Monday, November 29, 2010



Wikileaks has released 58 more diplomatic cables.None of them is between the US State Department and the US Embassy in New Delhi. There are some very interesting cables of 2009 relating to the visits of US officials to China and Singapore.

2.The cable from the US Embassy in Singapore on May 30,2009, gives the views of Lee Kuan Yew, former Prime Minister and Minister Mentor to the present Government, on the present situation in China and the Chinese leadership. He was reported to have expressed these views during a meeting with visiting US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg.

3. Lee has been quoted as saying: " Xi Jinping ( My comment: Hu Jintao's expected successor) is a princeling who succeeded despite being rusticated. When the party needed his talents, Xi was brought in as Shanghai Party Secretary. Xi is seen as a Jiang Zemin protege, but in another three and a half years Jiang’s influence will be gone. The focus now is on maintaining the system. There are no more strongmen like Deng Xiaoping. Jiang did not like Hu, but could not stop him, because Hu had the backing of the system and he did not make mistakes. Vice Premier Wang Qishan, whom the MM (Minister Mentor) saw in connection with celebrations in May of the 15th anniversary of Singapore-China Suzhou Industrial Park, is an exceptional talent, very assured and efficient. Wang handled SARS (?) superbly when he was in Hainan. He excelled in coordinating the Beijing Olympics. Li Keqiang may not get the Premiership and the Party is looking for a way to keep Wang on past his 65th birthday until he is 70. MM Lee said he had met first Wang back in the 1990s but had forgotten their meeting. This time when they met, Wang told Lee he had reviewed the records of all Lee’s meetings with Chinese leaders going back to the days of Deng Xiaoping to see how Lee’s thinking had developed. Wang told Lee he respects him as a consistent man. China is following an approach consistent with ideas in the Chinese television series “The Rise of Great Powers.” The mistake of Germany and Japan had been their effort to challenge the existing order. The Chinese are not stupid; they have avoided this mistake. China’s economy has surpassed other countries, with the exceptions of Japan and the United States. Even with those two countries, the gap is closing, with China growing at seven-nine percent annually, versus two-three percent in the United States and Japan. Overall GDP, not GDP per capita, is what matters in terms of power. China has four times the population of the United States. China is active in Latin America, Africa, and in the Gulf. Within hours, everything that is discussed in ASEAN meetings is known in Beijing, given China’s close ties with Laos, Cambodia, and Burma. China will not reach the American level in terms of military capabilities any time soon, but is rapidly developing asymmetrical means to deter U.S. military power. China understands that its growth depends on imports, including energy, raw materials, and food. This is why China is working with South Africa on the China-Africa Development Fund. China also needs open sea lanes. Beijing is worried about its dependence on the Strait of Malacca and is moving to ease the dependence by means like a pipeline through Burma. The best course for the United States on China is to build ties with China’s young people. China’s best and brightest want to study in the United States."

4.A cable of April 30,2009. summarises the views of an unidentified Chinese official at a lunch hosted for him by the US Charge d-Affaires in Beijing.It says: "The Charge expressed concern with China’s defining Tibet as a “core issue” with the apparent expectation that others would “step back.” Instead, our two sides should agree to continue to discuss the issue in an attempt to resolve our differences. The United States recognized that Tibet is a part of China. Nevertheless, the Dalai Lama is a respected religious leader and Nobel Laureate, and U.S. officials meet with him in that capacity. Future meetings by U.S. officials with the Dalai Lama could not be ruled out. Moreover, there were serious concerns among the U.S. public, the Administration and Congress over the situation in Tibetan areas of China. China should take steps to address Tibetans’ legitimate grievances and engage the Dalai Lama’s representatives in productive dialogue. Denying a visa to the Dalai Lama was not being contemplated."

5.During this lunch, the unidentified Chinese official has been quoted as saying as follows: "China was concerned by “momentum” that was building on UN Security Council reform, which was “not good” for the P-5, XXXXXXXXXXXX said. China wanted the United States to maintain its position on UNSC reform and not be “proactive” on the matter, which the PRC feared could result in a UN General Assembly resolution on the subject. The P-5 “club” should not be “diluted,” XXXXXXXXXXXX said. If we end up with a “P-10,” both China and the United States would “be in trouble.” Moreover, it would be difficult for the Chinese public to accept Japan as a permanent member of the UNSC. The Charge replied that the Administration had not completed its policy review on UNSC expansion, so we do not yet have a position on specific proposals. Nonetheless, the United States believed that UN members should be allowed to state their positions freely and openly without undue P-5 influence. Regarding Japan, the Charge said that, while no decision had been made about which countries to support for permanent membership on the UNSC, it was hard to envision any expansion of the Council that did not include Japan, which was the second-largest contributor to the UN budget."

6. A cable of September 29,2009, quotes Chinese State Councillor Dai Bingguo as telling visiting US Deputy Secretary of State Steinberg as follows:"The U.S.-China relationship was of crucial importance, said Dai. China would do its best to cooperate with the United States wherever possible. “If we expand the pie for the common interest, the pie will be larger and more delicious.” Together, the two sides should work collaboratively for the good of the world, especially since the two countries were “passengers in the same boat.” Dai urged careful management of the relationship and respect for each other’s core interests and concerns."

7. These cables relate to the preparatory meetings held by US officials with their Chinese counterparts before the visit of President Barack Obama to China in November,2009. The atmosphere and cordiality were very good. The Chinese referred to only Tibet and Taiwan as their core interests. They did not refer to the South China Sea as their core interest. It was only subsequently this year that they started referring to the South China Sea also as their core interest. This was one of the factors that contributed to the cooling-off this year. ( 30-11-10)

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



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: )