Rebuff to Vajpayee

Print edition : June 04, 2004

IN Plan of Attack Bob Woodward reveals a move by Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee: "In Washington the next day, Monday, March 17, Condoleezza Rice was on the phone to the National Security Adviser of India (Brajesh Mishra) at 7 a.m. The Indian Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, had sent a letter to Bush two days earlier, offering to host a summit of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council - Russia, France, China, the U.K. and the United States - to work out their problems. The U.S. had repeatedly urged negotiations on India in its dangerous disputes with Pakistan since both countries possessed nuclear weapons. So Vajpayee's offer had to be rejected carefully.

"`Great idea', Rice said politely, `but we don't see the point now'. Thanks for your concern and help. `We appreciate the Prime Minister's efforts, but at least one country had made it clear.' France would veto. `Therefore, we just don't see the usefulness of such a meeting'," Note the contempt - "great idea" - in Rice's comments to Woodward.

Did Vajpayee imagine that his intervention at the very last minute had even the faintest chance of success, assuming it ever did every before? The U.S. was bent on war. It had indicated that it had no use for the Security Council. It was not in search of a venue for a meeting of P-5, New Delhi's convenience apart. Whoever advised him to embark on this fatuous venture? Use of florid rhetoric is enough to debase diplomacy without recourse to stunts like this. But this episode should prompt questions. India was no player in the affair, though no fault on its part. What is the mindset that prompts actions such as this? This is a question we ought to ask. The initiative reflects crass ignorance of the global situation, lack of professionalism and a pressing urge to play a larger role than is warranted. Contrast it with Russia and China's dignified restraint. Vajpayee clearly hoped to reap advantage in domestic politics. He exposed himself and the great nation he represented to a humiliating snub from a Condoleezza Rice. It should make any sensitive Indian feel sad.

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