Alright its peace again according to Manmohan Singh and Musharaff from Havana! While reading news this morning, I admired the special rapport Musharaff seems to enjoy with Manmohan Singh. He was apparently in very good terms with Vajpayee too. Well, such mutual respect is probably what keeps the India-Pakistan dialogue going for close to five years now. Afterall apart from the diplomatic niceties, India has nothing to offer Pakistan. (how about the valley you might ask!)
To reverse the sardar-bashing trend in this space, I must appreciate Manmohan Singh's views about the Lebanon War at the NAM summit. He rightly termed the war tragic and pointless. He called it a brutalizing experience for the Lebanese who are trying to rebuild as a democracy. Wonder why India didn't come with such frank opinion during the war itself. From being one of the principle mediators during the Korean War to voting against Iran as America's stooge at the IAEA, we have come a long (disgusting) way! Wish the South block mandarins showed some more spine.
Okay the goodies stop here! What on hell was Manmohan Singh doing attending the NAM summit and rubbing shoulders with the likes of Chavez, Raul Castro and Mugabe? Why is India wasting time on anachronistic concepts like NAM and the Commonwealth? Obviously the only positive out of these conferences seems to be the bilaterals. Manmohan Singh could have as well met Musharaff and Ahmadinejad at the UN General Assembly later this month. Now Pranab Mukherjee will do the honors there. Perhaps this whole summit was to kiss goodbye to Fidel Castro.
It would not hurt at all if India pulled out of NAM, CG, G15, G77 etc. These Jambories are totally irrelevant and can at best be talk shows for wierdos like Chavez. Why should India pay obeisance to the British Crown every few years? Why should India be part of a China led G77 when Europe/US are already having WTO negotiations directly with India and Brazil. Blime China, whatever its economic clout, is an absolute newbie at the WTO.
Ideally these talkathans are best attended by the MOS at the MEA or the Foreign Minister if he has nothing else to do! Perhaps Manmohan Singh enjoys playing the "erudite leader from India" part among the absolute jokers who attend these summits. Incidentally Manmohan Singh has indicated that India would at last have a foreign minister. Hope its Kapil Sibal and not Karan Singh, who single handedly tarnished India's reputation in Nepal.
My grudge against wasting time on such conferences is that it takes away the energy which would be well spent on engaging other far more relevant organizations. The annual summit level meetings which India has with Asean, EU, African Union and the bilaterals with US, Russia, Pakistan etc are much more productive. Afterall the focus of these summits is India and not some utopian concept like non-alignment!
Why are we not having regular exchanges with Latin America, Canada, Nato, Opec, Arab League etc? Far more seriously why is the world's second largest muslim nation staying away from the OIC. (Org. of Islamic Countries) If I were pulling the strings, I would have made Pakistan take us to OIC instead of begging others to argue against Pakistan at the OIC. When was the last time a senior Indian minister attended the WEF in Davos? What the heck, we should be sending ministers even to the World social Forum!
And finally to the waif among all international organizations, the Saarc. No other country is more guilty than India for the comatose state of Saarc. Leave alone economic cooperation, we don't seem to have even the annual cultural exchange events which the Doordarshan forced me to watch a decade ago. Nothing amuses me more than news items which start like "India is the first country in South Asia..." For heaven sake, India is the only country in South Asia! We would do well to consider other Saarc members like our own states and plan for their well being as well.
Why should we be haggling over Safta, when we can easily make all goods coming from Saarc members duty free? Are these small dollars lost going to make India bankrupt? Or is the Indian industry spineless enough to succumb to Saarc imports? Infact allowing duty (both Customs and Excise) free trade across India's entire land border is a dire necessity to infuse some economic activity in Kashmir and the North eastern states. (Here I mean goods even from China and south-east asia) Is anyone listening?