Ambassador David C. Mulford — the man who sent many of the secret U.S. embassy cables accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks — put to rest any doubts on the veracity of their contents on Friday, stating that “certainly the reports from the U.S. embassy [in New Delhi] in general are accurate reports.”
Mr. Mulford, who was the U.S. Ambassador to India from 2004 to February 2009, refused to comment on the particulars involving the cash-for-votes controversy as reported in the leaked cable which has rocked Parliament this week. But he did not refute its contents either, merely maintaining, in the face of repeated questioning, that he “had nothing to say on the subject.” The former Ambassador was speaking on a live televised discussion on The Hindu's WikiLeaks revelations hosted by Karan Thapar on CNN-IBN. The Hindu's Editor-in-Chief, N. Ram, and Ambassador Lalit Mansingh were the other discussants.
“Would you have any reason to believe that [U.S. Charge d'Affaires] Steven White may have exaggerated or that he may have concocted [the contents of that cable] …. you have any reason to believe that?” asked Mr. Thapar. “I simply have nothing to say on that,” Ambassador Mulford responded.
On the other hand, Mr. Mulford gamely fielded a number of questions on some of the other cables, most notably on whether the U.S. had “arm-twisted” India into voting against Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 2005. While observing that the “prospects of a civil nuclear deal would [have been] immeasurably damaged” had India chosen “to abstain or sit on the fence,” Mr. Mulford went to the extent of justifying his actions as reported in the cable, saying that “it was a key thing to do and do well.”
“I would not call it arm-twisting,” said the former Ambassador, “but it was appropriate for me to reflect to the Indian Government the dangers of not supporting a vote on Iran.”
In another cable sent to Washington, Mr. Mulford had referred to the Cabinet reshuffle of 2006, calling it “good for America” and referring to some of the incoming Ministers as “welcome additions”. While describing outgoing Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar as “contentious,” the Ambassador had called his replacement Murli Deora as “pro-U.S.” When Mr. Thapar wondered how Mr. Mulford had the “confidence to come up with the interpretation” that the reshuffle had a pro-American tilt, the latter replied that “it was his job to come to a conclusion on something that was as important as this” and that “developments of [those] kind were favourable to strengthening Indo-U.S. ties.”
In writing about the favourable nature of the Cabinet reshuffle, Mr. Mulford specifically said that he was “making that point” in the cables, underlining once again that the published dispatches were indeed genuine.