BY : Salman Khurshid
It might be too much for the patriotic Indian to read this along stories about the Indian army spooking the government.
If your comment on the CCS (Cabinet Committee on Security) did not touch national security and our strategic commitments (‘Committee on Insecurity’, Shekhar Gupta’s National Interest, IE, March 1), I would have thanked you silently for the quality of humour in these humourless times. However, if The Indian Express has chosen to emulate the Private Eye, I implore you, change the format and carry a warning for the unsuspecting citizen.
It might be too much for the patriotic Indian to read this along stories about the Indian army spooking the government. Presumably you were wrong, else the BJP that claims an uncompromising record on patriotism would not enthusiastically receive in its ranks a former army chief suspected of such adventurism.
Or is it that all being fair in love and war, a little hypocrisy and being economical with the truth is fine to please friends? The absence of terrorist attacks on India in recent times, you presumably attribute to the “kindness” of our enemy, not our preparedness. The UPA chairperson’s concern in accompanying the then home minister to the site of dastardly attacks, you believe, is all he was good for. As for the external affairs minister, you really think being accessible to your tribe is not part of the job? Perhaps I will remember this next time your correspondents want a story.
Your sources claim they saved my predecessor external affairs minister from the embarrassment of reading another UN delegate’s speech, but did not admit tardiness in not placing the right speech! The fingerprints are clear. It is elementary, Mr Editor! You might think that complaints by maids against our diplomats abroad is not an issue, but the people think differently, as they do about the treatment of our students abroad. I serve the people, not the press. Unsuccessful by your standards I can understand, but inconsequential? Is this journalism of courage or contritenes, perhaps linguistic malfunction?
A common term I used recently, some people, including your ilk, have sought to twist and then questioned its propriety. Surely you did not also use it in your comment to oblige me, but because it best described, according to you, my condition — as, indeed, that of my other CCS colleagues. That word is fine if used by you but offensive if we do.
But in what sense did you use it for the CCS? I have known sticks and stones doing what words cannot, but this word certainly touched a raw nerve. I imagine you have a readership across the world, where we engage in serious dialogue on strategic issues. Thank you for telling the world that they need not take us seriously! Fortunately, we are secure because foreign policy is more serious than editorial ruminations. Hopefully extremists will not believe your story. Incidentally, were you really upset at being preempted in using the N/I word? Ministers must not appear smarter
Let us look at our work in recent months. Presumably the invitation to India for Geneva II; success on Kudankulam 3 and 4 during the Russian vice premier’s recent visit; the cooperation we get from nuclear suppliers like Canada and Australia and expectation of membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and other regimes; the growing number of countries supporting India’s permanent membership of the UN Security Council; our role in the political and security transition in Afghanistan, reflected most recently in my visit to Kandahar to launch the agricultural university (the last visit of an external affairs minister was with a plane-load of terrorists!); the depth and expanse of defence cooperation with Russia and the US simultaneously; the visits to India of the Saudi crown prince, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and the Omani foreign minister in the same week; the hitherto-unimagined reality of several wanted criminals quietly extradited to India; our membership of the Arctic Council; the visits of the Japanese prime minister and the emperor; the visit of the Korean president — all happened not because our interlocutors read The Indian Express, but because the cabinet and the CCS have steered the country from the days of nuclear winter (sanctions) to being participants in the global nuclear discourse, a prominent contributor at the G-20 high table, and membership of BRICS and IPSA.
Expressions like India being a net security provider to the Indian Ocean region and expectations of India’s role in the Gulf are not our imagination and certainly do not match your assessment of the intellectual, political, strategic prowess of the people on the CCS. With such contributions by an inconsequential external affairs minister, I would rather not be consequential.
Accountability in democracy is through parliamentary scrutiny, media and people’s mandate. Admittedly, UPA 1 cannot be faulted. And UPA 2 is still to face it. Meanwhile, one wonders about your position on the US government when 9/11 happened. I believe their people chose to show solidarity in the face of the enemy.
Perhaps you were more scathing on the incumbent CCS for Kargil or the attack on Parliament. Was the CCS impotent (oops!) when Rajivji was assassinated? What about the attacks in Russia and China, the latest in Kunming? Is it that you find fault only at home and with the present CCS? We live in a dangerous neighbourhood, and know that the terrorist has to be lucky only once whilst the protectors must be lucky every day. You might have a problem with the personal attributes and linguistic style of the CCS, but ultimately, what really matters is performance.
The writer is Union minister of external affairs