‘Misfortunes never come singly.’ Caught in a time of troubles, the United Progressive Alliance government is being ambushed from all sides. India’s Ambassador to the United States, Ronen Sen, had a sudden attack of foot in mouth disease. What precisely did he say in Washington to cause such strife in India’s Parliament? The report of his interview (“Ambassador Sen: ‘We will have zero credibility’”) to rediff.com reveals, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he took potshots at the political parties and leaders who oppose the nuclear deal. Aziz Haniffa, an experienced journalist who has stood by his report, quotes the Ambassador as commenting: “It has been approved here (in Washington, DC) by the President and there (in New Delhi) it’s been approved by the Indian Cabinet. So why do you have all this running around like headless chicken[s], looking for a comment here or comment there, and these little storms in a teacup?” Also: “I am really bothered that 60 years after independence, they are so insecure — that we have not grown up, this lack of confidence and lack of self-respect.” The report on the interview helpfully, if somewhat breathlessly, places the remarks in context by revealing in the lead that Mr. Sen, “a key protagonist of the U.S.-India civilian nuclear agreement, and the architect behind scripting the resurrection of the 123 Agreement as it lay virtually dormant…is quite aghast at the opposition to the deal from the Left parties, not to mention the Bharatiya Janata Party’s attempts to torpedo it.”
But is foot in mouth disease the only problem with this diplomat? A plain reading of Mr. Sen’s remarks as reported by Mr. Haniffa reveals a state of mind that has crossed all limits of sobriety in relation to the nuclear deal; that is soaked in foreign policy dependence; that is intolerant, and arrogantly so, of any opposition to the deal; that is completely sold on President George Bush as India’s once-in-a-millennium benefactor and saviour. How else to explain the comment that if “the clock runs out in the wake of all the opposition in India and calls for special committees to review it and everything else…it would be a pity because what the Prime Minister said is very true — that we will not, and there has not been and I don’t think in the near future we will see such a friend and supporter as this President. Absolutely. There is none.” Or does this sound like a sober assessment of a deal not yet completed: “There has been no parallel of a single country exemption to any of the international regimes…not in the 21st century, the 20th, 19th, 18th, 17th, 16th, in any century.” Mr. Sen’s clarification — which is one-third denial, one-third rationalisation, one third admission and apology — just won’t wash. He is not fit to be India’s Ambassador anywhere. The UPA government will be wasting its, and Parliament’s, time if it expects to get away with anything short of Mr. Sen’s recall — and will indeed find itself in a deeper political mess should it attempt to defend the indefensible and the disgraceful.