Former Army Chief VK Singh finds himself embroiled in an avoidable controversy. Needless to say, he has handled this controversy with his typical brand of belligerence. After attending the national day reception at the Pakistani embassy, Singh, the minister of state for external affairs tweeted a series of intriguing tweets defining “disgust” and “duty”. It is amply clear that his tweets have stirred up a hornet’s nest.
The tweets, which ranged from the enigmatic to the obscure, have left both Singh and the government he represents red-faced. Singh attended the aforementioned reception where several Kashmiri separatist leaders including Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Yaseen Malik were also present. Taken aback, by a few thoughtless media comments about his attendance at such an event, he perhaps felt he needed to convey to the Indian public at large that he was only doing his job. It remains to be seen whether this was either of his own volition or he was compelled to go to the event by the government. If it was the latter, then this was a glorious own goal scored by the Narendra Modi-led government. Like a rampaging bull in a china shop, Singh has managed to upset all and sundry with his enigmatic behaviour on Twitter. Despite Singh’s spirited defence of his tweets; the incident raises significant aspersions about the former army general’s adeptness at handing sensitive situations, which require tact and diplomacy, instead of an army man’s candour.
What is even more galling is that Pakistan is a core issue on our nation’s diplomatic agenda. India’s relationship with Pakistan has been vexing, messy, frustrating and a perpetual source of angst for the two nations. Be that as it may the relationship with Pakistan needs a cool and calm head at the helm, someone who can bring a calm perspective to a complex tangled relationship; not a hot-headed army general. VK Singh is an able man in the wrong job; possibly akin to a fish trying to climb a tree. He was a fine army man but does that qualify him to handle diplomacy? The answer to that question is a disconcerting no.
The broader point, which emerges out of this entire controversy, is that the present government’s Pakistan policy is not much different from the one formulated by the previous United Progressive Alliance-led dispensation. Thankfully for the Modi government this is an opportune time for it to emerge unscathed from this controversy and do some much needed mending of fences with the diplomatic community across the Wagah border.