Saturday, September 8, 2012

Can Jaswant Singh make a comeback as Foreign Minister of India?



This piece is going on web at a time when grapevine in Lutyen’s city is about possible cabinet reshuffle. The buzz is that S M Krishna might be replaced by Shivraj Patil.

Don’t believe? Well, I also don’t. I would hate this to happen!!

But if Prathiba Patil can be made President of India and after a shocking defeat Shivraj can be handed over home, mortals like us can only stare up and blink helplessly as Sonia Gandhi mocks at 130 crores.

One is perhaps writing this piece little too late or even little too early. BJP’s onetime stalwart and once expelled Jaswant Singh has crossed his prime long back and ostensibly in more ways than one.

With Atal Bihari Vajpayee out of scene, the ‘man for all seasons’ too has fallen out of the radar.

Having lost vice presidential polls in 2012, and at the ripe age of XX he is now all set for retirement. Jaswant himself had announced that he would not contest Lok Sabha election again.

But as he lost the vice presidential election, only a die hard optimist would be happy that perhaps he still has a chance to return as country’s foreign minister.

But can he make it to the post?

Possibly yes, if BJP makes it in 2014. There are conjectures too, what happens if BJP is compelled to concede to give up prime ministership to Nitish Kumar, would Jaswant Singh make it as External Affairs Minister again.

Well, he might not be counted among the best of India’s foreign ministers, at least by country’s secular brigade but in framing India’s relations with the United States in the new millennium, his role cannot be forgotten.

Congress has lampooned enough at him for Indian Airlines plane hijack fiasco and sought to rubbish Jaswant’s contribution in re-establishing a workable relation with the US aftermath Pokhran-2.

Obviously, one is guided by his stellar performance as Vajpayee’s chief negotiator with Strobe Talbott, the trusted Bill Clinton point-man for Indian region.

At least Jaswant should be given some credit, of course besides Vajpayee himself, for taking a “journey” with the American leadership “guided by a sense of power and pride that India is not subservient to anyone and we (US and India) speak as equals”.

In the words of Talbott himself, “Jaswant was as hardheaded and tenacious an advocate for his government’s position as I had ever encountered”.

In his revealing page-turner ‘Engaging India’ where Talbott takes readers to the ‘backstage’ of a most suspenseful diplomatic drama, he has very high opinion of Jaswant Singh and describes him as “pragmatic and recalculating”.

He even distinguished Jaswant and L K Advani saying, “to me differences between him and BJP hardliners like Advani were real, not tactital. Jaswant represented a more sophisticated, less militant, but no less firmly held view of Hindutva”.

In fact, Talbott is to be believed, Jaswant and his team during the negotiations had given the US diplomats much tough time. “The danger with the Indians was that they would wear us down. They had their game plan ready and would stick with it”…. unlike Pakistanis, who Talbott says had no game plan.

Talbott also pays tribute to Jaswant’s diplomatic mantle saying, the Vajpayee’s Man Friday like probably the former Prime Minister had the “ability to keep the substance” of talks confidential while creating the impression that the both sides were getting along well.

Well, diplomacy is definitely about certain amount of ambiguity – at least till the final call is taken. And in terms of Indo-US relations, these were all relevant. It’s perhaps the irony of this country that Jaswant Singh might not make it as the external affairs minister again while S M Krishnas would make it and survive.

Thelikes of Shashi Tharoors and Jaswant Singhs would come and go and perhaps lament in some corridors that the basic intra-party democracy itself is lacking in India, at least in his Congress party.

(ends)

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