Cables are only one of several means of communication between diplomatic missions and headquarters. In today’s world, there are conversations on open or secure telephone lines, through encrypted e-mails and ‘open’ faxes. Confidential cables form only a limited component of diplomatic communications. Cables, by their very nature, are summaries of what may have been long conversations and reflect what the sender deems important. The norm in our ministry of external affairs is to limit cables to not more than one-and-a-half pages. Subjective interpretations are inevitable. Therefore, great caution must be exercised in assessing the Wikileaks material that is incomplete, selective and often misleading.
I have seen criticism based on a cable where US secretary of state Hillary Clinton has asked the US embassy for an assessment and personality profile of Pranab Mukherjee. Nothing unusual or sinister in this. Our own diplomats are routinely expected to provide such assessments of incoming political leaders or senior officials in the country where they may be serving. Such assessments may include personality traits, thinking on important issues and attitude towards India. This is normal diplomatic work. Hillary Clinton’s request is hardly a blow to India’s sovereignty. Such assessment matters to the US because India matters.
As foreign secretary, did you ever feel US pressure to change India’s stand or policy on an issue?
No, I did not. The US did make forceful demarches to convince us of their positions. We would respond by firmly setting forth our own considered positions. But diplomacy involves give-and-take and the search for common ground, without sacrificing one’s country’s interests. It is naive to believe that we can extract advantage for India but ignore the interests of our partners. Diplomacy is the art of exploring possible convergences and managing differences. This is what we sought to do, and have done so with notable success, in developing a strategic partnership with the US.
Would it be correct to see India’s decision to vote against Iran in the IAEA as a result of American pressure?
‘India was interested in the Iran vote to pin down Pak’s role. We never bought the US theory of AQ Khan’s private N-market.’ While the US and European countries were keen on India’s support for the resolution on Iran’s nuclear programme at the IAEA, the eventual decision was our own, based on a careful assessment of the pros and cons. Our main interest in the resolution was to ensure that there was a full accounting of Pakistan and the DPRK’s (Democratic Republic of Korea) role in Iran’s clandestine acquisition of nuclear materials and equipment. In fact, we were critical of the focus being put on Iran as a recipient but not on Pakistan as the source of proliferation. We never believed in the “A.Q. Khan private nuclear supermarket” theory that the US advanced to let Pakistan off the hook.
It should be recalled that Iran had voted against India a number of times in the IAEA, calling upon India to join the NPT as a non-nuclear weapons state. We never let such behaviour by Iran affect our close and friendly relations with it, because we understood its compulsions. Iran ought to have reacted with greater understanding, especially after we explained our position in considerable detail to its representatives. Those who believe that India voted against Iran at US’s behest are not aware that India voted against an American-sponsored resolution on Cuba around the same time, despite a strong demarche from the US secretary of state herself.
What do you have to say about the debate that India is sacrificing its interests because it wants to build a strategic relationship with the US?
We wish to build a strong and enduring strategic partnership with the US because this conforms to our interests. We share common political values and confront a number of common challenges. There are more points of convergence than of difference in our approach to key regional and international issues. As with any partnership, there must be mutual respect and mutual advantage. We work together with the US where our interests converge and reserve our positions where they don’t.
Did India have to pay a price in any way to forge close relations with the US?
Not only the US, but other major powers too acknowledge India’s growing stature and enhanced role. In 2010, the leaders of the five permanent members of the Security Council visited India. Our views on issues of the day count and for that reason our support is eagerly solicited. We are an indispensable member of all emerging institutions of regional and global governance, whether it is the East Asia Summit or the G-20. We won a non-permanent seat in the Security Council with an unprecedented number of votes. I cannot see what price we have had to pay in terms of sacrificing any significant Indian interest by forging a close and friendly relationship with the US as part of a broader engagement with the world.
Do you think a section of Indians continue to suffer from a “colonial mindset” because of their perceived fear that the US is influencing all major decisions in the country?
It is a sign of low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence in ourselves as a people and as a country. A pity, since for the first time since Independence, we are on the side of the table where rules are being written, not on the side where we have to live by the rules made by others. The world recognises our strengths. We seem to cherish our weaknesses.
Is it proper for a diplomat on a UN posting to declare that his brief is to seek a greater convergence with the US in the United Nations?
India has strategic partnerships with several countries, including the five permanent members of the Security Council. As part of such partnership, we agree to mutually consult with each other on issues that are on the agenda of multilateral fora, expand the area of convergence wherever possible and seek to coordinate our actions where our interests may be convergent. We do this routinely, for example, with China on climate change and WTO issues. We would do the same with the US and UK, say, on international terrorism. This is of as much benefit to India as it is to our partners. Therefore, there is nothing unusual or objectionable in our conveying to counterparts in partner countries that it will be our endeavour to work together with them in multilateral fora. The mandate to do so derives publicly from the partnership itself and not from any confidential instruction from the government.
Shyam Saran’s defence that the Wikileaks cables are incomplete or that they reflect the senders’ perception do not hold good because the cables published so far are interesting for the facts contained in them. Each cable deals with a different issue and is complete in itself. Like the contents of the cable on vote for cash. These are solid empirical facts and not matters of individual perception. The cables as published have also been authenticated by ambassador Mulford on the Karan Thapar show.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
I am grateful to the era of the Internet where people like Julian Assange and the young Egyptian girl whose video blog triggered a revolution, can shake the very foundations of corrupt devious Governments. Acting faithfully as His Masters' Voice, Shyam Saran mouths precisely the same pathetic platitudes that the Obama and Cameron-Clegg spokespersons have been using to save their collective a**.
Outlook is talking in favour of congrss...how you suddenly started publishing in favour of the cong govt? how much did u earn?
can we see his phone call records to check with whom did he spoke before commenting about wikileaks
These cables are assessment by US embassy official of an incident/person/situation. Why are we taking them a gospel truth?
Here on the board, plenty of people give their assessment about plenty of our politician/player/businessman. Do we consider that as gospel truth?
Someone said westerner assume Indian are stupid. Isn't our reaction to these cables proving us as stupid?
wikileaks disclosures by Hindu is totally malicious and blackmailing.The Hindus under NRAM has started blackmailing the parties and govt.The selective leaks are indeed played now to create confusion in the minds of voters of southern states which are going to election.The hindu is now not hindu but christain.It should be banned by GOI to publish such leaks .It has bribed the blackmailerwikilieaks julious assange and started blackmail to Indian leaders.
We at Outlookindia.com welcome feedback and your comments, including scathing criticism
1. Scathing, passionate, even angry critiques are welcome, but please do not indulge in abuse and invective. Our Primary concern is to keep the debate civil. We urge our users to try and express their disagreements without being disagreeable. Personal attacks are not welcome. No ad hominem please.
2. Please do not post the same message again and again in the same or different threads
3. Please keep your responses confined to the subject matter of the article you are responding to. Please note that our comments section is not a general free-for-all but for feedback to articles/blogs posted on the site
4. Our endeavour is to keep these forums unmoderated and unexpurgated. But if any of the above three conditions are violated, we reserve the right to delete any comment that we deem objectionable and also to withdraw posting privileges from the abuser. Please also note that hate-speech is punishable by law and in extreme circumstances, we may be forced to take legal action by tracing the IP addresses of the poster.
5. If someone is being abusive or personal, or generally being a troll or a flame-baiter, please do not descend to their level. The best response to such posters is to ignore them and send us a message at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT
6. Please do not copy and paste copyrighted material. If you do think that an article elsewhere has relevance to the point you wish to make, please only quote what is considered fair-use and provide a link to the article under question.
7. There is no particular outlookindia.com line on any subject. The views expressed in our opinion section are those of the author concerned and not that of all of outlookindia.com or all its authors.
8. Please also note that you are solely responsible for the comments posted by you on the site. The comments could be deleted or edited entirely at our discretion if we find them objectionable. However, the mere fact of their existence on our site does not mean that we necessarily approve of their contents. In short, the onus of responsibility for the comments remains solely with the authors thereof. Outlookindia.com or any of its group publications, may, however, retains the right to publish any of these comments, with or without editing, in any medium whatsoever. It is therefore in your own interest to be careful before posting.
9.Outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for how any search engine -- such as Google, Bing etc -- caches or displays these comments. Please note that you are solely responsible for posting these comments and it is a privilege being granted to our registered users which can be withdrawn in case of abuse. To reiterate:
a. Comments once posted can only be deleted at the discretion of outlookindia.com
b. The comments reflect the views of the authors and not of outlookindia.com
c. outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for the way search engines cache or display these comments
d. Please therefore take due caution before you post any comments as your words could potentially be used against you
10. We have an online thread for our comments policy:
You are welcome to post your suggestions here or in case you have a specific issue, to directly email us at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT