New Delhi, Feb 20 (IANS) Indians themselves may be casting a cynical eye at the current goings-on and its impact on the future of the nation, but for the outside world, India’s future certainly looks bright and in many ways a beacon for a world beset with popular upheavals and slow growth.
At the conference of Least Developed Countries, or LDCs as they are called, in New Delhi this week, ministers and envoys of 48 nations extolled the virtues of India, including its democracy, its free press, its transparency in governance, its burgeoning economy at a time of sluggish growth the world over and an independent judiciary and investigative system that is able to jail powerful former ministers at the first evidence of wrongdoing.
The sight of the prime minister of a country of over a billion people being subjected to an hour-long questioning by a vigilant media is a “wonderful quality that we can only admire but not emulate”, as an African envoy put it. “We have all a long way to go before we can have institutions that India has developed,” said another minister from an Asian country admiringly.
Will a dark horse head JPC?
With the budget session beginning Monday and an announcement on Wednesday of a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) into the 2G spectrum scam, political circles are agog with speculation on who will head the important panel that will make headlines in Indian political history.
Will it be the former Rajasthan Congress chief and current National Women’s Commission chief Girija Vyas or five-time MP from Andhra Pradesh Kishore Chandra Deo? The name of P.C. Chacko, MP from Kerala, is also in circulation.
But Congress circles do not rule out an unexpected choice by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and the UPA government top brass… like Meira Kumar was selected for the Lok Sabha speaker’s post and Pratibha Patil as president by Sonia.
Reaching out to a billion hands
When American Ambassador Timothy Roemer was coming to India, President Barack Obama asked him if he knew how much was India’s population. When he replied that it was over a billion, he said “I want you to shake hands with every one of them.”
Thus began a hand-pumping campaign that has been taking Roemer, a former politician from Indiana, all over the country in an unprecedented public diplomacy campaign. Recently a little boy walked up to Roemer when he was travelling by train, and thrust his hand for a shake, demonstrating that his campaign was indeed working and reaching out to the ordinary Indian. In fact, “Shake the Ambassador’s hand” here is a popular post on the American embassy blog as ‘website communication’ becomes an important element of American public diplomacy globally
A sentence-a-minute foreign minister
With his widely reported faux pas at the United Nations where he began reading out from the Portuguese envoy’s speech passing into diplomatic lore, India’s External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna proceeded to be doubly circumspect as he set out to welcome foreign ministers, permanent representatives and envoys from 48 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to a marquee dinner on the lawns of the expansive Hyderabad House.
The result was, instead of welcoming his guests like any good host with some spontaneity, Krishna chose to read out a prepared welcome in halting text, with references to the balmy weather of a Delhi spring and the timeless wonder of the Taj Mahal where the guests were to be ferried Saturday. The result: his sentence-a-minute rendering made it a stilted welcome and left no one in doubt why it was difficult for Indian diplomats to catch on to his goof-up before he had read on for over three minutes at the United Nations.
Ravi insists on indoor English
Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi has decided to interact with scribes in his office, as he feels that he is being misquoted due to language barrier in understanding his ‘south-Indian accent English’.
“I will interact with you guys in my office only from now on. I don’t understand the Punjabi English and you don’t understand my south Indian English, so we will only talk in my office,” joked Ravi while interacting with journalists on the sidelines of an industry event here .
Ravi was misquoted twice in the week – first in Mumbai where he said that he will request the finance ministry to infuse equity of Rs.10,000 crore into the cash-strapped national carrier Air India and a day after in the national capital, where he (mis)reportedly said that he will disinvest the government’s share in the airline.
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Flagging off China at US National Day
When guests checked in at the US embassy for the American National Day celebrations Friday, they were greeted with perfect American courtesy and, yes, miniature American flags. It was quite a sight to see so many of them walking around on the sunlit lawns of Roosevelt House, the sprawling residence of the American ambassador in India, with the Stars and Stripes poking out of their suit pockets, or fluttering in the gentle breeze.
However, it came as a bit of amusement when one discovered that the flags flaunted a Made in China label. The US may be scornful of grandiose tags like G2, but with US and Chinese economies joined at the hip, anything is possible.
A warrior who has to do a balancing mission
Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh recently told a group of activists that while he was a warrior for them, he often had to do a ‘balancing act’. Coming from a meeting of group of ministers(GOM), he told them: “Not every time I am able to take a stand with activists and conservationists. I am also under tremendous pressure… developmental and demographic.”
“It is a difficult job and sometimes I feel like a warrior who has to do a balancing act,” Jairam said.
He recalled a meeting with his ministerial colleagues: “I was all ears to the coal minister who had his eyes set on the mines, the road and highways minister who wants a simple lane to become a service lane and roads to run from the middle of forests, and the power minister who wants a nod for his projects.”
Rajkhowa sings a new tune
ULFA chief Arvind Rajkhowa had varied experiences in the national capital, where he had come to talk peace with the government recently. At the airport, he was whisked away to a safe hideout. This left the TV crews clueless and a big contingent of Assamese students, who had come to receive him to a traditional welcome, fuming. It was after much effort that Rajkhowa’s meeting with the students was held at the YMCA hall. Then the peacenik was in a different role. He enthralled the audience with his peace anthem “Aami shanti disaru” (I am in search of peace).
He sang soulfully before leaving for the meeting with Prime Minster Manmohan Singh.