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Why the NSA's backtracking doesn't wash

Sheela Bhatt | February 04, 2009 20:42 IST

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There are a few takers for the clarification issued by the Prime Minister's Office on Wednesday regarding National Security Advisor M K Narayanan's interview to the television channel CNN-IBN. The PMO said Narayanan's quotes regarding US President Barack Obama [Images] and former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf [Images] were taken out of context.

But, the statements are on tape and are obviously undeniable. The 'context' is right there in the question and in his answer. Therefore, Narayanan's backtracking seems to be the result of 'pressure' from the ministry of external affairs.

Narayanan statement about Obama had astonished the diplomatic community. The NSA had said that Obama was barking up the wrong tree by attempting to link Afghanistan and Kashmir.

"When you say someone is 'barking up a wrong tree' that amounts to telling him that you are a silly fellow. How can a senior Indian officer -- that too the NSA -- talk about the US President like this?" asked a former diplomat.

"There is something rotten about the governance of this administration," Satish Chandra, former deputy national security advisor, told

"Matters of foreign policy should be left to the ministers in the MEA and career diplomats. Second why should such a top officer of the level of NSA speak to media in this fashion? J N Dixit and Brajesh Mishra, his predecessors, never spoke out of turn and never revealed more than necessary. External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee [Images] is an astute and organised leader. There is no need to contradict him on such an important issue." 

Not only diplomats even a large section of senior Congressmen are aghast by Narayanan's statements.

According to senior Congress leaders, Narayanan has the political backing of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images]. After the Mumbai terror attacks [Images], many Congressmen wanted Narayanan to own up the responsibility for the complete failure of physical security of the coastal borders. (Being NSA he supervises the intelligence set up and security matters).

But he remained untouched even as Home Minister Shivraj Patil [Images] had to leave in disgrace.

The Congress leaders insisted that party President Sonia Gandhi [Images] was also upset over the security issue and the failure of the office of the NSA, but these claims not be verified independently. However, after the Mumbai attack, Narayanan had to face a tough time.

However, Narayanan's statements on foreign policy have always been resented by the MEA. Mukherjee while disagreeing with Narayanan categorically said that Pakistan government has not officially reverted back to India after receiving the dossier of on the Mumbai attacks. His statement was a snub to Narayanan who told CNN-IBN in the controversial interview that Pakistan reverted back asking "a number of questions."

Narayanan's statement, Mukherjee's snub to him and Narayanan's backtracking has harmed India's image, says Chandra.

"The Indian State is not able to present a coherent picture on the Mumbai attacks. The Pakistanis will look for differences and exploit it. When people in high positions are not on the same page on such an important issues it doesn't reflect well on the government or the country."

Chandra regrets that in case of Narayanan these kinds of statements keep coming from him. "It does not help him or the government. The confusion shows India in poor light and proves that government is not able to put its act together on the post-Mumbai attack strategy. If government is in control of things such things will never happen."

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