The revelations made by the whistleblowers’ website WikiLeaks about the nature of the Afghan war and the duplicity and skulduggery of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, ISI, are not news to India and the world. Their importance lies in the fact that they are based on classified US military files, whose veracity cannot be totally denied. The scale of the disclosures is huge, with over 90,000 documents put out in the public space, with more to come. The enterprise is comparable to Watergate but the implications are more serious. While Watergate revealed the moral handicap of an individual and a coterie, the WikiLeak disclosures reveal the moral, political and diplomatic misconduct of governments, military leaders and organisations involved in the fight against international terrorism. And some of the misdemeanours of the US forces are serious enough to be considered war crimes, as the website’s founder has pointed out.
What would be of greater interest to India are the details about ISI’s activities. India has always maintained that ISI was training the Taliban and encouraging it to fight the US and Nato forces in Afghanistan. New Delhi had also pointed out that it was behind the attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul in 2008. The documents show that the ISI plan with all its details was known to western intelligence. But it is unrealistic to imagine that the revelations, even about ISI’s hostile activities against US interests in Afghanistan, would change official policies.
The tragedy of the US involvement in Afghanistan is that it is entrapped in the knowledge of the Pakistani duplicity in its dealings with the US and the resulting helplessness. That is why the US is apparently unfazed about the revelations and has still defended Pakistan, asserting that the US-Pakistan alliance has significantly weakened the al-Qaeda. Pakistan has expectedly trashed the revelations, as it has always done. But the credibility of the claims and postures of both the US and Pakistan will be questioned more than ever all over the world. The revelations should also make it more difficult for the US to continue with its Afghan policy when public opinion in the country is becoming more critical of the nature of the war and Washington’s Pakistan policy.
All the mass of material which have now come out may not be reliable because intelligence reports contain conjectures, distortions and exaggerations. But the basic thrust of the revelations cannot be denied or downplayed by any official exertions.