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'PM should have gone to the UN not Havana'

By Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC
September 14, 2006 13:47 IST
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A noted specialist on South Asian affairs, Professor Sumit Ganguly, who teaches political science at the Indiana University in Bloomington, has described Prime Minister Monmohan Singh's trip to Havana to attend the non-aligned summit, at the expense of attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York as 'a huge mistake', one that would necessarily anger Washington, particularly the US Congress.

Ganguly, a prolific author, who has written or co-written at least a dozen books and is expected to formally launch his latest book US-India Strategic Cooperation: More than Words, soon, said that at a time when the US-India civilian nuclear deal is pending in Congress and when the envisaged strategic partnership between the two countries could have been further cemented by attending the UNGA and meeting with President Bush -- not to mention making a further push for India's bid for a permanent seat in the Security Council and lobby for India's candidate for UN Secretary General Shashi Tharoor -- going to Havana "is so unwise."

He argued that "The whole concept of non-alignment, frankly is in tatters. I mean, I am reminded of (former Sri Lankan President Junius) Jayawardene, who at one point said -- even before the end of the Cold War -- the only two countries that can truly call themselves non-aligned are the United States and the Soviet Union."

Ganguly said the move was a foreign policy fiasco, particularly at a time when the nuclear deal is to be debated in the US Senate floor and knowing how the US Congress feels about Fidel Castro's Cuba.

He argued that if India felt compelled to attend the NAM, "you could have sent the minister of state for external affairs. There was no need for the prime minister to scream from the ramparts about the continued utility of non-alignment, and if the Left didn't like it, we just have to live with it."

Ganguly argued, "Because one thing I believe -- and the prime minister is astute enough to understand is -- the Left is not going to bring down the government down on this issue, because then they have to be faced with the possibility of the Bharatiya Janata Party coming to power."

"And, if there's one thing the Left dreads more than the Americans, it is the BJP," he added.

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Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC