Monday, December 22, 2008

Shashi Tharoor Unplugged

My old UN colleague Shashi Tharoor has been much in the news in Mumbai.

In the immediate aftermath of the 26/11 attack his column in the Times of India refering to the "savage irony" of the terrorists landing at the Gateway of India which was built to "welcome the King-Emperor" in 1911 got some unfavourable notice, but then he bounced back on Mumbai television talk shows. A little item in the TOI saying he had been asked by Sonia Gandhi to stand for Parliament from Thiruvanthapuram also got him some notice. (The Malayalam Press had a slightly different take on that story: he was reported to have attended a Congress meeting in Thiruvanthapuram along with 10,000 others, to hear Sonia Gandhi speak. The Mathrubhumi quoted him as saying that no one had asked him yet to run for Parliament.)

Shashi has made clear that if asked, he is willing to be drafted into politics. Speaking on the unfortunately titled program, Shashi Tharoor Unplugged, he told an interviewer from Mumbai's NEWS-X station that the Indian middle class had to get involved in politics, and that he was prepared to do his bit.

Asked about 26/11 he offered the observation that because people of all communities had died in the attack, there had been no subsequent sectarian fallout. The interviewer tried unsuccessfully to direct his attention to the very large sectarian flap set off by Minorities Affairs Minister A.R. Antulay's speculation about the possible role of "Hindu" extremists in the murder of Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism chief Hemant Karkare by one of the terrorists. On 22 December both houses of Parliament had to be adjourned because of the Antulay storm; the BJP was calling not only for his ouster from the cabinet but his arrest on charges of treason.

Also somewhat surprising was Shashi's contention that Pakistan's sinister spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), was established by the CIA in 1979 to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. While the ISI has done a great deal of work for and with the CIA, it was actually established in 1948 by a British officer who stayed on in independent Pakistan as Deputy Chief of Army Staff; its primary role then, as now, was/is to fight India.

1 comment:

T.K. Vineeth said...

In fact, the Congress conference in Kerala was held in Kochi. And people of Kerala hold Tharoor in high esteem; if he contests, no matter from which party, he is sure to win. Who knows, a foreign minister could be in the making!