The Americans keep pumping hot air into India’s ballooning self-image, but observe their private musings for some real clues, suggests MANI SHANKAR AIYAR
TIME FOR a reality check. In close to 500 pages on the key moments of his presidency, George W Bush mentions Dr Manmohan Singh just once, and that too in two lines of a single paragraph — a paragraph that begins, insultingly, by referring to the US President’s “visit” to Pakistan before which, he says, he made a “stop” to see the Indian prime minister! Poor recompense indeed for the second most discredited president in US history (the most being Richard Nixon, at whom Indira Gandhi firmly cocked her snook) being told in the full glare of the entire world’s television cameras by the Indian prime minister a fortnight before he was to be dumped in the dustbin of history that “the people of India deeply love you”! [Wot, me?] And quite a promotion for the guy who when he started campaigning for the presidency found himself tarred with a banner that read, “Somewhere in Texas, a village is missing its idiot!”
Well, so much for the global significance of an India which his successor, Barack Obama, assured us but a month ago, in the sacred precincts of our Parliament, had gone from being an “emerging” tadpole into a fully “emerged” frog. Hillary Clinton, bless her soul, described us in WikiLeaks as the “self-appointed frontrunner” for a permanent seat in the Security Council. Self-appointed? Rubbish! Vanuatu has assured us of its support.
Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf, on the other hand, gets all of five pages — except that Bush cannot seem to quite make up his mind whether he “admired” Musharraf, as he does at page 212, or whether he was concerned by the next page that Musharraf “either could not or would not fulfill all his promises” or whether, as happens three pages later, after being advised by Bush to “set a date for free elections, resign from the army, and lift the state of emergency”, “Musharraf made each of those commitments, and he kept them” (atta boy!); thus, by the time the reader gets to the top of the next page, “Pakistan’s democracy had survived the crisis”.
That, in brief, is the worldview of our Millennium Man. No room in Bush’s memoirs for the possibility that Musharraf might have worked out all on his own that it was time he shed his uniform, lifted the state of emergency and held elections.
Of a piece at my being intrigued that two of our top representatives at the IAEA Nuclear Suppliers’ Group, who chewed their nails on the sidelines awaiting clearance for our nuclear deal, on returning from Vienna used the same very American expression, “Awesome” (pronounced “aaa-sum”) to describe the US arm-twisting its closet allies to secure a unanimous vote for India from all 45 NSG members. “Aaa-sum,” they said, admiringly, “that all this power was displayed for and not against us.” “To what end,” I innocently enquired, “to make us the 46th?”
TEHELKA has allowed me only 500 words. So I beg you to read George Packer’s devastating critique in The New Yorker, 29 November.
Aiyar is a Rajya Sabha member
NOVEMBER 29, 2010
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