Best-dressed man in Indian politics since Nehru?!


E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: I had the fortune of eating Masale Dose around the same time that he ate his at MTR, except I ate mine at Udupi Krishna Bhavan in Chikkapete just a couple of kilometres away.

This unique experience was good enough for me wish good luck for the most well-dressed man in Indian politics after Jawaharlal Nehru and equally as well-read, India’s newest external affairs minister.

Using this badarayana sambandha, I sought Shri Krishna’s help for an interview with Timothy Roemer, the new US ambassador to India.

Roemer is a member of the Center for National Policy, member of the 9 /11 Commission, and member of the famous ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ team.

If he were in India I would have taken Roemer to MTR or Udupi Shri Krishna Bhavan, equivalent to Five Guys, for a Dose. However, he graciously agreed to do the interview over the phone.

“Congratulations, Mr Roemer, on being appointed as Ambassador,” I started off.

“Thank you. I look forward to the work ahead in India. Go on, shoot.” Ambassador Roemer was crisp and to the point.

“Mr. Ambassador, as Pakistan’s immediate neighbour, we are concerned with what’s going on in Pakistan. How do you read the situation there?”

“Well, let’s see. There is the Taliban, militant organizations like Al Qaeda and LeT, ISI, the Pakistani government, Baluchis and the tribals. What’s happening there appears to be an interplay of multiple elements operating independently or sometimes collectively but criss-crossing edgeways. This is a polynomial equation of nth degree with indeterminates floating all over and I wonder if any mathematical solution exists for this at all.  A simple answer would be: we don’t know what’s going on there. Period.”

“I thank you for the insightful clarity on the subject. The new Government under president Obama has identified ‘Good’ Taliban and ‘Bad’ Taliban. Could you elaborate on that?”

“They are similar to good cholesterol and bad cholesterol, I guess; which means you try to reduce the bad Taliban and increase the good Taliban like you do with cholesterol. But the problem is how to identify the good eggs from the bad ones? That could take years and any egg, good or bad, starts smelling after sometime making the whole package stink.”

“Your Af-Pak policy hasn’t taken off yet.”

“It has been a bit of a Fak-Ap so far, isn’t it? We coined the term as it sounded good on the ear, but we have yet to prepare the ground to bring the Afghans and Pakis together. It is quite difficult to make Pakistan agree to anything.”

“Most of the aid you have given to Pakistan has been used to buy arms. They have nothing done to stop militants acting against India from their soil.  We don’t even know who is in charge in Pakistan.”

“We face the same problem too when we want to give them money! I would advocate patience here. Patience is India’s virtue since the time of the Vedas. You must also remember they are fighting our terrorists—the Al Qaeda—with all seriousness. Pakistan gets easily upset and distracted when we mention the word ‘India’ to them. Our advice to India is:  maintain a low profile, so that Pakistan can concentrate on the job at hand.”

“Your ‘Congressional Report’ quotes Admiral Mullen saying Pakistan has stacked up 60 nukes pointing towards India and many more in the pipeline, whereas you want a low profile from India?”

“Did they publish the report? I’d be damned! Our administration has been mule-headed to make the Report public.”

“Mr Ambassador, just share with us what exactly is your policy if you have one? Fight only Al Qaeda and leave other terrorists to do as they please. Fund Pakistan to the teeth so that they stack their nuclear arsenal to fight India?”

“I wish I could answer that. Within our own administartion, there are as many indeterminate layers operating like in Pakistan. The Senate, the Congress and their congressional committees, the State department, the White House and the DOD all have a say on our policy. We have no clue who is forming the policy, what it is, and who is implementing which policy. That is what I hope to find out by the time I leave India!”

“Thank you for your illuminating replies, Mr Ambassador. We understand your policies much better now!” I replied.

Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna, as chief minister, had an unsuccessful wild goose chase involving the one-man army or terrorist that was Veerappan. At MEA, I hope he has better luck fighting an army of terrorists partly sponsored by government with lavish funds from abroad.

Will he succeed in the first 100 days, say before Gokulashtami?

Photographs:  S.M. Krishna in his many moods. Top left, yesterday; right, on the day he took over as Union minister for external affairs, and bottom, during the election campaign in Karnataka last year.