STATEMENT BY DR SHASHI THAROOR
Minister of State for External Affairs
I am dismayed by the inaccurate and tendentious reporting of a statement attributed to me at a seminar organized by the Indian Council of World Affairs on 8 January 2010.
Lord Bhikhu Parekh’s speech on “India’s Place in the World” was an hour-long and largely positive analysis of the major trends in Indian foreign policy. While he expressed some criticisms of past policies, these were not inappropriate in an academic setting dedicated to free discussion of global issues, and in any case were expressed in constructive terms.
In my Chairman’s remarks at the conclusion of the event, and while summarizing Lord Parekh’s main points, I stated: “That Indian foreign policy drew from our sense of civilisation, and the extraordinary contribution by Mahatma Gandhi and Nehruji’s articulation of our civilisational heritage, both enhanced India’s standing in the world but also earned us the negative reputation of running a moralistic commentary on world affairs—that has come through very clearly in your speech.” I went on to point out that there was more to Nehruvian policies than that, alluding to the use of force in Goa as an example of realpolitik in Indian policy.
At no stage did I say what the Times of India, Mail Today and the Asian Age places within quotation marks. It is a basic tenet of good journalism that any quotations within quotation marks should be the exact words spoken. This was manifestly not the case. The Asian Age even quotes extensively from Lord Parekh’s remarks and attributes them to me. This is not merely unprofessional, it is dishonest. I demand a correction.
I expressed my agreement with Lord Parekh’s views of Indian civilisation, secularism and pluralism, which accord closely with my own—and indeed with the profound convictions of the Congress Party and the UPA Government.
Some TV channels have even run stories on the basis of inaccurate press reporting, without even checking the tape of my remarks. That reflects very poorly on their professionalism or lack thereof. There were other media outlets present which had the integrity not to report a distorted version of my remarks, and I applaud those news channels and newspapers that saw the remarks in context. Not one among the large numbers of professional diplomats present found anything remotely controversial in the event. I am sure the tape is available for verification. How many of those who have written or spoken about this matter have actually seen the tape or heard my remarks?
Irresponsible reporting may briefly gratify a few sensation-seekers in the media, but they do no credit to the need for informed discussion of foreign policy issues in our democracy. India deserves better. So, frankly, do I.
10 January 2010