‘Miliband strayed from official British line, was tactless’

January 22nd, 2009 - 9:59 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaLondon, Jan 22 (IANS) Foreign Secretary David Miliband’s controversial speech in Mumbai last week and his tactlessness while dealing with his Indian counterpart has even surprised people in the British establishment.One MP “close to the Prime Minister” told the Daily Telegraph that Miliband should “note the warm words of support” that Brown offered George Bush Monday on the eve of his US presidency’s end.

Speaking at his weekly Downing Street press conference, Brown pointedly thanked Bush for all the work he had done in the fight against terrorism.

Thursday’s report comes after Miliband last week angered the Indian government by urging a resolution of the Kashmir dispute, which he said “would help deny extremists in the region one of their main calls to arms.”

New Delhi has rejected any such linkage in the fight against terrorism, describing Miliband’s views as “evolving,” and “his own.”

In an article in the Guardian newspaper and a speech delivered at the terror-hit Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai, Miliband also called the War on Terror “misleading and mistaken.”

The Daily Telegraph noted: “Mr Miliband’s implied criticism of George Bush…was undermined this week when new President Barack Obama used his inaugural speech to confirm that he considered America to be ‘at war’.”

Also Thursday, the Guardian quoted a spokesman for the British Foreign Office as confirming that no letter was sent by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Brown expressing displeasure with Miliband.

Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph said Miliband was reported to have breached protocol and caused offence by addressing External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee by his first name, despite the minister referring to his much younger counterpart as: “Your Excellency.”

It quoted former ambassador to the UN Arundhati Ghose as saying: “He was totally tactless. It was so familiar that it is almost condescending.”

William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary and a leading member of the opposition Conservative Party, has already criticised Miliband, saying: “It is clear that the Indian government is extremely unhappy about the visit of the Foreign Secretary.”

Melanie Phillips, a popular British columnist for the Spectator magazine, dismissed Miliband’s view that Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the terror group blamed for the Mumbai attacks, was only concerned with the issue of Kashmir.

“LeT wants the restoration of Islamic rule over the whole of South Asia, Russia and China, to destroy India and wipe out both Hinduism and Judaism and has declared the United States, Israel and India as existential enemies of Islam,” she said.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said that Britain and India enjoyed “a very strong strategic partnership which covers a very broad agenda. We are confident that the common interests we share and our strong relationship will continue.”

She said that British Business Secretary Peter Mandelson, who is in India leading a 100-strong business delegation, “has had meetings with senior members of the [Indian] government and senior business leaders. These meetings have been warm and fruitful and demonstrate the strength of the bilateral relationship.”

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