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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 forum.

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

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

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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