For all it is a developing democracy riddled with corruption and scams, for all that the media seems to have their own agendas, two things have consistently helped India improve – political reform and media investigation of government (and other public entities). Challenging wrongdoing has always been a highly respected action in India. There may be arguments and debates, but the right to call for reform, while not a stated right has always been a part of the Indian culture.
The media in India is revered for its power to expose misconduct in the government. If India goes along with this US setup on Wikileaks for what it calls espionage, it will be a huge step back for India in terms of the legitimacy of questioning what goes on behind closed doors.
If we look at twitter and the kinds of comments of the variety “If wikileaks exposed India….” we get a lot of comments ranging from the expected sarcasm about parties pointing fingers at each other to finally knowing the truth. Yet, there is not a single one that it shouldn’t happen or that India or its relations would be destroyed or any such thing. This is the root of India’s power to change for the better. The people expect to be in the know of what the country is up to, and the more they know, the more they participate – the very definition of a democracy in my eyes.
It is what makes exposed public figures resign, parties engage in massive change, rights to be created and enforced.
On the surface, it appears as something strictly between the US and Wikileaks, but increasingly, India is being hyped as the largest democracy in the world, and for better or for worse, we seem to be getting our definitions of democracy from the US. This is the time our government needs to get in touch with its own ability to stand upright and true to its values. The US is going in a direction that is alien to Indian attitudes. It is a direction we must not legitimize in our country through complicity.
Their objections are also false. Wikileaks does not have blood on its hands, and no one has so far been endangered by the leaks. However, the leaks have the potential to bring down a lot of deaths by exposing the misconduct that leads to them.
It is also crucial that India finds its own values and learns to make stands based on them if it hopes to do any good as an emerging superpower. A United Nations seat holds no meaning if it is used to go along with whatever the US does.
Wikileaks stands for whistleblowing. Much as it may embarrass the governments in the short term, it provides a valuable compass for countries at levels that can rarely be exposed or questioned.
India has an abundance of misconduct. However, the one good thing it has is that the media is respected for exposing it. The exposure may lead to resignations and reform or they may not, but the media must not be supressed from exposing in itself. On the contrary, the US has consistently attacked the messenger but continued with its crimes. In fact, there is no acceptance of misconduct at all.
Take for example its response to the details from the leaks. While much noise has been created about how Wikileaks is breaking the law and all kinds of responses ranging from prosecution to recommendation of murder are making the rounds, the actual attitude toward the crime is only a justification. They actually have the gall to call requests for misuse of diplomatic immunity to violate the privacy and security of foreign officials as routine, while accusing an organization that actually did no spying or data collection itself of espionage. The world sits quiet and swallows this rubbish. And yet, by allowing the definition of the role to remain unchallenged, we are complicit in vilifying the role of diplomats.
And this continuing lack of introspection on the part of America has been damaging to Indian interests and continues to create untold damage. Its utter lack of respect and thus understanding of other nations has led it to be mired in war after war that fails to create any good to the region it is inflicted on. A simple example is the concept of revenge in the AfPak region – a region that is largely inhabited by tribes with a history of conflict since known history. On one hand, it conceals the human rights abuses by the Pakistani Army in the name of revenge against civilians, on the other, it disregards its own role in inflating the ranks of the Taliban through its abuses perpetrated on tribals. This will never end unless there is some accountability, introspection and change.
Its disinclination (read fear) to fight the terrorists in Pakistan has led it to pour in untold amounts of money into a country that they know supports the very terrorists they are fighting. Yet it will neither grow some balls and take them out, nor will it let them alone, instead acting in a manner that provides continuing state support to terrorists – terrorists who have India firmly in their sights as well.
Its use of its power against other countries lets it threaten governments to support its stands in cases like Spain or to let go its state criminals like with Germany. The private operators being outsourced in Afghanistan have little oversight and have been known to use drugs and support child prostitution.
In short, the US has become power mad and its obsession with secrecy and utter refusal for introspection makes it an extremely dangerous country for its rampant paranoia and tendency to interfere, often physically, in any part of the world it deems appropriate. There is virtually no check. The citizens of the US have no clue what happens in the name of their country behind the curtain of state secrets.
America is becoming bloated with its own sense of power, and this persecution of Wikileaks, if successful will set precedents for inviolable secrecy so that they will not be easily questioned in the future.
India MUST get off this bus at the earliest opportunity and while maintaining diplomatic relationships, also distance itself from an attitude of unchecked power being legitimate. If not, I fear that it will become increasingly difficult to challenge government misconduct in India as well.