Sunday Levity: Oracular utterances

Normal for the Indian course?

Engaging India, Strobe Talbott’s book on the dialogue between the United States and India after the May 1998 nuclear tests is also an account of the author’s personal equations with Jaswant Singh, his Indian interlocutor. Due to the sensitive nature of those discussions much of their actual content had to be kept private.

During my visit to New Delhi, Jaswant and I made several brief appearances together before the press. I let him do most of the talking, not just because he was the host, but because of his ability to keep the substance of our talks confidential while creating the impression that the two of us were getting along famously. He was a master of public statements that made up in panache what they lacked in content and sometimes even in discernible meaning. Two of my favorites were, “The totally moral has become the realistically moral,” and “If strategic deterrance is not on the negotiating table, how can you have a missile-development program on the table?”

The journalists dutifully scribbled down these oracular utterances, never asking for clarification or amplification, and then reported them to their readers as though they provided insight into what was going on in the talks. [Strobe Talbott/Engaging India]

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