THE President's address to the joint session of Parliament contained 19 paragraphs on India's foreign policy and diplomacy. The President spoke on February 17. Not once did he refer to non-alignment, although the 13th NAM summit was just a week away. I drew the attention of the Rajya Sabha to this amazing lapse and also brought this to the notice of the External Affairs Minister - Yashwant Sinha.
The 13th summit met under the shadow of the Iraq crisis. The summit, under the chairmanship of the outspoken Dr. Mahathir Mohammad of Malaysia came up with an agreed text on Iraq. Atal Behari Vajpayee had this to say on this matter in the Rajya Sabha on March 4, 2003:
It was a significant achievement that NAM arrived at a balanced consensus text on Iraq. There was unity in the movement on the need for a continuation of multilateral efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Iraq crisis. There was also a clear exhortation to Iraq to fully comply with its obligations under the Security Council resolutions.
The United States was not mentioned by the Prime Minister in Kuala Lumpur or in the Rajya Sabha. But the Malaysian Prime Minister minced no words. He called a spade a spade. His refreshing candour may not be disarming but it certainly is worthy of admiration, even respect.
India has a pivotal role to play in ensuring that non-alignment remains on the international agenda and the non-aligned group at the United Nations in New York acts in unity on major world issues.
Will America heed the NAM declaration adopted in Kuala Lumpur? Perhaps not. Will the U.S. listen to the U.N. Secretary-General? Perhaps not. The new international disorder is now round the corner. Even as Iraq has started to disarm, Bush has raised the stakes. What he now wants is - regime change. What next? Who next?
THE people of Himachal Pradesh have given a fitting reply to the unbridled and presumptuous verbal claims of the Bharatiya Janata Party about being the self-appointed proprietor of Hindu religion and our heritage. They put everything they had into the Himachal Pradesh election and flooded that beautiful State with their political heavyweights. The Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister quite obviously misjudged the feelings and anger of the Himachalis against misrule, incompetence and soaring corruption.
The unseemly display of arrogance after the Gujarat elections had sooner or later to come a cropper. The Gujarat Chief Minister, one hopes, will draw the correct lessons from the drubbing his party got in Himachal Pradesh. He is no small measure responsible for the poor showing of the BJP. He arrived in Himachal Pradesh presenting himself as a conquering hero. He returned diminished in stature and public esteem. The assumption that the BJP and VHP versions of our religion and heritage would sway voters did not prove true. Other parts of India too will see through their communal game.
For the BJP, the Himachal Pradesh was a do-or-die battle. The tone of their campaign made this quite clear. For the Congress party, this was not so. It takes every election seriously but does not make tall claims. The BJP's whispering campaign against Mohsina Kidwai, Congress general secretary in-charge of Himachal Pradesh, made no impression on the voters. The overwhelming victory of the Congress party once again shows the astuteness and good sense of the voter. The people of India do not fall for extremes, beyond a point. The BJP knows that the steam has gone out of the Ayodhya card.
WATCHING Sachin Tendulkar play against Pakistan was something quite extraordinary. He has stretched the limits of batting skills. To hit the world's fastest bowler for 18 runs in one over a rare sight. Like hundreds of millions of people all over the cricketing world, I sat rivetted to my television. In addition to Tendulkar's great innings, what was heartening was the grit and determination that Md. Kaif, Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh displayed. We cannot depend only on one individual to see us through each time. Even a consistent genius like Tendulkar has his off-days and therefore it is of paramount important that batsmen who follow him show the same confidence that the three individuals mentioned above exhibited against Pakistan. If our team, which began badly, can keep up the standard they set for themselves against Pakistan, we have an excellent chance of reaching the final of the World Cup once again after 1983. Cricket is a very English game but it has become part of the sporting ethos of the Indian subcontinent. The intense passions around are quite unique. For over a hundred years, the cricketing centre of gravity was London. It is no longer so and this is good for the game.