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Friday, Apr 26, 2002

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Diplomatic excess

ONE of the indefensible offshoots of the tragedy being enacted in Gujarat is the presumptuousness on the part of the accredited or visiting diplomats of some countries to pass censorious remarks on the happenings in the State. One can understand expression of sadness at the loss of lives and the human suffering they have entailed as a mark of solidarity and support for all that the Government is doing at the State and Central level to bring the situation back to normality. But the language used by some of the countries, such as the UK and the US, and members of the European Union (EU), has tended to cross the bounds of common human sympathy and commisseration, and lower India in the eyes of the world. Worse, their condemnations verge on playing politics by intruding into what essentially impinges on the role and performance of a State government and rapping its knuckles for its supposed omissions and commissions on a matter which falls within the purview of its internal administration.

Both the UK High Commission and the EU, apparently without official permission, have sent teams of their nationals to the State and come up with their findings as if they have the inherent prescriptive right to pass judgment on how the crisis should have been handled. Parts of the published or leaked versions have gone to outrageous lengths by comparing the prevalent conditions with apartheid and pogroms of the Nazi era in Germany. All in all, the so-called provocative findings have provided plenty of grist to the Opposition's mill, and wittingly or otherwise, have served to intensify the already highly inflammatory politics of confrontation, if not of destabilisation.

Some within the country, including a former Foreign Secretary and some belonging to the foreign diplomatic community, have sought to base the interest of foreign countries in the ghastly events in Gujarat on two arguments: First, among the persons affected are many who, while they may be natives of the State, had since become citizens of the UK or countries of the EU, and, therefore, those Governments have a legitimate claim to know the facts.

Second, the horrendous scale and magnitude of disturbances, the bestial nature of the incidents of violence and the continuing circle of attacks and reprisals for close to two months constitute violation of human rights to the protection and upholding of which all members of the UN have bound themselves by a sacred covenant. Hence, they have the right and the duty to do all they can to bring home to the countries where transgressions are taking place their responsibility to respect their commitments under what is tantamount to international law. Neither of the arguments can justify public reproofs which, in addition, muddy the political waters in the host country. The decent thing would have been for the envoys and visiting dignitaries to share their views in confidence with the officials of the Central Government.

B. S. Raghavan

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