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Revealed: What Brazil's President was thinking in Goa

October 21, 2016 11:02 IST

'I was a bit startled when our host spoke with such force and at such great length about Terrorism.'
'Where did that come from?'
'He kept insisting that it comes from across the border.'
'I could not remember who all are across India's borders and was looking puzzled, but Zuma who understood my predicament, whispered "Pakistan".'
The secret thoughts of Brazil's president as visualised by B S Prakash, India's former ambassador to Brasilia.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh

You didn't know that the President of Brazil was in Goa, recently?

You are forgiven for thinking that Brazil was not a part of that Terrorism conference. Actually, contrary to what the TV coverage may have conveyed, it was not really a conference on Terrorism, but a meeting of five BRICS nations.

Remember BRICS? Never mind.

Michel Temer, the 'accidental' President of Brazil was in Goa last week.

Having been an Indian ambassador in that country and knowing a bit about his rise to the Presidency and the Brazilian ways, here is my version of what he must have thought.

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This is my very first foreign tour. I still cannot believe my luck.

As a vice-President to Dilma Rousseff, I had never dreamt that she would go and get impeached and I would land in this job by elevation.

She fought bitterly, of course, and accused me of betraying her trust, but, tell me, who would not grab such an opportunity to become a President.

And already, in the few months that have passed, under my reign, Brazil had the Olympics.

It does not matter that the people booed me as I went on stage. History will record that me, Temer, was the President when Brazil staged the Games in Rio.

On top of that comes this trip for the BRICS summit. I rubbed shoulders with Xi of China, Putin from Russia, and yes, my host Modi of India.

Who would have thought of such a possibility even last year?

The icing on the cake is that the event is in Goa, bound to us with the Portuguese connection.

It is like Rio, with people frolicking on the beaches.

**********************************************************************************************************************

The Indian arrangements are overwhelming.

I have never seen so many policemen in my life, and all this on a beachfront.

I needed special protection during our political troubles, not too long ago, but nothing matches the swarm of uniformed men around me, here.

The Taj Exotica, where we stay, is more opulent than anything that Rio can boast of. I did not know that India is such a rich country.

Alas, I have not met anyone who speaks Portuguese -- actually, I have not seen any people at all except cops and protocol assistants in suits.

Why did I bring my swimming trunks for going to the beach?

I am not yet used to the ways of the Presidents, I guess.

**********************************************************************************************************************

Tonight I am reading the briefing books on BRICS, given by our foreign ministry.

What a formidable club have I come to?

Such mighty names: China, Russia, India.

Well, how come the US is not there?

And what is this? South Africa too has come.

It is a comforting thought that their leader, Zuma, who seems to have more problems than me, will be at the same table.

I am told that our junior football teams are also playing in a BRICS tournament. I do hope that we thrash all of them convincingly.

Good that Germany is not a member of BRICS!

The first sessions were a bit confusing for me. I had stayed up till late last night, honing up on the world economy, growth prospects, inflation, innovation etc and was even looking at charts and graphs, something that I detest.

But this was to be my first international splash and I was hoping to make an impression.

So I was a bit startled when our host spoke with such force and at such great length about 'Terrorism.'

Where did that come from?

He kept insisting that it comes from across the border.

I could not remember who all are across India's borders and was looking a bit puzzled, but Zuma who understood my predicament, whispered 'Pakistan.'

That sure helped, since my only memory of India's borders was China. President Xi too was looking troubled.

But, who can tell what the Chinese are thinking.

**********************************************************************************************************************

I switched on the TV in my hotel room.

Yes, I see Putin, I see Modi and Xi, but where is Temer?

Where are my embassy folks who should ensure that Brazil is splashed in the media?

Also, everyone is shouting on the TV all the time; the noise levels are so high, that I switched it off.

We in Brazil shout like this only in a football match.

I tried to look at the newspapers. Same story.

I must ask our diplomats, what this conference is really all about and the thematic connection as they keep terming it between terrorism and BRICS.

Wanted to escape all the noise for a while and go for a swim.

Impossible to go to the beach, I am told.

Why do a conference in a resort, then?

And all those beautiful girls in the lobby, draped in elegant and flowing sarees. None of them can go to the beach, it appears. Try doing that in Rio and we will have another impeachment!

**********************************************************************************************************************

At the end of the second day, we signed a declaration or was it a communiqué that ran into pages and pages.

Something like 169 paragraphs, though who is counting?

Fortunately, we were not expected to read it, only sign it.

There was talk of an earlier Rio declaration, Ufa declaration and such like.

My predecessors (and now enemies) Lula and Dilma had signed them.

Now, it was my turn to sign the Goa declaration, the longest of them all.

I felt tired just looking at it.

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At last I had a one to one meeting with my Indian counterpart. He was very gracious, but gave me another lecture on cross-border terrorism as a common threat.

When I get back, I should have another look at what Argentina or Venezuela are up to.

I must admit that I had never thought about this issue or for that matter about Pakistan.

But I have heard enough about that perfidious country in two days to last a lifetime.

Modi also asked for my country's support to India joining the NSG, apparently a club, where some countries have reservations about India's entry.

I must confess that my officials had told me that Brazil too has some issues. I agreed that we will look into it and the Indian side seemed satisfied.

Well, you live and learn.

B S Prakash is a former Ambassador to Brazil and a long-standing Rediff columnist.
You can read Ambassador Prakash's earlier columns here.

B S Prakash
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