Tuesday, May 12, 2009

MEA fails to respond to CIC order on 1971 war spy issue

The Ministry of External Affairs has failed to respond in time to an order by the Central Information Commission to release information which could help pin down the name of a Central Intelligence Agency agent operating out of Indira Gandhi's cabinet.

An unnamed "reliable source", as per the declassified CIA and State Department records, had leaked out India's war objectives and other vital details to the Americans, paving the way for the US intervention in the war. Eventually, the Nixon administration arm-twisted India into declaring a ceasefire before the war could be taken to its logical conclusion.

On 16th April, the CIC had directed the MEA to release information sought by me "within 20 days of receipt of this Order." This was widely covered in media, specially the Times of India.

As of now, the MEA has not responded.

The MEA has, from the start, side-stepped the case, though the information is being sought in public interest. The Ministry refused to respond to 8 precise queries, stating that under the RTI act they were not obliged to divulge information/records more than 20 years old. The MEA also asserted that the request was being denied because the RTI request was based on foreign newspaper reports, books and foreign government reports and the Government of India "does not take cognizance of unsubstantiated reports".

The arguments were misleading. As the CIC upheld in the 16th April hearing, there is no such clause in the RTI act forbidding release of information that is more than 20 years old. I submitted to the commission that the Government of India was known to take cognizance of even cock and bull stories published in non-descript foreign journals, leave alone the well-researched scoops in the New York Times, Washington Post or the official records of the United States Government -- cited and even attached by me along with the RTI application.

As a case in point, I requested the Commission to summon two classified records relating to a 1994 Russian magazine article suggesting that Subhas Chandra Bose, of all the people, was a British Military Intelligence (MI6) agent. I have known that this incident had sent our Embassy in Moscow and the South Block in New Delhi in a tizzy when they should have laughed away at the absurdity borne of the imagination of a poorly informed Russian who misinterpreted some classified KGB archival records.

Throughout the hearing the MEA officials remained courteous and mum.

But for all their civility, they have not followed the CIC order. I have informed, by e-mail, the Commission of the non-compliance, which I guess is a serious thing.


harish said...

Keep up your fight. We all stand by you. There are so many such shady deals that have happened in India. The onus is on us to expose these.

Anuj Dhar said...

thank you Harish. Will do all I can.

arani said...

If no reply comes, then what is your option?

Anuj Dhar said...

I will first tell the CIC. Under the law, ministry has no other option but to reply.

Rakesh Vanamali said...

Anuj, given the embarrasment this will cause to the current government, I'm not sure the MEA will respond to the CIC order!

I'm sure this will be kept under wraps, always!

Anuj Dhar said...

Rakesh they have replied. it is not going to be easy to change the mindset. But we got to try.