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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Reshuffle raises doubts of US interference

The Cabinet reshuffle has happened with new inductees being polticians from Maharashtra like Murli Deora and Sushilkumar Shinde. But the word out is that it looks like a half hearted attempt to retain the older politicians despite their lacklustre performance and keep out the the younger fresh blood, who have proven themselves.

This reshuffle has been called "unedifying and uninspiring" by newspapers, among other things. But what suspicions have arisen is that the US is calling the shots and our foreign policy may as well be dictated to us by them. So is this is a fallacy or a genuine concern?

Political columnist of the Indian Express, Neerja Choudhary says that when Mani Shankar Aiyar got the petroleum ministry along with Panchayati Raj, it was then understood that he was sort of keeping the chair warm for the right person to come along, who now happens to be Murli Deora.

So as Choudhary told CNBC-TV18, "There is a certain perception that he's gone because he did not please certain powers and Murli Deora has come in because he's corporate-friendly, US-friendly and anti-Sharad Pawar etc. There are a variety of reasons, why he (Deora) was chosen."

The feeling is that Deora would be able to assuage hurt US sentiments, if any and polish egos up, if needed, because of his better rapport with Washington. Everyone agrees with Choudhary's perceptions, that Aiyar was going about securing India's energy needs and that it created a conflict.

Editor-in-Chief of the The Hindu, N Ram explains, "The prime minister's office, PMO, has made no secret of the fact that this came into conflict with whatever the prime minister wanted to do and I think, the prime minister is in a foreign policy trap, with the US dictating many of the terms on key issues. I have no doubt about it. This is not a conspiracy theory, the evidence is pretty clear."

Editor-in-Chief of Outlook magazine, Vinod Mehta has a middle-of-the-road viewpoint on all this. He says, "There was always going to be the politics of oil and this (Iran) pipeline will be embroiled in big power politics." He does feel though, that this reshuffle has done nothing - either elevated or damaged the prime minister's stature, image or position.

Well, if these concerns are valid, then short of invading India, the United States did the next best thing - direct foreign policy, in a not so subtle manner.

Note: The Cabinet reshuffle happened in January 2006.

Written for www.moneycontrol.com

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