Está en la página 1de 5

12/16/12

Redif f On The NeT: The Redif f Interv iew/L C Jain

HOME | NEWS | INTERVIEW

November 5, 1998 ELECTIONS '98 COMMENTARY SPECIALS INTERVIEWS CAPITAL BUZZ REDIFF POLL DEAR REDIFF THE STATES YEH HAI INDIA! ARCHIVES

The Rediff Interview/L C Jain

'I am told Brajesh Mishra is preventing the appointment of a full-time foreign minister'
India's former envoy to South Africa, the elderly Gandhian L C Jain, is mired in controversy. A political appointee of the Gujral government, he was recalled only last month. One charge against him was that he was not up to the mark, what with Indo-South African relations reaching a nadir in the post-Pokhran phase. In an interview with Amberish K Diwanji, Jain laments the decline in Indian diplomacy and recalls his days in Pretoria. You have criticised the role of the prime minister's office in external affairs? My concern is structural. We have a ministry of external affairs, which has experience of over 50 years. It has a process by which issues are discussed, options considered, and a decision recommended to the political authority. I am sad to find that this has been paralysed. The prime minister's office has acquired an awesome, almost autocratic, authority. And maybe for gratuitous reasons, a person heading the PMO is a former foreign service person, Brajesh Mishra, who feels that he knows everything. I find the MEA completely sidelined. Secondly, whatever communications were sent to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, I have reason to believe, never reached him. They were blocked. Why do you say that? After the Pokhran blasts, I sent a communication to the PM for a meeting. The PM's private secretary rang up and promised an appointment, but which never fructified. When I enquired, I was told that the request had gone to the PMO. I had also sent a whole bunch of letters to the PMO which were not even acknowledged. Now, having known Atalji personally for many years, I cannot believe that he would not even acknowledge my letters. I have received replies and acknowledgements from (former prime minister I K) Gujral and the President. How is it that only the PM did not reply? Instead of you, should not the MEA officials speak up and the foreign secretary protest such a state of affairs?

www.redif f .co.in/news/1998/nov /05jain.htm

1/5

12/16/12

Redif f On The NeT: The Redif f Interv iew/L C Jain

I will give you an example of the situation in the MEA today. When I was sent to South Africa as high commissioner, a person employed by the government was deputed to join me. This person's wife and six-month-old infant were to join him a month later. But his wife and infant were asked to vacate the government quarters even while staying in Delhi, forcing them to stay with some friends. The person reached Pretoria in January and in February asked the MEA for permission to bring over his wife and child. He was told to wait. Reason: elections and a new government, even though this was a routine matter. After the new government took office, I asked (foreign secretary) K Raghunath to expedite the matter since the man was extremely worried about his wife and child. There was no reply. I have asked several times why a government employee was being treated so badly. I was even willing to send him back. But there must be a decision either way. Till date, no decision has been taken. Raghunath is supposed to look after the morale of his staff, what has he done? I was told that all my communications were bogged down in the PMO. These guys can't speak up in such a simple case. No one speaks up. What grievance do you have against the MEA? I have no personal grievance. All I have done is give suggestions on how to restore relations with South Africa. These include giving the MEA freedom to do its job; to have a policy planning division in the MEA which can give a wider perspective to the evolving world. I have also said there must be a full-time external affairs minister (there is only a minister of state). I have asked to be made that minister. I have also said that given our broad relations with South Africa, it can't be funnelled only through the diplomatic mission but must also involve the society. We have one and a half million Indians in South Africa who are keen to learn Tamil, Telugu, Bharat Natyam, etc, all of which needs more societal involvement. What is Brajesh Mishra or the BJP's grouse against you? Until the Pokhran tests, Mishra did not figure on my screen. It is he who is supposed to have said in Delhi that I had failed to defend India's nuclear tests effectively, thus embarrassing the BJP government. The fact is that an independent assessment carried out by the MEA stated that the South African mission did an excellent job in projecting India's case. The other complaint was that I had not developed sufficient diplomatic muscle since South Africa had criticised India's nuclear tests, ignoring the fact that when France conducted nuclear tests in 1996, the criticism was far more trenchant. Regarding India, South Africa only said on May 12: 'In policy, South Africa does not support nuclear tests, and we hope that it will not affect the peace process in South Asia.'. New Delhi was apprehensive that South Africa might introduce or second
2/5

12/16/12

Redif f On The NeT: The Redif f Interv iew/L C Jain

a resolution against the nuclear tests during the NAM ministerial meet on May 21 at Cartagena, Colombia. The SA government assured me that this would not happen. But when the meeting was on, Vajpayee declared that 'India is a nuclear power state', which goes beyond mere testing. So SA prepared a resolution in Cartagena saying all earlier resolutions passed against nuclear weapon states would now also apply to India. The Indian delegate in Colombia asked me in Pretoria to stop this resolution. I pointed out that since both the Indian minister of state (Vasundhara Raje) and the SA ministers were in Colombia, they should spoke to each other. Anyway, I then requested Nelson Mandela's office not to move the resolution. Mandela's office's message to the SA foreign minister in Colombia upset him terribly who asked why the Indian delegation did not speak to him directly. Moreover, the Indian delegate did not even assuage his feelings then, leaving a bitter taste. What happened during Mishra's visit to SA? In June, I was informed that special envoy Mishra was visiting and wanted to meet Mandela and deputy president Thabo Mbeki. I sought the appointments, as per protocol, via the foreign minister's office. New Delhi asked me to approach Mandela and Mbeki directly. I refused, pointing out that we had already hurt the South African foreign minister in Colombia. I was warned that if the meetings didn't occur, I would be misunderstood in Delhi. I replied that my job is to ensure that India is not misunderstood. Mandela's office asked what was the need for the meeting since Mandela and Vajpayee had already had two long telephonic conversations covering all topics. Mishra met Mbeki in July, and while he brilliantly presented India's case, he failed to ask the other side's opinion. Moreover, by then, Kashmir was an issue and Pakistan was seeking third party mediation, something which I had already rejected. I thought Mishra would explain our stand on Kashmir but he did not utter a word. When Mishra met the foreign minister and foreign secretary, he spoke lightly about the "slight misunderstanding" in Colombia. This made the foreign secretary extremely angry and he stated that asking a draft to be held back was a serious matter. Mishra then tried to cover his tracks and spoke about Indo-SA friendship. To this, the foreign secretary said as friends, it should be possible to have differences also. I found that at this stage, all of Mishra's diplomatic experience crumbled. This was not the PMO where everyone falls at your feet, it was a negotiating table where the other side opposes you. I broke the stalemate by speaking about the wide range of Indo-SA relations. Mishra achieved nothing in limiting damage but left behind a little damage. Earlier you asked why the MEA officials don't intervene. In Pretoria no MEA official thought it fit to correct Mishra. Unfortunately, our system does not allow juniors to speak up. It is sad that our prime minister has
www.redif f .co.in/news/1998/nov /05jain.htm 3/5

12/16/12

Redif f On The NeT: The Redif f Interv iew/L C Jain

given so much power to his special envoy. I was even told that it is Mishra who is preventing the appointment of a full-time foreign minister. What happened at the NAM summit in Durban? When both the foreign office delegates met, the South Africans showed us a draft to which India replied that this draft "will hurt bilateral relations". I was shocked. Under whose authority can officials say that bilateral relations will be hurt? Even the cabinet alone cannot do that, the entire country has to be involved. The South African delegate officer met me and asked why the Indian team was so touchy over a simple draft? I then arranged a meeting where the Indian delegates convinced the South Africans about our feelings and got the draft changed. But before the meeting began, the South African foreign secretary called Raghunath's bluff on breaking relations. Raghunath then sought to play down the threat, but it had certainly strained relations. The next day Mandela spoke and said Kashmir was an outstanding issue where NAM countries can help. Instead of explaining our view to South Africa against outside mediation, Mishra took the matter in his hands. He decided that the PM in his speech must declare that the remarks were "unwarranted and unacceptable", both very strong words. If any consultations were held, I would have suggested that we tell Mandela about our feelings on the subject. Being a gentleman and the host, Mandela would have simply put his arms around Vajpayee and issued a clarification. The speech was read out but evoked no response. The next day, Raghunath told me they were worried about Vajpayee returning without a South African clarification. I suggested we instead get Mbeki to speak to Vajpayee. I then asked a friend, a senior official in Mbeki's office, to help out. First, we wanted them to talk over the phone, but the Indian side stalled that idea. Time was running out as Vajpayee was scheduled to depart that afternoon. Next, I asked my wife, who knows Mbeki's wife very well, and got her to request Mbeki to meet Vajpayee briefly when he enters the session hall. That is finally what happened. The entire hall saw that instead of going to the front of the hall, Mbeki went back to meet Vajpayee where he assured him that South Africa had no intention of mediating. When the media met Vajpayee and asked him what transpired, Vajpayee only replied, 'Can't you make out? I am smiling.' But at night, Mishra declared that SA had apologised whereas Mbeki had only explained his country's position. I immediately asked the MEA to issue a clarification, pointing out the consequences of a wrong statement from the PM's special envoy. Do you think Indo-SA ties have been badly harmed? Indo-SA ties are so deep that all these are like scratches on the surface.
www.redif f .co.in/news/1998/nov /05jain.htm 4/5

12/16/12

Redif f On The NeT: The Redif f Interv iew/L C Jain

But why I am speaking out is to give a warning to be careful, to use our experience in our diplomacy. South Africa is a very important country in the African continent and will play a major role in the coming years. We must not lose our goodwill with them. The Rediff Interviews Tell us what you think of this interview
HOME | NEWS | BUSINESS | SPORTS | MOVIES | CHAT | INFOTECH | TRAVEL SHOPPING HOME | BOOK SHOP | MUSIC SHOP | HOTEL RESERVATIONS PERSONAL HOMEPAGES | FREE EMAIL | FEEDBACK

www.redif f .co.in/news/1998/nov /05jain.htm

5/5