the implications could be more serious because of the US dependence on Pakistan for the war against Al Qaeda and for the operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

7. The cables do not give details of individual intelligence operations except a US exercise to build a data-base of senior officials of the UN Secretariat, presumably to facilitate the operations of the US intelligence in the UN headquarters. The cables do give details of discussions of US diplomats and visiting US officials with senior intelligence officers of some countries. These offiicers and their organisations could withdraw into their shell and may not in future be as forthcoming as they were till now in their interactions with US diplomats and officials.

8. It will be difficult to quantify the damage caused to US diplomacy, but it will be immense. (29-11-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )

1 comment:

Esoteric said...

The implications are in my opinion as follows and depend on what the other 250k cables reveal.It will also depend upon how players react.

- US diplomacy gets a boost as internal contradictions of inidividual contries are laid bare eg Yemen.In other words, countries that tell its citizens one thing and do the opposite will face tough times and China has quickly banned them from publication.

- Countries that have the full force of their population behind their actions will sit tight and go unaffected. Eg: Israel has 80% of its people opposing Iranian Nukes.

- "How to tell what you were afraid of" US diplomats are afraid to tell as it is to the Germans and the French and these countries will be forced to be more accomodating to US concerns in the future.

All in all, US diplomacy will become more decisive as the contradictions can be revealed on wiki. In other words, Pakistan can say one thing in private and another publically.This means positions will be more hard and less give.

We are heading to days when Bush said you are with me or against me.The only difference is more people today will be forced to say we are against you or for you than earliar lest they be revealed through Wiki as they might be privately more willing to talk.This means US might end up with atleast one diplomatic prize like a North Korea without firing a bullet as its revealed that China doesnt support it as much anymore.On the other hand,Pakistan might harden its position on fighting Taliban and this time US will have Bi-Partisan support to escalate the effort inside that country.

So atleast one new frontier of war might open due to the leaks and another gets quickly resolved.

Rest is detail.