President of India has difficulty distinguishing between Swiss and Swedish

Pranab Mukherjee, the President of India is visiting Sweden next week, the first ever State visit by an Indian Head of State. There have been two Prime Ministerial visits; Nehru in 1957 and Rajiv Gandhi in 1988. In preparation he was interviewed “in depth” by the Editor-in-Chief of Dagens Nyheter, Peter Wolodarski. The English version of the interview is here.

But there was very little depth to the interview – either in the questions or in Mukerjee’s parrotting of the “official line”. The interviewer was not incompetent precisely, but none of his questions were particularly insightful and some of his questions were considerably less than intelligent.

Imagine asking a serving Head of State what he thinks about another serving Head of State, “You’ve met President Putin several times. How would you describe him?” Would he have thought to ask the Swedish King what he though of Prince Charles, I wonder. Or the profundity on display in his question “Is the Chinese one-party system more effective (than Indian democracy)?” On Bofors, the interviewer tries to get Mukherjee to claim that it was all a “media scandal” but does not quite succeed. The interviewer is of course keen to display his own political correctness for his readers with What is the most important thing that can be done to strengthen the position of women in India?” The interviewer’s questions regarding why there is a higher rate of female foetuses being aborted in India (and I have written before about the 2,000 abortions of female foetuses every day), seem to suggest that he is asking how the rate of abortion of male foetuses can be increased, as if a higher total rate of abortion is probably a good thing. (Of course Sweden today has abortion on demand and abortion rates today are at the same level as infant mortality rates of 300 years ago). The interviewer dwells on the Nirbhaya, Delhi rape case and tries to get the President to admit to some institutional or ingrained social failing rather than that it was just an isolated and aberrant case. Mukerjee asserts that extreme poverty can be eliminated with 10 years of growth at 8-9%, which the interviewer takes leave to doubt.

Photograph: Lars Lindqvist via Dagens Nyheter

The interviewer’s questions actually reflect “political correctness” (the Swedish version) and his own preconceptions much more than eliciting anything insightful. Of course the readers of Dagens Nyheter will probably be very pleased to get the incredible revelation that Sweden has a population of 9 million to India’s 1.2 billion. I think he only insults the intelligence of his readers while displaying his own shortcomings in this dreadful interview.

Mukerjee’s answers reveal nothing new. He is old Congress. He was nondescript as a Defense Minister. He was a disastrous Finance Minister. He is President because of the Peter Principle and because the possibilities of his doing anything disastrous in that post are low. The only real substance comes in his final statement. “One thing I must correct”, he says. “Two, three times during the interview, I have used the word Swiss. I, of course, meant Swedish”.

Oh Well! And was it Switzerland or Sweden which won the Eurovision song contest last night?

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One Response to “President of India has difficulty distinguishing between Swiss and Swedish”

  1. Dreadful Swedish interview of President causes upset in India | The k2p blog Says:

    […] have posted earlier about the dreadful interview conducted by the Editor-in Chief of Dagens Nyheter, Peter Wolodarski, with President Pranab […]

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