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The voice of India (and response) - The Indian Express

Editorial ()
June 12, 1998

Title: The voice of India (and response)
Author: Editorial
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: June 12, 1998

Ever since Pokharan-II, whatever gains India has made in
strategic terms seems to have been consistently undermined
by the polyphony -- indeed, the cacophony - of voices seeking
to advance India's point of view in the international sphere.
But it would be unfair to fault the government on its failure to
speak in a single, clear, definitive voice on the nuclear issue.
It may have released the nuclear genie but once out of
confinement. it has mushroomed to proportions that
overshadow the government's. This is an issue of national and
international importance. What needs to be articulated is
India's stand, not the stand of its government of the day. The
everyday voice of a government naturally lacks the timbre
that the job calls for. The urgent need is to find, instead,
India's voice. A voice that is beyond party politics and is
accustomed to foreign environments and cultures. A voice, in
short, that is sophisticated, non-partisan and therefore
universally acceptable. India is now an international subject.
It needs to be able to project its views and concerns in terms
that will be internationally appreciated.

The proposal is not as radical as it may sound. Throughout
history, men of eminence have been called upon to serve the
nation in this manner, even as far back as the negotiations of
a beleaguered Rome with the Etruscans. In modem times, the
US has used the good offices of Jimmy Carter, failed
president but an extremely successful ambassador-on-call, on
various occasions. India, too, has successfully experimented
with the method. It might be recalled that the Narasimha Rao
government had sent Atal Behari Vajpayee along with
Salman Khursheed to Geneva to project India's views on the
Kashmir issue. It turned out to be a remarkably successful
strategy. Why can't that experiment be repeated now? The
bulk of the opposition has been in favour of exercising the
nuclear option anyway. In fact, in the era of coalition politics,
the government should try to coopt the opposition on an issue
of such magnitude. And there are several excellent voices out
there who can effectively articulate India's stand in any world

In sum, this is not a time to send messages out through the
notorious 'proper channel'. Given the fact that various
improper channels have been in use, the signal-to-noise ratio
has fallen to unacceptable levels. For some time, it was even
unclear whether the diplomacy relating to Pokharan-II would
be dealt with by the Defence Ministry rather than the
Ministry of External Affairs, and whether George Fernandes
and the Defence Minister were discrete entities. Add that was
only part of the problem. The government must now seek a
depoliticised voice, one that is in no danger of being mistaken
for a partisan mouthpiece. And what better way to ensure that
than to conduct the search in the opposition benches? At this
juncture in time, when the very way the world sees itself is
changing, the quality and provenance of messages have
become crucially important. In any international forum, it
should be India that speaks, not the party in power. The voice
that needs to be heard is that of the philosopher, not the king.


R. G. Kulkarni
C-6, Ashirwad,
272, Swami Vivekanad Road,
Mumbai 400 050.

June 12, 1998.


Ref your editorial "The voice of India" (June 12) where you
have rightly mentioned that there is a need to project an India
voice on the issue of nuclear tests. India has a very strong
legal and moral case. The tests have exposed the hypocrisy of
the first five nuclear powers. It has brought to the fore the
collaboration of China and Pakistan, on nuclear weapons and
delivery systems. It is now clear that there has been at least
an unintended help given the USA.

The reason why there is no India voice is that the opposition
parties have taken it as a partisan issue, and our so-called
intellectuals have once again exposed their bankruptcy. On
the first day, your publication came out with a bold statement
on the first page supporting the logic behind the tests.
However, if one were to read your editorial page articles, one
would get an impression that the world has come to an end.
Most other English language publications came out with
editorial in opposition on the first day itself, instead of coolly
thinking through the issues. Many accused the BJP of
indulging in jingoism. They have forgotten their own
jingoism, and refuse to recognise that the BJP position in
many ways is a reaction to this.

As far as opposition parties are concerned, you are incorrect
when you say that the bulk was in favour of exercising the
nuclear opposition. During the debate in the Parliament, all
sorts of peripheral issues were raised by them. Actually, most
of them were jealous that it was a BJP government that had
the courage to undertake something that they were scared of.
And their fear was not proliferation but what Uncle Sam
would do to them.

The real problem is editorials of the type under reference.
Most of the so-called intellectuals look at issues from an
electoral point of view. For them the primary enemy is not
outside, but within, namely the Sangh Parivar. Unless they
get over the phobia, there will be little chance that India will
speak with one voice on issues of national importance.

Yours sincerely,

(R G Kulkarni)

The Editor, The Indian Express,
Express Tower, Nariman Point,
Mumbai 400 021.

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