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KARACHI: The Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) digital release earlier this month of nearly 13 million pages of declassified documents from the 1940s to 1990s has sparked international interest.

While headlines in American publications reporting the release are domina­ted by mention of UFOs and the Stargate Project, the Indian media has discovered in the declassified files how the CIA considered spiritual leader Sathya Sai Baba “could start world religion”.

Funnily enough, one detailed country profile of 1971 India titled ‘National Intelligence Survey’ goes on at length about the country’s “national character” in the following words: “In order to offset the fear that they really may be inferior, however, Indians are often so defensive — touchy and sensitive — that they appear to be offensive, that is assertive, vain, and arrogant.”

In the following paragraphs, the CIA report also notes, “Indians have ability and ingenuity but not a sense of immediacy… It is not that Indian leaders are unconcerned or unwilling to do the right thing, but their approach appears to be so relaxed that it often frustrates even infuriates non-Indians.”

If one types in the word ‘Pakistan’, the searchable database yields 1,233 results ranging from declassified files on intelligence reports, newspaper clippings, country profiles on geography and the armed forces and telegrams.

A dive into the trove reveals deliberations by CIA officers on Pak-US relations against the backdrop of several historical events: Indo-Pak friction, Pakistan’s nuclear programme development, Ziaul Haq’s decision on Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s execution and more.

One interesting, undated CIA intel report examines Pak-US ties against the backdrop of India and USSR relations. It says, “Pakistan is likely to continue basically pro-Western, despite annoyance at the US part in the UN handling of Kashmir and at the US position on North Africa in the UN.”

A side note typed on the same document with a distinctly different font notes that, “Pakistan’s pro-Western orientation stems from her fear of India, and USSR rather than any basic sympathy with capitalism or Christian civilisation. It is more negative than positive”.

Another handwritten scribble on the document notes: “Pakistan is not likely to align itself firmly with the West except in exchange for substantial benefits.”

Other side notes on the document typed in apparent response to what the CIA deemed as Pakistan’s response to communist control of Iran said “Can we be sure? Communist control of Iran will greatly step up Pakistan’s vulnerabilities.”

Another interesting document that pops up in the ‘Pakistan’ search is the debriefing of US spy pilot Francis Gary Powers, where Powers is asked about his U-2 plane taking off from a Peshawar airbase before it was caught.

The excerpts cited above are from declassified documents released by the CIA on its website the Reading Room. Declassified documents were previously only available to the public at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland, accessible on four computers during business hours.

While a Moscow-based security adviser has questioned the authenticity of the documents — some of which are heavily redacted — and branded them as “fake” or “misinformation”, the CIA rebuts the allegations.

“None of this is cherry-picked,” CIA spokesperson Heather Fritz Horniak told CNN. “It’s the full history. It’s good and bad.”

To view's compilation of extracts from the declassified CIA documents, click here.

Published in Dawn January 26th, 2017

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