London, Apr 12 : Julian Assange, editor-in-Chief of WikiLeaks, has accused Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh of cover-up by saying that government cannot confirm the veracity of the US embassy cables.
In an interview to N Ram, Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu in Norfolk, UK, Assange says, India has "terrible corruption and something must be done about it."
Assange spoke warmly of “so many people... now pushing strongly against it,” including “the Gandhi-ist” Anna Hazare.
He suggested that courageous acts by individuals elsewhere, for example in Tunisia, offer “a method that will provide widespread will to battle against corruption.”
Assange said he was genuinely distressed over the Indian prime Minister's reaction to WikiLeaks cables. Singh had said in Parliament that the government “cannot confirm the veracity, contents or even the existence of such communications.”
“We have not come across this reaction and that reaction disturbed me. Because Hillary Clinton had been involved in informing the Indian government, in December, as well as many other governments, that this was coming.
"There has been no question as to the credibility of any document we have ever published in the last four years, let alone the [U.S. Embassy] cables – which have been authenticated by the very aggressive action of the State Department towards us and by hundreds of journalists from the most reputable institutions across the world.
“That is why I said I find that statement a deliberate, knowing attempt to mislead the Indian population...Because it is directly from Prime Minister Singh's mouth and he knows better than to do that. While I have heard – I have no proof but the consensus seems to be that – he is not personally corrupt, here's a clear attempt to cover up for the possible corruption of other people.
"Rather than simply playing it straight, which he should have done, and say, ‘Look, there are allegations. They are serious and we will investigate them and come to the truth of the matter and give a full report to Parliament.'
“I think if he had taken that approach, he would have been served a lot better. So he has acted against his own interests and acted against the interests of his party, which is odd. So I would suggest it means that he has a habit that he was following rather than thinking things through – and a habit of reactively covering up allegations of corruption.”
"I am very encouraged by what is happening in India. It has terrible corruption but it's encouraging to hear that so many people are pushing strongly against it; India accounts for some of the highest deposits in Swiss banks; It is a fascinating story, the extraordinary spring MENA countries have been going through."
On black money stashed offshores, Assange said: " I must say that India is not alone. I mean in our work we have exposed billions of dollars of corruption all over the world. And the First World is also not at all immune from it.
"Frequently we see the developing world corruption being facilitated by First World banks, which suck the money offshore and so on. And, in fact, India accounts for some of the highest amounts of deposits in Swiss banks, which must be questioned as to what that money is doing there.
"The state of play there is Rudolf Elmer has been put in prison and he has been there for some eight, ten weeks now. But he's not been charged with anything; there's no evidence against him.
"He is in a position where he has severely embarrassed the Swiss state, which gains nearly 50 per cent of its GDP from Swiss banking — and Switzerland holds nearly one-third of all the world's private wealth. So we of course are not in a position to be able to talk about the material in any direct way that he is alleged to have given us.
"It is a fascinating story, what we know so far. The MENA [Middle East and North Africa] countries that have been going through an extraordinary spring in the last few months; not just Tunisia and Egypt and parts of Libya but rather really the whole region. Kings who have not been deposed or Presidents and dictators who have not been deposed have been handing out tremendous concessions in order to stay in power.
"Then there is this second overarching theme placed on the national agenda by the India Cables. ‘Pro-US tilt in Cabinet shuffle' (confidential cable 51088); ‘U.S. presses a sceptical India for a vote against Iran' at the IAEA and the Manmohan Singh government surrenders (several confidential and secret cables); ‘Hillary checks out Pranab [Mukherjee] and the competition'; he's now Finance Minister, earlier was Minister for External Affairs, Foreign Minister.
"Various things like this come on, including ‘American prescription for ending Naxalite menace.' But very serious is the military angle — not only intelligence-sharing but the Defence Framework, where India has moved towards a much closer military collaboration with the United States.
"It's not a complete project yet but there's a movement. And here's the paradox, it seems to me. When India was less developed and more dependent on foreign aid, it seems to have had a more independent foreign and domestic policy", said Assange.