Why General VK Singh Must Resign

(Ashutosh joined the Aam Aadmi Party in January 2014. The former journalist took on former Union minister Kapil Sibal and Health Minister Harsh Vardhan in the national election from Chandni Chowk in Delhi.)

"Not even a king has the right to subordinate the interests of the state to his personal sympathies or antipathies,"  writes one of the greatest diplomats of the last century, Henry Kissinger, in his book, Diplomacy. But modern-day diplomats with no understanding of diplomacy and foreign policy are out to make themselves more important than the national interest. Alas! They are also joined by a few TV anchors who find solutions for foreign policies in two minutes. Unfortunately, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, General V K Singh, joins the gang too. The General found his visiting the Pakistan High Commission was a "disgusting" affair, an affront to his #Duty as a minister.

VK Singh is guilty of violating the fundamentals of diplomacy. A diplomat never says NO, forget using harsh words with his enemy in public. General VK Singh is no novice, and he can't get away by saying that he is a first-time minister who is learning the ropes. He was the Army chief, who carries the image of an honest soldier, and as somebody who did not shy away from fighting the establishment. In my old incarnation as an editor, I had always admired him. I had interviewed him many times and was always fascinated by his earthiness and a no-nonsense approach, but today, as a student of diplomacy, I must say he has disappointed me no end and he has no right to continue as minister. He is guilty on four counts:

1. Our constitution has adopted the Westminster model of governance which works on the basic premise of collective responsibility of the cabinet. V K Singh has not attended the function in Pakistan High Commission in his individual capacity. He was there as the representative of the government of India, as a member of the cabinet. And after coming back from the function, if he finds his going there #disgusting and if he tries to project that he was not willing to go there, but had no option but to visit as a part of his duty, then he has breached the basic rule of the collective responsibility of the cabinet. His tweets are clearly proof that he has violated that golden rule and he has no business to continue as a minster. Either he should be sacked or he should resign.

2. He has also shown defiance towards the chair of the Prime Minister. PM Modi had greeted his counterpart Nawaz Sharif on the occasion of Pakistan's Republic Day. The PM did not find anything wrong or disgusting in his goodwill gesture to Pakistan, but his junior minister ,on the other hand, detests having to be present in the Pakistan High Commission. Public defiance of the Prime Minister does not send a right signal to bureaucracy and public at large. This is a clear case of insubordination.

3. As Minister of Foreign Affairs, it is incumbent upon him to work for the furtherance of the national interest vis a vis other countries. It's not necessary that he interact with friendly nations only. The biggest challenge a diplomat faces is when he has to negotiate or interact with an enemy/ unfriendly country. Pakistan, all said and done, is an enemy country, and as a diplomat, it is his responsibility to work for the betterment of the relationship between the two hostile nations. His tweets are hostile in nature and will not help build the relationship between the two nations. It shows that either he is not aware of his responsibility as a Foreign Minister, or his insecurities have taken over. Kissinger has very succinctly written - "The public does not in the long run respect leaders who mirrors its own insecurities or see only the symptoms of crisis rather than the long term trends." Mr V K Singh you forgot to see big picture.

4. This incident further proves that Modi government has no long-term foreign policy vision vis-a-vis Pakistan. Modi supporters went gaga when he invited Nawaz Sharif for his swearing-in ceremony. But the euphoria was short-lived. His government's decision to scrap secretary-level talks with Pakistan because its envoy had invited Hurriyat leaders for talks in Delhi was too whimsical. The government could have conveyed displeasure in strongest possible words, but scrapping of the talks was an immature decision, and speaks of the fact that government does not have a long-term perspective. The foreign policy of a country can't be the prisoner of a kind of ideology or an old-fashioned mindset in the post-Cold War world.

Even if Pakistan is the cause for many headaches for India, as a nation we have no alternative but to engage it in some form or the other. The continuous hostility will only bleed India. It's in our interest not to escalate the tension on our borders. Such acts will not help in de-escalation. In this context, I am further reminded of Kissinger - "Napoleon's tragedy was that his ambitions surpassed his capacities." Fortunately or unfortunately, neither Modi is Napoleon nor is VK Singh, despite being a former general.


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