04 January, 2011

WikiLeaks and the Indian Maoists

by Uddipan Mukherjee


Julian Assange, the founder of the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks has bagged a whopping deal of £1.1 million to pen down his autobiography.[1]

This very well goes to show the kind of impact the revelations of WikiLeaks have had. Though it might have created substantial flutters in diplomatic circles of most of the nation-states, with USA being maximally affected, India has not been spared either.

However, there was one disclosure by the ‘maligned’ site which has received less hype by the global media. The reasons were obvious as the ‘scoop’ was not even remotely associated with America’s War on Terror. Rather it pertains to India’s low-intensity civil war which is predominantly rural based.

Moreover, unlike the other ‘leaks’ due to the website, this particular one did not portray the obvious. Rather, to the consternation of many analysts, WikiLeaks divulged that the Indian Maoists are “not dependent on support from outside India”. Moreover, they are “moving towards a more unified command system”. The latter, however, was more in conformity to standard perceptions about the insurgent group. [2]

Actually, Wikileaks has unearthed a document sent by the American Embassy in New Delhi on 18 April 2006 to the State Department in Washington. The cable, apart from carrying the above information, categorically mentions that “the Indian Government believes the Nepalese Maoists sold arms to the Indian Naxalites”. [3]

In fact, in the same document, the Government of India (GoI) proclaims that the Indian Maoists do not maintain any ‘operational’ links with their Nepalese counterparts. Nonetheless, the GoI does not deny ‘commercial’ links like arms sales between the two insurgent groups.

As per the leaked cable, the GoI has assured the American embassy officials in New Delhi that it dos not provide any logistical aid to the Nepalese Maoists, though it is contrary to popular beliefs in Kathmandu.

Now, this is news for the analysts and that too something which is not quite believable. The reasons may be enunciated in a nutshell.

One, are ‘business’ deals like arms sales not enough to corroborate the fact that there may be deep-rooted links between the two groups, more so when they have similar ideological moorings.

Two, Indian strategic community, media and even officials from GoI have in the past repeatedly pointed to the collusion between Indian and Nepalese Maoists as well as help being received by the Indian ultras from across the border.

For instance, on November 9, 2010, P V Ramana, in an article in the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), threw considerable light on the linkages between Indian and Nepalese Maoists.

He took cognizance of a media report of November 6, 2010 to assert that the Indian embassy in Kathmandu wrote to Foreign and Home Ministers, as well as to the Foreign and Home Secretaries of Nepal, claiming that two commanders of the People’s Liberation Army of the Nepalese Maoists signed a secret agreement with three leaders of the CPI (Maoist) of India. And according to that agreement, the Nepalese Maoists would impart political and military training to the Indian rebels. Further, those media reports also stated that about 300 Indian rebels have already been trained inside Nepal.

Ramana took the aid of annual reports from the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to attest linkages between the two revolutionary groups.

In the article, he however quotes an interesting comment (on July 4, 2006) by then Union Home Secretary V.K. Duggal: “There is no physical link between Maoists in Nepal and India. However, there is an ‘ideological’ (emphasis added) link.” [4]

And if this comment is bluntly compared to the leaked cable, it turns out to be quite puzzling. What is the perceived link? Is it ‘ideological’ or ‘business-like’? Incidentally, the WikiLeaks disclosure stokes more confusion as according to it; the GoI has nullified ‘ideological’ links between the two concerned groups.

In another reportage (November 11, 2009), Siddharth Srivastava for Asia Times Online wrote that high-level Indian government sources point towards growing evidence of foreign support of the Maoist rebels. Among the ‘outside forces’ at work are remnants of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). His report claimed that the LTTE were sharing their expertise with the Maoists in hit-and-run tactics and jungle warfare.

Srivastava quoted Home Secretary G K Pillai that “The Chinese are big smugglers ... suppliers of small arms. I am sure that the Maoists also get them”. [5] And interestingly, the proclamation of the Director General of Police of Chattisgarh regarding the alleged links between the Lashkar-i-Toiba and the Indian Maoists has till date remained sensational.

Actually, one needs to glean the facts from the plethora of factoids. Indubitably, the GoI sounds ambiguous in terms of asserting anything substantial about the foreign support (if any) being enjoyed by the Indian Maoists. However, that does not subscribe to the fact that the Maoists are indeed not receiving any help from outside.

In the same leaked document, much to the discomfiture of the Indians, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao has been quoted as accepting that India had provided monetary incentive to the Nepalese Maoists. However, such a ‘leak’ has been outrightly rejected by C P Gajurel, senior leader of the Unified Maoists’ Party of Nepal. [6]

In this regard, it has to be appreciated that when a top Nepalese Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai have had his education in India, when India’s Red Corridor shares a contiguous border with Nepal and when the ultimate objective of both the Maoist parties (tactical differences notwithstanding) is to overthrow the parliamentary democracy by waging a people’s war; then it appears highly incommensurable that they are de-linked from each other.

Furthermore, with the espousal of the right to self-determination by the Indian Maoists, they naturally are driven towards the different separatist groups in the North-East and Kashmir. In addition to this, recent reports have corroborated that the Indian Maoists have set up direct liaison with insurgents in the North East at least as far as arms procurements are concerned. [7]

What WikiLeaks merely indicate is that the Indian government has not conveyed anything regarding ‘foreign help’ for the Indian Maoists to the US Embassy in New Delhi. Simply speaking, the GoI may not yet possess cogent documents to indict any party. Hence, a literal interpretation of the WikiLeaks’ ‘documents’ in this regard may lead to a strategic miscalculation. Amidst the hype generated by WikiLeaks, one needs to be really cautious.


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