British Foreign Secy visit goes down as a lesson in diplomatic faux pas

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband’s controversial visit this week has clearly left a bitter afterstate in the Indian establishment...

Written by Express News Service | New Delhi | Published:January 18, 2009 12:33 am

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband’s controversial visit this week has clearly left a bitter afterstate in the Indian establishment with sources claiming that his conduct displayed a high degree of immaturity and arrogance.

His three-day visit saw him attempt to link the Kashmir dispute with Lashkar-e-Toiba and terrorism in the region,in front of a Mumbai audience as well as in an article in the UK-based The Guardian newspaper.

During his closed-door meetings with the Indian leadership,Miliband reportedly bragged about his conversations with the US President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team and said that India needed to “incentivise Pakistan” by showing some movement on Kashmir.

A stunned Indian delegation had to interrupt him with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee telling him that it would be a “mistake” to link Kashmir with what has happened in Mumbai. This,according to sources,did not stop Miliband who repeatedly interrupted the External Affairs Minister to make the point that the Pakistan state needed support and it would be wrong to raise the finger of suspicion at the Pakistani establishment.

Miliband then sought to rub it in by telling Mukherjee that he would make a statement on absolving the Pakistani establishment to the media,waiting outside for the joint press conference at Hyderabad House.

However,what stumped officials was the stark contrast between the manner and position taken by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown during his December visit. Brown had said that three-fourths of the serious terrorist threats investigated by Britain’s security services had had a Pakistan connection. Miliband also countered an Indian official who,referring to Brown’s earlier observation,said that the actual percentage was 90 percent. “Well,I would put it somewhere at 60 per cent,” he said.

In another bizarre observation in the backdrop of the Mumbai attacks,he insisted on lecturing Indian officials in Delhi on the need to concentrate on other important issues like climate change,pointing out that the fog in the Capital was due to it.

Miliband kept referring to Mukherjee,one of the senior-most politicians in India,by his first name throughout the more than hour-long-meeting while Mukherjee addressed the 43-year-old as “your excellency”.

Miliband condescendingly said that he would also praise India and the External Affairs Minister for showing maturity and restraint.

Seemingly ignorant of diplomatese,Miliband also put his hands on Mukherjee’s shoulders as they walked together,with their officials in tow. A source,who was privy to the goings-on remarked,“The British Foreign Secretary is in his 40s,looks like he is in his 30s and behaves as if he is in his 20s.”

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