Sunday, December 19, 2004

Natwar Singh's both left feet in Seoul mouth

There are so many things to worry these days that we don’t get time to worry about foreign things like foreign affairs. We leave that job to the government to ponder and wonder about.

And the government has competent people like our much-experienced Minister for External Affairs Natwar Singh. He’s been a seasoned diplomat before he became a seasoned politician and has served the nation in various capacities.

But this time around he’s been in the severe grip of a foreign disease, which is largely incurable: the foot-in-mouth disease.

Soon after he became the foreign minister of India, this column had warned about the general dangers of living in the past with special reference to Mr Singh. But most former kings would give their right arm to live in those glorious days; the Maharaja of Bharatpur is comfortably ensconced in the plush diplomatic sofa made in Soviet Union. It’s so comfortable that one tends to doze off, increasing chances of the foot landing in the mouth.

So he went around resurrecting the hardly-breathing Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in a totally new world order. He is increasingly getting used to making statements contrary to India's official position. But the latest one beats putting his two left feet in the sole mouth, which in bureaucratese shall be hitherto known as the The Seoul Mouth.

In an interview to a Korean newspaper, he said the two Koreas should not follow India’s example of becoming a nuclear nation. According to a newspaper report, he went on to indirectly blame the previous Vajpayee government for India’s nuclear programme. His selective memory helped. He forgot that he used to be a high-ranking official when India's nuclear programme really flourished.

By saying “please don’t emulate us” he nearly put his own country in the rogue’s gallery.

A day later, an embarrassed (we hope he was enraged too) Prime Minister clarified the government position saying India’s foreign and nuclear policies were based on continuity and consensus. The Prime Minister’s word is final and should reassure the country.

The Prime Minister also said that what Natwar said in Seoul was not “a statement of foreign policy”. We must be one of the few countries in the world where the foreign minister’s statement is not a statement of foreign policy.

No comments: