Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday pulled up Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh, asking him to refrain from commenting on the functioning of other Ministries in public.
The reprimand of the Minister came for his comments in Beijing on Saturday. He had criticised the Home Ministry, calling its attitude “alarmist'' and “paranoid'' towards Chinese companies engaged in projects in India.
The comments stirred the hornet's nest back home, with Home Minister P. Chidambaram bringing the nature of Mr. Ramesh's critical comments about the working of the Home Ministry to the notice of the Dr. Singh, sources in the Prime Minister's Office said.
Dr. Singh spoke to Mr. Ramesh on Monday after the latter returned from Beijing, asking him not to comment on the functioning of other Ministries, the sources said.
During the telephonic conversation, Dr. Singh told Mr. Ramesh that it was “advisable for Cabinet colleagues not to make comments on the functioning of other Ministries, especially with regard to relationship with important neighbours like China.''
The Prime Minister is learnt to have told Mr. Ramesh that there was “no confusion in our policies towards China and we continue to strive for constructive engagement with Beijing.''
While in Beijing last week-end to attend an international conference on climate change, Mr. Ramesh said the Home Ministry's policies were threatening to derail the post-Copenhagen warming of ties between the two neighbours. He even suggested that the Home Ministry needed to be “much more relaxed'' in its approach to Chinese investments in India.
Objecting to his comments, top officials of the Home Ministry said it was “wrong to say that the security establishment was biased against Chinese companies.''
“Chinese companies are already present in India in a big way. They are working in a variety of sectors, including telecommunications. I do not think there is any discrimination happening from the government's side,'' Home Secretary G.K. Pillai said.
Mr. Ramesh's critical comments came soon after senior Congress leader and party general secretary Digvijay Singh, in a recent write-up in an English financial daily, questioned Mr. Chidambaram's anti-Naxal policy.
Late in the evening, Mr. Ramesh apologised to the Prime Minister and Congress president Sonia Gandhi for his remarks