Pink, but not pretty

Calling out the Financial Times’ anti-India prejudices

The editors of Financial Times have timeandagain demonstrated an anti-India bias that is unfathomable. Or it is perhaps a ‘poison-pill strategy’ to prevent Anil Ambani or Vijay Mallya from buying over the paper and casting out the condescending snobs who sit on its editorial board. If these are strong words, they are only in response to an editorial that not indulges in crass moral equivalence but sees nothing wrong in using language that it probably considers taboo in other contexts.

It’s about David Miliband’s disastrous visit to Mumbai a few days ago. The newspaper is within its rights to find that Mr Miliband “was, of course, right” and that his only failing was being tin-eared and tactless. Given the context—Britain’s chief diplomat speaking at a sombre funereal occasion—that failing is the kind that should make decent Britons call for his resignation.

But the FT doesn’t leave it at that. It goes on:

More generally, the boyish Mr Miliband and Pranab Mukherjee, his septuagenarian Indian counterpart, do not seem to have hit it off. The studied informality of New Labour mateyness collided with official India’s Brahmin sense of decorum. Yet there is more than outrage in India’s over-reaction. [FT

Unless the FT’s editor’s think that “the studied informality of New Labour mateyness” has replaced a sense of decorum in the way the world conducts its diplomacy, shouldn’t it have called Mr Miliband out on this one? If indeed such chumminess is the new style in international politics, perhaps they should try that in Beijing or Moscow. “Hey Vladimir dude, can you extradite those mates of yours who go about our locals spiking drinks” is, shall we say, unlikely to impress those non-Brahmin Russians.

Which brings us to the “Brahmin sense of decorum”. The reference to caste was uncalled for, and is in gross bad taste. If Mr Miliband’s mateyness was of the New Labour kind, Mr Mukherjee’s decorum could well be the Old Congress kind. Does the FT equally drag in race and ethnic labels in other contexts?

There’s more:

First, the ruling Congress party is fighting desperately for re-election against the Bharatiya Janata party, Hindu supremacists who say the government is soft on terrorism and its causes: Kashmir and Pakistan.[FT

There’s a new odious label that the FT has invented for the BJP—“Hindu supremacists”. Now, the BJP can reasonably be approximated as “Hindu nationalist”, but it is gratuitous for the FT to describe it as a Hindu “supremacist” without justifying the label.

Second, kicking the former colonial power is a popular, almost cost-free way to send a message to Barack Obama. The new US president is believed to be considering a special envoy for south Asia, with Kashmir as part of the remit.[FT

Here the British editors of the FT claim undue importance. The truth is that far from being a favourite whipping boy, Britain is largely irrelevant. In fact that is implicit in the FT’s own argument: kicking Britain to send a message to America is cost-free because an uppity foreign secretary of an irrelevant country behaved improperly. And no, it’s not India’s fault that Britain is irrelevant.

Third, while Indian officials regard Kashmir as inalienable, much of the rest of the world sees a 20-year insurgency with 60,000 dead; that India refuses outside mediation or to call a plebiscite mandated by the United Nations after partition; and that New Delhi needs almost half its army to subdue 4m Muslims in the Valley of Kashmir.[FT

There they go again: the days when British editors could claim to speak for “much of the world” are long gone. One wonders how old the FT’s editors are, for their memory goes back only 20 years. If they were older, or had read their history, they would not have glossed over Britain’s own mala fides starting in the 1940s and 50s. India is still sorting out the mess Britain created.

And unless the FT thinks that all 4m Muslims in the Valley of Kashmir are terrorists and armed insurgents, it is baffling that it should claim that the Indian army’s job is to ‘subdue’ the population. First the FT indulges in moral equivalence between terrorists and their victims, and then again between Muslim terrorists and ordinary Muslims.

Indian officials talk windily of a “paradigm shift” in Kashmir following successful elections there this winter. But dozens of Kashmiris were shot down last summer in protests against Indian rule. This is a conflict that transcends regional boundaries. Pakistani support for the insurgents has helped spread jihadi extremism. And the religious right is influential in both India and Pakistan, which have twice been on the brink of war since they tested nuclear weapons in 1998. The Miliband storm was not in a teacup. [FT]

Mentioning the killings after the elections might make it appear that that was the order in which it occurred. But unless the FT does this, it can’t fit the facts to its conclusion. For just how can it sustain its argument if it were to truthfully say that an unprecedented number of people defied the calls of the separatists and turned out to vote, despite last summer’s killings?

The reference to the regional dimension, the religious right and nuclear weapons is the usual gratuitous garnish, it makes no substantial difference to the taste, but subtly adds to the smell.

14 thoughts on “Pink, but not pretty”

  1. Hey editor dude, howdy, old feller? How is wife and kids? This is me, Oldtimer, on Indian National Interest! Writing to you inspired by that wacky stuff you printed in your chummy newspaper!

    You got it man, I gotta get rid of my sense of Brahmin decorum, you see! New Labour sense of mateyness is the way to go, and you, editor dude, are my new age guru! You rock man, you do!

    How’s Ed Luce, your underling that got dined and wined by our Delhi sepoy crowd, so I hear? He got himself an Indian wife, is that right? Brahmin wife, by any chance? His NDTV darlings would get him on air so often, and we’d say: ” there we go, Luce Motions, again!” Ha, ha. All in good fun, you know. “Loose motion” is Indian for diarrhea, ha ha ha. You know that pal, don’t you? 🙂

    Hey, but an inkling of suspicion: is that Luce Motions at work again in all those wacky edits you’re belting out feverishly these days dissing us Indians? Naughty guy, man, this Luce. Provocative, you know. Unzips and takes a leak with wild abandon, metaphorically speaking. 🙂 Carries so well with the binge drinking you limeys are so famous for, I think!

    But what’s this rant about you poor souls being kicked for the fault of being former colonial power, mate? You sound so jingo when you whine so, you know, not at all New Labour! They say you don’t want to fade away into sunset quietly with dignity, you gotta be taken there kicking and screaming. There was a time when your chief anatomical feature was said to be the stiff upper lip, but these days, the sore butt stands out, perhaps the weight of the chip on your shoulder reflecting all the way down there. I say this with sadness, chum. I don’t know what’s the New Labour way of putting my disappointment across to you.

    Anyways editor sweetie, take care and thanks for that piece of enlightement! New Labour Mateyness! Wow! I move a motion to bring Luce back to Delhi again!

    Cheers,
    Oldtimer

  2. Labour is experiencing labour pains, better they had gone for abortions earlier!!

    OT
    That was a superb letter, which would get 9/10 in letter writing from my old English teacher, who would not give even 6 for the best of all letters 🙂

  3. I can’t understand why the Brits continue to tolerate Miliband. Under him, the Brits have had nothing but foreign policy failures (unless I have missed something).

    Soon after he was appointed, he advocated that Russia should amend its constitution to give effect to a British arrest warrant (extradition of the alleged murderer of Litvinenko), and expelled 4 Russian diplomats. The dispute was simmering for a while, but got out of hand immediate after Miliband took over.

    If I am not mistaken, Miliband was also the first “world leader” to jump to Georgia’s defence and visit Tbilisi. Later, even BBC exposed his shallow and uncritical thinking in such a complex situation. In BBC’s recent documentary on the conflict, he essentially admits that he was an idiot (not in those words, of course).

    At a time when Cowboy Diplomacy is fast losing whatever appeal it had (never had any merits, to be sure), he is such an oddity that his continuance in office is rather perplexing.

    PS: The lack of success for British foreign policy is not entirely his fault, of course. A country which is becoming more and more irrelevant with every passing day can only expect so much.

  4. While Miliband was inaccurate and his conduct unbecoming of a diplomat, it would be interesting to know what actually happened in his meetings with the PM/Foreign Minister.

    Having an official spokesman make statements after the meeting is fine, but IMO the best way to handle such dudes is to talk back to them in their language right there. It’s called decorum only if both the participants maintain it. If only one tries to do it, it’s called meekness.

    Rahul Gandhi’s not snubbing Miliband also speaks a lot about both these men.

  5. Well. I think Miliband represents the diplomatic views of the UK and not just new labour party. It is important to note this, because we would understand that the problem is much deeper.

    USA (and its matey UK) have been engaged in a long geopolitical game in central Asia. Indian state and its power are welcome only as long as they align to the geopolitical objectives of USA.

    For example, all the following are strictly against American interests (a) India sharing a border with Afghanistan (b) India and Pakistan getting into a broader political union (c) The whole of Kashmir getting under Indian control.

    As India’s strength grows, all these dangers intensify. The inevitable fallout would be growing Indian presence in central Asian geopolitics, which is distinctly not to the liking of USA (and its matey UK).

  6. @vakibs,

    Of those three, I am not sure that the first two are in India’s interests either.

    Sharing a difficult-to-manage porous border with an always-on-the-edge Afghanistan is hardly something India’s policymakers could be dreaming about.

    A “broader political union” with Pakistan, of course, is something some people dream about. However, I don’t think that India’s official policy has ever been oriented towards such a goal.

    On the third, if your definition of “whole” includes POK.. well, getting it back is certainly a stated policy objective which has been underscored many times by our Parliament. Once again though, India has given many signals that we are not really interested in POK (e.g. not crossing the LOC during the Kargil war).

    India’s presence in the geopolitics of Central Asia, however, is something that is not dependent on any of the above three factors (just saying, I know that you did not imply it). I expect India’s relations with Central Asian countries to become stronger. India and Kazakhstan have just signed a civil nuclear pact, for example. How the US deals with it, and what China/Russia do about it will surely be interesting to watch. Not sure if UK really figures into this equation though.

  7. @B.O.K

    (c) implies (a). If the whole of Kashmir gets under Indian control, India would share a border with Afghanistan.

    Sharing a difficult-to-manage porous border with an always-on-the-edge Afghanistan is hardly something India’s policymakers could be dreaming about.

    It is in Indian interest to ensure stability in Afghanistan. Any form of unrest there will percolate into the subcontinent. Moreover, India and Afghanistan have a lot of strategic interests in common.

    And about sharing a border with Afghanistan, it is way better than the border that we are cursed with (Pakistan).

    About your commentary on (b), there needs to be more debate on this. I am not quite sure if Pakistan can ever be stable, secular or an ally of India if we don’t form together a broader political union with shared economic and defence interests. If this can be achieved without the mess of a political union, that would be great.

  8. @vakibs,

    Of course, (c) implies (a). But it is one thing to try to get POK back and acquire a border with Afghanistan as a consequence, and completely another to actively seek a border with Afghanistan based on the merits of having such a border.

    As you would agree, the policy recommendations would be very different in the two cases. For instance, if you wanted to have a border with Afghanistan, you don’t necessarily have to acquire it through getting POK back. You would probably consider the terrain and calculate how you can get the best possible access to Afghanistan, and then go about getting that stretch of border to yourself (say, by taking over NWFP).

    I agree completely that having a stable Afghanistan is in India’s interests. But I don’t see how having a border is going to help with that (at least, on a cost-efficient basis). All one needs to do is to look at the countries that we already share a border with (and don’t even have nukes) to realize that it doesn’t logically follow. You don’t need a border with Afghanistan to put troops there.

    About (b), based on my personal experiences, I can only say that the more there is talk of any kind of “union” between India and Pakistan, the more suspicious it makes the ordinary Pakistanis about India’s “ulterior” motives and the more credibility it lends to anti-India wingnuts in Pakistan. But that’s just my personal experience. Results may vary.

  9. Hello,
    Our condolences and hearfelt respects for our former persident whose unfortunate death has left the all Indians in deep sorrow.
    Reflecting on the issue being discussed here, I do understand the ulterior motives of certain nations in limiting our regions of influence, hence the hyperbolic media reporting by certain news agents.
    However, in the zest of criticizing certain reactions evoked by goverment officials, and media sources, we are, but, obfuscating some serious issues back home. Let us take up the Miliband visit for example, his statements at the Taj the misplacement and mis-timing is conspicuous and widely criticised. However, what is more shameful is the incident that preceeded his press conference. Beloved “apple of our eyes”, Rahul Gandhi took the opportunity and liberty to show Mr. Miliband around, and very loosely through around phrases like “this is the real India” to describe the middle class villagers of his constituency. I earnestly request diligent contributors of this section to take up this issue and let the very people of “real India” know what our “Rahul-baba”, the next heir to the thrown, feels about them.
    For one, our villages arent wild animal reserves, that foriegn delegates could be entertained by their exhibitions. The comments clearly reflect the reprehensible bourgoise assumptions embedded in Rahul Gandhi’s outlook and the phony fabric of his khadi.
    A disrespectful connduct on part of a foreign element can be understood and addressed duly, antibiotics can heal annihilate malignant virus in human body, but what about these consumptive and ignorant politicians eating away our national identity every day.We must strongly demur by making such behavior widely known. R. Raju is an easy scape goat for our wrath, but politicians of the like of Rahul Gandhi are equally baneful for our national image.
    I strongly believe, us sharing a border with Afganistan is certainly a strategic imperative, but dusting our homes should be prerogative too.
    Thanks,
    Avi

  10. Financial Times is a racist White Christian Militant newspaper. Someone should remind them the sun set on their Empire long time ago. I have noticed in their comments section, they will only publish White nationalist comments. I have posted comments there before, but they are never published (For that matter, very few Indian comments will be posted there, unless they are by coconuts)

  11. Clearly they are still bitter from a divorce where they were not able to recoup all their possessions. In case anyone hasn’t noticed, the FT is acting on its mid-life crisis through its new infatuation with China. Splendid job, Nitin.

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