Nearly Headless, for now

Why have ministries if the Prime Minister can do the job himself?

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will retain the external affairs portfolio, for now. Unlike previous prime ministers who were their own foreign ministers, Dr Singh is not known to have any special expertise or experience in foreign policy. So in all likelihood, the reason for him doing so is either to keep it for or away from someone. But it also means that the foreign ministry lacks leadership at what may be a critical year for Indian foreign policy. M K Narayanan has been an unremarkable national security advisor, lacking the influence of Brajesh Mishra and the experience of J N Dixit, his two immediate precessors. As minister of state, E Ahamed is not expected to provide strategic direction. And he lives up to this job description. That leaves the well-regarded Shyam Saran, as the top career diplomat, to run the ministry. There are limits, however, to how much a civil servant can do.

Fortunately, for now, Mani Shankar Aiyar has been dropped from the cabinet. Under his term as petroleum minister, ‘oil diplomacy’ became a popular phrase in the Indian media. His exit perhaps puts an end to the unfortunate Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project.

6 thoughts on “Nearly Headless, for now”

  1. How we miss Mani Dixit in these challenging times. I think with MMS, our foreign policy will follow the path of least resistance with no active vision. Looks like Ronen Sen is taking a major responsibility for dealing with the US.

    AFA Aiyar, good riddance for his China appeasement policies. He should re-examine his priorities after losing the Kazakh and Myanmar oil deals. But I fear the new guy Deora seems like a pro-American chap right from his colleage days in the US.

    Does it sound like we’ll soon be having an American Caucus in the Lok Sabha?

  2. I think PM is holding external ministry not because he has experience in foreign policy but because he wants to handle the US-India nuclear deal without getting tossed around like Natwar Singh did.

    Good riddance of Mani Aiyar. He was probably the most over hyped and under delivered minister in the past two years. The whole oil and gas industry is better off if it privatized with a mandate that they work towards enhancing India energy security. They will do it on their without the babus and politicians questioning their every move.

  3. It is ridiculous in times where the decision making is made difficult by foot-in-the-mouth disease afflictions, that the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi chose not to appoint an MEA – and no political party seems bothered about it. This, when the nuke deal is under severe pressure, when Iran is tryin to grab prime “Muslim World” mindshare, and we are facing more threats from Pakistan than ever before.


    Dixit was still overridden more than once before his untimely death due to diktats from 10, Janpath to which Naryanan is supposed to be close to. Although, in these confusing times, he would definitely have brought in some clarity to the proceedings and not a lame-duck “policy” that cant survive a week before it changes, or runs into serious rough weather.

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