Senseless Utterances is Not History nor Diplomacy, Mr Ronen Sen!

SOROOR AHMED says that the US cannot be termed as our best friend. He compares the Soviet Union’s attitude towards us with that of US, and concludes that our diplomats should not go out of the way to shower praises on the big power.

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SOROOR AHMED says that the US cannot be termed as our best friend. He compares the Soviet Union’s attitude towards us with that of US, and concludes that our diplomats should not go out of the way to shower praises on the big power.

It seems that the definition of modern diplomacy is gradually changing. The more you make compromise the more successful diplomat you will be rated. This at least appears to be the story with our ambassador in the United States, Ronen Sen.

His recent utterances created a storm in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha as our lawmakers, obviously those belonging to the opposition parties, erupted against him for what they say derogatory and unwarranted comments about Indian parliamentarians. On August 21 the BJP moved a privilege motion against him in Parliament. The opposition leaders were in particular upset over Sen’s use of the phrase “headless chicken” which the envoy later clarified referred to the sound-byte hungry journalists and not to the law-makers opposed to the 123 Agreement.

What Sen wanted to say or whether he was wrongly understood or even quoted, as he now claims, is up to the MPs and him to make out, but what is of more serious concern is his brazen disregard for country’s history and self-respect. That a diplomat can play havoc with history just to justify his country’s agreement with the biggest power on the earth is simply unbelievable and absurd. Surprisingly, he was not pilloried for trivializing the history, but was flayed for insulting the MPs.

The above remark of Ronen Sen was a part of his interview which carried on August 20, 2007. It was reproduced by India Abroad, the sister group of, in its August 31 issue. The interview was in fact taken by the Managing Editor of the group and good friend of Sen, Sri Lanka-born Aziz Haniffa, who is based in the United States.

Sen crossed all the limits in showering fulsome praises on President George Bush-II of the United States. Even Bush’s greatest admirers in his own country may not match Sen’s performance.

Sen may be right in saying that the United States, which had taken the lead in setting up the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, where India was targeted, is taking the lead to exempt India. This is a significant departure from its past policy of the United States. But such U-turns in the history of the nations are not unprecedented as everything is fair in ‘war, peace and diplomacy’.

But Sen said something absolutely amazing: “There has been no parallel of a single country’s exemption to any of the international regimes, not in the 21st century, the 20th, 19th, 18th, 17th, 16th, in any century. All what we are doing is absolutely unprecedented.” That US has exempted India because of its own selfish interest is an established fact. The United States has the habit of doing so. But how can a diplomat like the one posted in Washington to serve the India’s interest find no parallel in such move in the 500 years –and even more – of history. The fact is that there was nothing like NPT in the pre-nuclear age, therefore, one can not make such a parallel. Besides, the truth is that the United States is only a 231 years old nation.

Sen did not stop there but went on to say that if this deal is not operationalised (sic), because the clock runs out in the wake of all the opposition in India, and calls for the special committees to review it and everything else, even after it has been made public and endorsed by both the US President and the Indian cabinet, “it would be a pity because what the Prime Minister said is very true – that we will not, and there has not been and I don’t think in the near future we will see such a friend and supporter as this President. Absolutely. There is none.”

Should a diplomat go to such an extent in praising the President of the country, who is considered the most hated person, not only in Muslim countries or in Cuba or Venezuela, but even in many civilized countries of the West?

The issue is not just of Sen’s statement, but overall approach of the Indian middle and ruling class towards the United States. True, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and end of Cold War we can not afford to be as anti-American as we used to be in the past. But getting closer to the US does not amount to denying the entire history. Can we afford to put all the eggs in one basket and that too when the same Super Power claims that ours is a unipolar world? Isn’t it the fact that of all the countries it is the best friend ever, the United States, which opposed India’s bid to become permanent member of the Security Council?

Till 18 years back we had an excellent relationship with the Soviet Union, much better than what we have today with the United States. Ideologically we were not a Communist nation and we used to champion the cause of non-alignment. Yet at no point of time the Soviet Union ditched India as the best friend United States has done so many times even in the post 9/11 world, when we are supposed to be so close to each other.

The Soviet Union provided all the material and emotional help to India at the times of crisis and peace, even during the 1971 war with Pakistan which led to the creation of Bangladesh. Even then none of our ambassadors ever showered so much praise on the then Soviet leader Brezhnev as Sen has done with Bush.

It was to much extent because of the Soviet Union that we became the nuclear power. But none of our diplomats ever went on to say that never in the 500 years we have had such a good friend as the Soviet Union.

True, we were too much tilted towards the Soviet Union then, which too was not a good diplomacy for a non-aligned sovereign country. Yet the truth is that the manner in which the Soviet leadership and people treated us is no match to the treatment our leaders get in the United States. Never between 1947 and 1990 – till the dismemberment of Soviet Union – any of our defence minister was stripped and frisked at the airport as the American did to George Fernandes. That was not enough: they meted out the same treatment to the then Madhya Pradesh chief minister, Babulal Gaur. All this when we are fighting war against terror unitedly.

At people’s level the less said is better. In this information age we get news of repeated attacks on Gurdwaras and temples by the racist Whites in the same United States, United Kingdom and elsewhere. Several Sikhs were killed and injured and their property targeted after 9/11. This phenomenon is still continuing. Have not the American people yet been able to differentiate between the enemy and friend – between the Sikhs and Talebans?

When we were friendly with the Soviet Union not a single such instance of Indians getting beaten up or killed was ever reported from there or any Eastern Europe Communist country. Despite the language barrier thousands of students from India would go to these countries every year to study and none of them ever faced the humiliation as in the United States. Here is a country where talented Indians go with their own money. They are sometimes denied visas or are kept in suspense for ever. Yet we are proud that so many of our engineers, scientists work in space research and I-T industry in that country.

Be it at the government level or people to people level the Soviet Union never hurt the feelings of India. It even used veto power to come in defence of India. The United States had never done so and will never do so. Even today when we have not as good a relationship with the rump-state Russia as it was with the Soviet Union in the past, President Vladmir Putin did not oppose the permanent membership of the United Nations. Once again it is the US, which had blocked the move. Be it the issue of patenting, Jammu and Kashmir dispute or anything else the Americans are not going to come out clearly in support of us. They are never going to use veto for us. Yet we think that we have not a friend like the United States in history and would not get a man like George Bush.