Posts Tagged ‘Diplomacy’

Muted felicitations to Putin on Russia’s national day

June 13, 2014

I don’t much care for jingoistic “National Days”.

I suspect that the time when humans have evolved sufficiently such that “nation states” based on a geographical territory become merely administrative regions is still at least a thousand years away. And just what would replace the simple, geographical “nation state” is not yet clear to me. “Nations” based on “values” perhaps, except that if such “nations” cutting across geography were based on religion or political leanings, it would be a giant step backwards. Imagine the nightmare of a “Nation of Islam” consisting of al Qaeda, al Shabab, ISIS, Boko Haram,the Taliban and other groups sharing a similar lack of values!! Or a “Nation of the Neo-Nazis”! Or the Nation of Rock!

In any event we will have nation states and will be plagued by National Days for many centuries yet.

Yesterday was Russia’s National Day but the 12th of June does not have a very long history.


The document that laid the basis of Russia’s new statehood was adopted on June 12, 1990, when Russia was a republic within the former Soviet Union. This day was put on the list of memorable dates in 1992. The holiday gained its official status in 1994 when it was declared to be a day-off.

President Vladimir Putin will present State Prizes for 2013 to outstanding citizens of the country on Thursday. At the close of the presentation ceremony, a ceremonial reception will be given in the Kremlin. A concert is to be given in the Red Square in the evening. Such concerts have become a tradition on this day. This year, it will feature sports motives with elements of Russian folklore. The audience is draw visual parallels between the victory of Russia’s national team at the Winter Games in Sochi, reunification with Crimea and the forthcoming FIFA World Cup. The topic of the Year of Russian Culture will be also highlighted.

Along with the events in the Red Square, about 250 festival events will be organized in Moscow, including the Moscow press festival on Poklonnaya Hill and the Kremlin Mile running event.

Many countries followed diplomatic niceties and sent their congratulation to Vladimir Putin and the Russian nation. But I detect that in the shadow of Syria and Ukraine these diplomatic messages have been somewhat muted and were not oozing with great enthusiasm!

NewIndiaExpress“My greetings to the people of Russia on Russia’s National Day. India values the long-standing & strong bond with Russia,” Modi tweeted. “I have written to President Putin & Prime Minister Medvedev, conveying greetings on the occasion of Russia’s National Day,” another tweet of his said.

There were the usual messages from most countries but those from the US and Western Europe were relatively muted.


Back in the old days of the Russia “reset,” then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued statements on Russia’s National Day on June 12, emphasizing warming relations.

In 2010 and 2012 the announcements noted the country’s “rich history” and culture. Clinton then quickly pivoted to talk about “building a new partnership” and all the “progress in areas of common concern” between the United States and Russia, such as reducing nuke stockpiles and working to stop proliferation and terrorism. …….. 

But this year, there was a decided chill in the air and no talk of policy matters in Secretary of State John Kerry’s perfunctory five-sentence note on Wednesday. Kerry instead wanted “to pause today and appreciate the great works of Russian literature, music and art that have touched so many people around the world.” He celebrated “the 200th anniversary of the birth of Mikhail Lermontov,” the great Russian poet, then poet and playwright Aleksandr Pushkin and poet Anna Akhmatova. (Hey! No Tolstoy? Dostoevsky?)

What about mutual cooperation? And “warmest wishes?” Fuggedaboudit.

“May the Russian and the American people share in a peaceful, stable and prosperous future,” Kerry concluded.
Oh Well. Better a cool message than a drone carrying a bomb.

Ban Ki-Moon: Puppet without a string ….

January 22, 2014

The UN Secretary General is a puppet on many strings. And when the puppet tries to write the screen-play or to manipulate the puppeteers, the play usually suffers.

Ban Ki-Moon seemed to have forgotten that when he issued his invitation to Iran to the Geneva II talks about Syria last week and tried to write his own script for the talks. It didn’t take long before he had to backtrack.

Iran has insisted all along that it would only attend if it was without conditions. The US has long held that Iran could attend only if they accepted the results of Geneva I (where Iran was not present). So why Ban Ki-Moon tried act independently is not very clear. Presumably he was persuaded to by his staff who believe that the UN has some legitimacy beyond what is provided by the puppeteers.

(Also inviting Australia and Mexico and Korea and Luxembourg leaves me mystified.)

I have decided to issue some additional invitations to the one-day gathering in Montreux. They are: Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Greece, the Holy See, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, and Iran. I believe the expanded international presence on that day will be an important and useful show of solidarity in advance of the hard work that the Syrian Government and opposition delegations will begin two days later in Geneva.

As I have said repeatedly, I believe strongly that Iran needs to be part of the solution to the Syrian crisis.

I have spoken at length in recent days with Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mr. Javad Zarif.  He has assured me that, like all the other countries invited to the opening day discussions in Montreux, Iran understands that the basis of the talks is the full implementation of the 30 June 2012 Geneva Communique, including the Action Plan.

Foreign Minister Zarif and I agree that the goal of the negotiations is to establish, by mutual consent, a transitional governing body with full executive powers.  It was on that basis that Foreign Minister Zarif pledged that Iran would play a positive and constructive role in Montreux.

Therefore, as convenor and host of the conference, I have decided to issue an invitation to Iran to participate.

It didn’t take very long before the US made it impossible for his invitation to remain valid:

NY TimesMr. Ban announced the Iran invitation on Sunday a little before 6 p.m. Eastern time. By that time, it was the middle of the night in Tehran — way too late for government officials to respond, but early enough for Washington to do so. …. 

Less than two hours after Mr. Ban’s briefing, the State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said in a statement: “The United States views the U.N. secretary general’s invitation to Iran to attend the upcoming Geneva conference as conditioned on Iran’s explicit and public support for the full implementation of the Geneva Communiqué, including the establishment of a transitional governing body by mutual consent with full executive authorities.”

As the New York Times puts it “But in diplomacy, there are no dress rehearsals. Mr. Ban’s choreography went awry, forcing him into a corner. Less than a day after issuing the invitation, the secretary general reversed course. Iran could not attend the talks, he said, because it had not affirmed the ground rules as he said he had been assured.”

It could be that even Ban Ki-Moon’s perception of his own independence was manipulated. Whether the invitation and its withdrawal were orchestrated by the US State Department, and whether the US was reacting to the fears of the Sunnis in the Middle East is unclear. (The report published with great fanfare yesterday about the human rights violations, detentions and executions by the Assad Government yesterday was apparently commissioned by the Government of Qatar. The timing of the publication of this report was also dictated by Sunni interests). I believe that the invitation and its withdrawal – paradoxically – strengthens Iran’s hand since they are conspicuous by not being present – and through no fault of their own.

The barbarism in Syria continues. I have no great expectations of Geneva II but it is part of a necessary process. If Al Qaida is to be kept in check, I think the involvement of Iran is both necessary and unavoidable. Without Iran not all of the Syrian opposition groups will be represented. And without Iran the Al Qaida factions could dominate the opposition.

A puppet with a broken string does not gain an extra degree of freedom. The UN Secretary General cannot entertain any delusions of grandeur or any thought that he can act independently of his puppeteers.

Khobragade: Observing the niceties – for an idiotic episode

January 10, 2014

UPDATE 2!! The plot thickens. It seems more and more like a ploy by the maid and her family to get visas for the US with US consular officials in Delhi conniving with the New York prosecutorAccording to the HT

the diplomat given “little more than 48 hours” to leave India is Wayne May, a counsellor instrumental in granting visa and helping Richard’s husband and two children’s “evacuation” to the US. … Another US diplomat, who purchased the tickets for the Richards availing tax exemption, could be in trouble next.


UPDATE!! Continuing the diplomatic niceties, India has asked the US to withdraw a diplomat from the US Embassy in New Delhi. The diplomat (consular official) is of similar rank to the expelled Indian diplomat and is thought to be the US official who connived with the maid’s father-in-law (an employee at the US Embassy) in causing the whole ruckus.


Nobody comes out of this nonsense very well except perhaps the maid trying to stay permanently in the US.

But niceties have been observed and the incident will be soon forgotten. Devyani Khobragade was indicted, then granted full diplomatic immunity (starting after the indictment to save face for the prosecutor) and then allowed to leave the US. If she had immunity – even if it was only officially granted on January 8th – her diplomatic status was no different at the time she was arrested and – horror of horrors – strip searched (shades of Draupadi). The sensitivities and the sensibilities of the entire Indian male establishment (who as we all know revere women) were hurt. The Indian female establishment were torn between supporting the exploitative – but female – diplomat and the conniving – but female – maid and her family. 

But the New York prosecutor with political ambitions could not be seen to be a puppet duped by the maid and her family. So he was allowed to indict her before the immunity came into effect. So Khobragade can never now return to the US without the threat of being arrested.

To invoke the analogy with the  Mahābhārata, the prosecutor is Duryodhana to the Shakuni of the maid and her family. But then Khobragade has to take a composite role between Yudhishthira the reckless gambler and the “pure” but insulted Draupadi.

If I have to rank the players in order of culpability it would be:

  1. Preet Bharara, the US prosecutor in the Southern District of New York
  2. Sangeeta Richard (the opportunistic maid) and her family
  3. Devyani Khobragade,  Deputy Consul General of the Consulate General of India in New York
  4. US State Department (John Kerry)
  5. Indian Ministry of External Affairs

Sangeeta Richard and her family will now get leave to live permanently in the US and come out of this best. They will probably get much financial assistance from the US prosecution authorities and various “Human Rights” groups.

Bharara has done himself no great harm even though he has been skillfully manipulated by Sangeeta Richard her husband and her father-in-law (who seems to be the Svengali in this tale). All publicity – even that which makes him out to be rather silly – is good publicity for Bharara’s political aspirations. From his record he will not be the flavour of the month with the Republicans. But he could find a place as a champion of liberal causes with the new image of New York as the bastion of liberal Democrats.

Khobragade ought to have a major reprimand in her personal file. If not for visa fraud then at least for being too gullible and having allowed herself to be caught in such a trap. Her next posting – if she stays with the Indian Foreign Service – could be to a diplomatic Siberia – perhaps Kazakhstan or Somalia. But if she wants to make use of the sympathy wave, her best bet is to go into politics. She is far too tainted to be acceptable to the Aam Admi Party or to the Indian feminist movement. She could do a lot worse than allying herself with Narendra Modi and the BJP. After all Modi has his own issues with US Visas but he will likely become the next Prime Minister of India. And when he does the US State Department will find some way to grant him a Visa and there could well be some collateral benefit for her to be following in his wake.

An incident which should never have happened.

Diplomacy in action? Two nuclear scientists attacked in Teheran, one killed

November 29, 2010

In view of the latest Wikileaks revelations where the Saudi’s were aggressively pushing for the US to attack Iran, this story about two nuclear scientists being attacked by car bombs, killing one, becomes particularly interesting. Perhaps this is an example of modern diplomacy in action. Whether carried out by Saudi or US or Israeli agents, the use of car bombs – long associated with terrorism – smacks of hypocrisy. But then in modern “diplomacy”, hypocrisy is not – it seems – considered particularly unethical and it seems that in relationships between nations the end does in fact justify the means. Judging from the reaction of the US State Department to the publication of their confidential cables, it could be concluded that politicians and diplomats do not think it necessary to have  – and are not expected to have  –  any firm ethical standards.

The BBC carries the story:

An Iranian nuclear scientist has been killed and another wounded in two separate but similar attacks, according to Iranian media reports. The scientists were targeted in Tehran by attackers who attached bombs to each of their cars, reports said. The scientist killed has been named as Majid Shahriari of Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran, according to the official Irna news agency.

Another scientist was killed in a bomb blast at the beginning of the year.

The state television website says attackers riding on motorcycles attached bombs to the car windows of the scientists as they were driving to their workplaces on Monday morning. “In a criminal terrorist act, the agents of the Zionist regime attacked two prominent university professors who were on their way to work,” Iran’s state television’s website reported.

Dr Shahriari was a member of the nuclear engineering department of Shahid Beheshti University. His wife is said to have been injured in the attack. The nuclear scientist injured in the second attack was named as Fereydoon Abbasi. His wife was also wounded. According to the conservative news website Mashreghnews, Dr Abbasi is “one of the few specialists who can separate isotopes” and has been a member of the Revolutionary Guards since the 1979 revolution.

The Iranian scientist killed in January this year, Masoud Ali Mohammadi, was said to be a nuclear scientist assassinated by counter-revolutionaries, Zionists and agents of the “global arrogance”, Iranian media said at the time.

But I cannot help reflecting that as ethics and values become selective or are diluted as and when judged to be necessary, then decadence has set in and civilisation begins to crumble. As Einstein once said “Relativity applies to physics not to ethics”.

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