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PM lends a hand to cool NSA down
Manmohan Singh was said to be upset that an impression was gaining currency that the PMO and the foreign office were at loggerheads
Anita Katyal/Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 4
With the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the External Affairs Ministry working at cross purposes on foreign policy issues, Manmohan Singh had to personally intervene from his sick bed to set the record straight on certain sensitive matters.

The government swung into action to control the damage caused to its image due to the contradictory statements made by Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee and National Security Adviser MK Narayanan on India-Pakistan issues as well as the NSA’s statement that President Barack Obama would be ‘barking up the wrong tree’ if he links the Kashmir issue with addressing the turmoil in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

Manmohan Singh was said to be upset that an impression was gaining currency that the PMO and the foreign office are at loggerheads.

It is understood that Manmohan Singh, recovering from the heart bypass surgery he underwent recently, was concerned over Narayanan’s remarks in a television interview on the Indo-US issues which came at a time when India is still assessing the policies of the new administration in Washington. He was of the view that India should not seen to be sending any negative signals to the new policy makers in the US, who are well aware of the kind of relationship that New Delhi enjoyed with the previous Bush administration.

The PM politely asked Narayanan to issue a clarification on his statement lest it was misunderstood by the Obama administration. The clarification was approved later by the PM and Mukherjee.

However, the foreign office has been unhappy with the NSA for speaking out of turn on Indo-Pak matters, especially his fulsome praise of Pakistan for the manner in which it has responded to the dossier prepared by India on the 26/11 attacks.

The NSA’s remarks virtually contradicted what Mukherjee has been saying almost every day — that Pakistan has not officially communicated anything to India so far about its investigations into the Mumbai attacks. Mukherjee had yesterday snubbed the NSA in the media for his remarks.

The Foreign Minister also conveyed his displeasure on the issue to Ahmed Patel, political secretary to Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Patel spoke to the Congress chief as well as the PM on the matter.

This has raised another question - whether the NSA is sharing all information that he is getting from intelligence agencies on Pakistan’s response to the Indian dossier with the External Affairs Ministry. In political circles, this is being seen as renewed turf war between the PMO and the MEA on foreign policy matters.

The NSA, in a brief statement, clarified that references made in the course of a television interview given by him to specific questions were taken out of context. His statement also clarified that the underlying theme of the reply to the questions on Indo-US relations was the high expectation India had from the Obama administration with a hope being expressed that it would be possible for India to make the new administration appreciate New Delhi’s positions and view of the region, including Kashmir.

Similarly, the reference to the situation in Pakistan and the role of former President Pervez Musharraf were also taken out of context from the detailed answers, which tended to give a distorted view of what was actually said, the statement concluded.

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