Vande Mataram

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sharm - El- Sheik: An episode of shame for India?

We've had a lot of discussions, lashings, defenses, promises, justifications and pleas on the Joint statement of the PM Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart in Sharm-El-Sheikh. The meeting was not a formal Indo-Pak summit. It was just a sort of a tete-a-tete on the sidelines of NAM summit. So, the first question we need to ask is what the pressing necessity was for a joint statement. Was it an unnecessary exercise by the over zealous foreign services officers? The PM had stepped over the External Affairs minister, a man he had trusted with the responsibility of taking the foreign policy forward.

S.M.Krishna is not a mere vote crammer who had risen to higher up levels only because of dirty political tricks and loyalty defying rationality. He is qualified lawyer from University Law College, Bangalore and was a Fulbright Scholar who studied and taught International Law at the The George Washington University Law School in Washington D.C. He is a man capable of understanding the nuances of foreign policies and working on them. He is often referred to as the father of modern Bangalore by making it the IT capital of India. He was also instrumental in creating power reforms and was a torchbearer of the Bangalore Advance Task Force. So, his skills are not questionable.

If the PM wants to earn a name as a peace propagator that is fine. But that doesn't mean that he should slight the presence of his minister responsible for external affairs. The PM could have taken up some task in his own forte Economics and done something exceptionally good for the national economic development, while every one has been concentrating and boasting on economic growth. Testing new waters without proper assistance has proved costly, not only for the PM but also for the nation. The external affairs minister was reportedly not involved in this issue. He also did not comment on this afterward.

Why should the PM okay a statement that has ambiguities in many areas and sounding to be a statement of Pakistan. In the words of Kanwal Sibal," it was an ill-conceived and badly drafted joint statement that had compromised India's position and made unnecessary and damaging concessions to Pakistan". In other words, the PM had, at Egypt, agreed to de-link action on terror infrastructure in Pakistani soil as a precondition for "meaningful dialogue" and had backtracked on it upon reaching New Delhi. The PM had cited example of his predecessor Vajpayee's invitation to Musharraf after the Kargil and Parliament terror attacks, while defending his acts.

We still disapprove of Vajpayee's decision to invite Gen.Musharraf as a state guest, whom any other soverign nation would try as a war criminal. Vajpayee had also backtracked on and earlier stand that Indo-Pak dialogue would not resume till democracy was restored in Pakistan. But he kept Musharraf under constant check, by surprising him with Pakistan's official secrets. The foreign affairs minister was not slighted by Vajpayee. He also never backtracked on his own words to the Parliament, which Manmohan had done twice, once on the Indo-US nuclear deal and now on the Indo-Pak agreement.

It is a diplomatic goof up. A faux pas by a novice in foreign policy PM, and was subscribed by an expert career diplomat, the foreign secretary Shiv Shankar Menon. We have had great minds with clarity of thought and the audacity to speak up the facts, no matter what the PM's intentions be, as Foreign Secretaries. T.N. Kaul, an ICS officer had remarkable ease in making friends and influencing adversaries, M.K. Rasgotra had the ability to reduce complex foreign policy issues to an intelligible political quotient, and J.N Dixit, with another foreign policy expert P.V. Narasimha Rao as PM, repositioned India in an emerging global order. We also have a south asia expert in the field of foreign affairs, G.Parthasarathy, who could also have been consulted. (sources for info in this paragraph: Articles by former FSOs of India)

But right from the Indo-US nuclear deal, we've had a PM who stands firm on his own beliefs and refuses to take people along with him, not even to hear their concerns and allay their fears. He had promised that the parliament would be taken into confidence before finalizing the nuke deal, but went back on that promise. Now that the parliament was in session, the PM had signed a documented dictated by his Pakistani counterpart, after making minor corrections. The inclusion of Balochistan in the document deserves explanation.

This would give Pakistan a chance to speak up that India is inciting terror in Balochistan and escape from it's long run crime of abetting terror in Kashmir and providing Governmental support to perpetrators of terror against us. The argument that the pathetic economic conditions of Balochistan would discourage Pak from raising Baloch terror as an issue in the international fora has no justification, but a mere attempt to cover up the PM by some of the supporters of his political Boss, under instructions to do so.

Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor's clarification that the joint statement was only a “diplomatic paper” and not a “legal paper” questions the basics of the diplomacy.Diplomacy is a gentleman's arena where people go by the words and not by reassurances and clarifications. One agrees to something and sign then come and tell the world that the signature has no legal binding, pushes one's credibility to a weaker ground. Not expected of an international veteran diplomat, Mr. Tharoor, though he tried to save the face of his erring super boss.

The timing of the statement reiterates Mr.Singh's undying desire to please the US. The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was to arrive after two days of the joint statement. So, to paste a rosy picture for Hillary to boast having got the warring neighbours to peace table, the PM had okayed whatever Gilani had written in that paper. It seems when it comes to pleasing the US, the PM wants not to trust anyone and do it himself. That was why the Minister mannig the MEA was stepped over it seems. The man who was tipped for the top UN job and had landed up in our MEA Shashi Tharoor was also not taken in by the PM and party.

One has to conclude, with all these considerations, that the PM had attempted to get an image of peace loving statesman, but ended up as a childish novice saying something and backtracking on that upon criticism of what was said. Are you serious about your job Dr.Singh? Please act with some sense of responsibility. We still respect you as an economist who is capable of doing good to the nation's economic development.

The Sharm - El- Sheik episode has proved to be a shameful encounter for India. Ironically Sharm means shame in Hindi.

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