Monday, March 01, 2010

The Strangest Paragraph From A News Story I've Seen In A While

It's not just that Shashi Tharoor is giving us English lessons. It's how he's giving English lessons.
With the news of "departure" playing big on channels back home, Tharoor questioned the interpretation. "An interlocutor is someone you speak to. If I speak to you, you are my interlocutor. I mentioned the Saudis as our interlocutors, i.e. the people we are here to speak to," he tweeted.

I love that we live in an age where a story can end with the fact that someone important "tweeted" something and nobody bats an eyelid. Nobody except for me, I guess.

Anyway, I want to make three points about this. First, I actually like Twitter; it's grown on me a lot faster than Facebook ever did. It's great mainly because you get access to so many links it's not funny. Kudos, technology people. You finally came up with a website that actually makes our lives better/easier. It's been a barren run since the whole "web-based email thing" but you finally got one. Well done.

Second, more substantively, how desperate are the Indians feeling that they want to approach Saudi Arabia to rein in Pakistan? What's next, asking China to step in on their behalf? How did we get here? Everything from offering talks because they didn't want the bus to leave for Afghanistan without them on it, to asking for the Saudis help smacks of "Hmm, we don't have too many options here"-itis. The military/ISI must be feeling positively giddy right now, and if there's one thing we've learned, when they feel good about themselves is when we should start preparing for something enormously stupid and hubristic; a happy military/ISI is usually bad news for the rest of us.

Third, I'm sorry, Shashi Tharoor is one of those people I will never trust. Why? Because he's a South Asian who has an accent that makes him pronounce the word "power" like "par", as in the golf term. Have you ever known a desi with that type of accent who you don't hate? I didn't think so.


Paranoid Android said...

Wow - Don't think I have read any story on 5R that has underwhelmed me more than this one? Power-Par...really?

Rohan Venkat said...

Desperate? I can see it being read that way, certainly.

But on a different level, it makes sense. A lot of money that ends up in the Jehadis (and some amount of control) flows through Saudi. Discussing that with them (even if it amounts to nothing, since India is not going to use them as a mediator) only seems logical, no? If talks are going nowhere, other options must open up.

Nabeel said...

He may be a little too smooth, a little too slick - but I would rather have more of him in our government than a hundred Sheeda Tullis. Untrustworthy,perhaps. Accomplished and worthy of respect, definitely.

Ahsan said...

Paranoid Android:

Yes, really!


Sure. But if it is so obvious a "solution", what took so long i instituting it?


Come on! I love that guy. He's so lovable and quotable.

But yeah, on a serious note, Tharoor is very qualified. Maybe too qualified.

Jaydev said...

Shashi Tharoor's constituency is in my state and he won spankingly by a huge majority.He has good work ethics and I dont think a Western accent is a ground for any allegation.He is a super experienced diplomat and is great for "soft power" diplomacy.He does have a massive fan base here and people love him except his "partymen" ofcourse who couldnt digest his career's vertical take off.

Could you elaborate on a bit what exactly tick you off..I didnt actually get your criticism..

anoop said...

Shashi Tharoor has a tendency to shooting his mouth off. But, ya apart from that he is OK. One of the really qualified guys in Indian Politics. He wants to be a charmer but at the same time has a conscious. He means good and that is what counts.

Indian Political scene has seen people maturing and becoming good statesmen. His time will come too.
I'd take the Secular,educated and always-has-an-Opinion-about-everything Tharoor to a Right-wing,uneducated and hate-filled Moron anytime.

Anonymous said...

The prospect of transparent-to-the-public lawmakers will, i guess, take some getting used to, atleast in India given the meagre extent to which rational public discourse about policy and policymakers has evolved. The thing is that it is a double edged sword; cos it makes your views more available in the public domain. But then it also makes a) your views susceptible to distortion and/or b)may lead to casting of your views in a certain mould leading to possibly rigid positions (perceived maybe) which may be difficult to wriggle out of; hardly the thing you desire when politics is actually the art of managing contradictions.

Anonymous said...

yes, but this is still a travesty to the english language (notwithstanding mr taroor's ability to explain what interlocutor means):

"We feel that Saudi Arabia has a long and close relationship with Pakistan, that makes Saudi Arabia even more a valuable interlocutor for, when we tell them about our experience, Saudi Arabia listens as somebody who is not in any way an enemy of Pakistan, but a friend of Pakistan and, therefore, will listen with sympathy and concern to a matter of this nature"

takhalus said...

he strikes me as elitist and even in his last job never really hid his opinion of pakistan.

I suspect the gandhiites in the congress won't put up with him forever

XYZ said...

Ahsan: you've hit the nail on the head with your third reason. And all this time I had been feeling vaguely guilty for not really liking his accomplished smoothness. "Par" indeed! :)

On a more serious note, however, you can tell the Pak military establishment is feeling like it's got the upper hand at the moment by the way Pak is posturing regarding the talks - as if it couldn't give a rat's ass. To be fair to them however, the Indian establishment has brought this upon itself with its attempts to hold Pakistan at arm's length and, more importantly, its earlier attempts to dilly dally about substantive issues, all of which were taken by the Pak establishment as traditional wars of diplomatic attrition. The perception that India was not really serious about resolving outstanding issues like Kashmir etc. had gained ground in Pakistan long before the Mumbai attacks. The problem with this kind of diplomacy - from both sides - is that it leads to frustration (in the Indian case, now over Pakistan's non-serious attitude over the Mumbai attacks), the results of which are entirely unpredictable and usually cause further complications.

p.s.: Btw I don't agree with you regarding that Twit thing. If I want soundbites of banality, I'll watch television. I mean, how much depth can you possibly squeeze into 160 characters??

Pritpal said...

Tharror thinks he is intelligent just because he speaks with an accent. At present he is just a comic relief. Wait till he starts speaking “native hindoo language” to become a man of the masses.

karachi khatmal said...

if you want a reason to really hate on shashi tharoor, read "Shadows Across the Playing Field - 60 years of indo-pak cricket"

never has a glorious cricketing history been reproduced with such tedium. its replete with references to kashmir and pakistani adventurism and a lot of similar stuff, while matches like bangalore 87 or the karachi odi 2004 are reduced to mere paragraphs. and the mundane political angle of shashi is purely through the "secularism is the only way to go" idea, which may be great for a bit, but seriously, how can you reduce all of pak-india cricket to that?

class-a dick.

(i don't want to debate the merits or demerits of his political points of views. i just hate the fact that he took one of the richest, most exciting, and not-relying on media hype cricketing rivalries and made it into a brief history of pakistan fucking with india.)

Anonymous said...

Paranoid Android is so clearly JJY

Smci said...

"Second, more substantively, how desperate are the Indians feeling that they want to approach Saudi Arabia to rein in Pakistan?"

What is meant by 'rein in?'

I have no clue where people are getting their information from when they say that Pakistan is on the up and up when it comes to there place at the table for Afghanistan's future?

Have there been any tangible claims from the US, NATO or Karzai regime openly stating that they now have a favorable view of the Pakistanis, and are willing to consider their secruity outlook when designing a future for Afghanistan?

I mean it's all speculation at this point. No one really knows with any certainty why it is that the ISI has started arresting all their Taliban assets. What has Kayani been promised, if anything? And who did the promising? And what will 'delivering' on these promises look like exactly?

And if the public really doesn't know what the hell is going on, then how has India started altering their diplomatic strategy to cope with a game-changer already?

It feels more like there's been a public narrative that's been constructed of "quid-pro-quo in exchange for betraying the Taliban." But how much reality there is in it and what the precise dynamic is is still unknown.

FZ said...

um, he's straight up lying about the meaning of the word. oh well I guess it all depends on what the meaning of word 'is' is

Indophile said...

XYZ, its 140 characters rather than 160

ottawamysteryman said...

Tharoor doesn't speak the way he does because he's lived abroad so long - rather, the surprise is how much his accent has remained unchanged in all the time he spent in New York. It's not a British, nor an American accent, it's actually a cultivated Indian accent. Secondly, Tharoor has come up on his spoken Hindustani leaps and bounds in the past few months. Check him out on Aap ki Adaalat, for example. He's fully fluent in French, and I can't remember the last time any Indian minister was fluent in French.

JJY said...

I don't hide behind pseudonyms. Other than this one, obviously.

And I have plenty of complimentary things to say about Rs. 5 beyond the occasional snide comment.

Come on.

Ahsan said...


Yeah, interesting points, I basically agree.

On Twitter, if you're looking for wisdom, you're obviously in the wrong place. But it's a great place to get lots of links to stories etc.


I think the point is that people are inferring from India's sudden need to engage Pakistan, both directly and indirectly, as an indication that they see their role in Afghanistan slipping because as XYZ said, until very recently, they did not have any time for Pakistan.

Moreover, I think you're finding that there is less antagonism, at least publicly, between the military/ISI and the Americans, especially post London. That in itself is a signal, as is the fact that, by all accounts, Pakistan is going to be taking a more important role with regard to "bringing the Taliban on the table".

Finally, there's the arrests themselves, which as you say leave a lot of room for interpretation, but are still consistent with his view.

anoop said...

In Afghanistan gets fucked up, we will always have Pakistan as the buffer. Also, India has Iran as a partner to fund the Northern Alliance and fight the Taliban.

Its either Civil war or Democracy for Afghanistan. Pakistan will be terribly affected if any of the above happen. India gains or loses nothing in this scenario.

Pagal_Aadmi_for_debauchery said...

I am confused. You hate him because he says power like par instead of the standard American phaa-were or the desi paa-vur....

Jaydev said...

I dont get your logic of "India-is-talking-to-Pak-bcoz-we-fear-missing-bus-in-Af".How come talking to Pak will India "get into the bus" in Afghanistan,when Pak havent even thought of giving any seat at all in its perfect vision for Afghanistan.Even if Afghanistan is fully taken over by Taliban(I mean the city centres..not connecting roads&routes) u seriously think India,Russia & Iran will just roll over and die. Who are you kidding..Pakistan cant even control its is it going to control Afghanistan.. main point is how did u come to the conclusion that India is talking to Pak for a role in Afghanistan when Pak wants to control Afghanistan precisely coz of India..a sort of pre-9/11 aircraft-carrier for Jehadists with plausible defies logic..

Paranoid Android said...

Ahsan - Hope my comment didn't irk you a whole lot. Just that I have gotten used to expecting a more serious rationale from this blog for getting irritated at someone. My bad though. 33% levity is good to have.

Btw - perhaps the "par" syndrome is not unique to ST. Jump to 34:34 of Chidambaram's video. Too much Harvard over there I guess.

Also, as JJY has commented - he is not me. However, I too like him am fond of 5R. Most of the times.

ottawamysteryman said...

Naseem Zehra has an extremely interesting show 1 March 2010 (e.g. here) on the emerging dimensions of the Indo-Saudi relationship and its likely impact on Pakistan. The guests include Nawabzada Malik Amad Khan (Tharoor's exact counterpart in Pakistan), Marvi Memon of PML-Q, Ambassador Tariq Fatemi, and Hamid Gul.

Marvi Memon brings up the 'interlocutor' issue, and the most memorable quote in the program (for me) was also from her: "Pakistan is extremely possessive about its relationship with Saudi Arabia."

Paranoid Android said...

btw - also hope that my fellow Indian commenters chill the f*ck out and stop hyperventilating because a blogger thought that India was acting desperate. Just an opinion folks. You dont have to agree with it. Just consider it seriously. Author does have a few serious points.

Ahsan said...

Okay, to clarify, I don't ACTUALLY hate Shashi Tharoor for his accent just like I wouldn't ACTUALLY vote for Fatima Bhutto for her looks. Jeez, you guys really need to lighten up. It was a joke, for God's sake.

As for the Indian role in Afghanistan, basically every analysis I have read has pointed to India pursuing talks with Pakistan at this stage as some sort of bargain strategy concerned with Afghanistan. Do you guys really think India is talking to Pakistan out of the goodness of its heart? After two years of criticizing Pakistan every day and keeping it arms length?

The fact of the matter is that, especially after the London conference, it's become clear that for better or worse, the Pakistan military/ISI is going to play an important role in bringing the "good" Taliban into the political fold in Afghanistan. Given this reality, and given that despite building roads and embassies in Afghanistan at a fast rate over the last 3 years, India still doesn't have a major political footprint in Afghanistan, it behooves it to consider other options to gaining influence, and talking to Pakistan is one way of assessing those options.

The word "desperate" was used because the status quo has changed very fast in the region -- compare it to even six months ago and it is barely recognizable -- and India has had to respond just as quickly. You guys honestly need to get a grip and get over yourselves.

Mystery man:

Another way to connect Marvi Memon and Shashi Tharoor is to point out that they're two of the few SA politicians to be on Twitter.

Rabia said...

haha... another contender for most annoying upper class accented politician is shah mehmood qureshi. can't stand the way he talks!

ottawamysteryman said...

Another way to connect Marvi Memon and Shashi Tharoor is to point out that they're two of the few SA politicians to be on Twitter.

That might explain why she was totally on the 'interlocutor' comment, on which Tharoor tweeted an explanation, and which Siddharth Varadarajan explained in more detail in his blog post today. (MM and ST are also respectively very highly rated on the looks scale by the opposite sex, another thing they have in common).

BTW, I agree with Varadarajan's interpretation: that Tharoor didn't suggest a mediatory role for Saudi.

To your main point in the blogpost, just because Pakistan will play a role in bringing the pliable Taliban back, I do not expect a return to the pre-2001 situation: even if India's gain is limited to prying away Saudi from Pakistan, that in itself is a major gain that will have many downstream consequences some of which were speculated on in Naseem Zehra's show.

Ahsan said...

YES! I knew I was forgetting someone. AKS, if memory serves, had an all-time great rant about him and his accent one time. I think it was in person though, not on the blog, so sadly all you will have missed out on it.