David Miliband Accused Of 'arrogance' Over Kashmir Comments
21 January 2009
: Pranab Mukherjee, the Foreign Minister, revealed he had used diplomatic channels to convey his disquiet at statements about terrorism and the disputed regions of Kashmir and Jammu. He said: 'When the Foreign Secretary of the UK visited us, he shared his perceptions about the situations and I equally told him and all the interlocutors that this is your perception – we do not share with it.' Manmohan Singh, the Indian prime minister, has already been forced to deny reports he had personally written to Gordon Brown to voice his 'disappointment' about Mr Miliband's behaviour during his trip there last week. But a senior official spokesman confirmed that the Government had been irritated by the Foreign Secretary's attitude, adding: 'He did not come across as the foreign minister of a friendly nation.' Mr Miliband's suggestion that resolving the Kashmir dispute would make India less vulnerable to attack was greeted with outrage in the Indian media, which accused him of meddling and appeasing terrorists. Lashkar-e-Taiba, the terrorist group which is thought to have been behind the Mumbai attacks in which more than 170 died, even welcomed Mr Miliband's comments, describing his intervention as 'positive'. The Foreign Secretary was also accused of being insensitive for delivering a speech in which he also claimed that there was no such thing as the 'war on terror' in the Taj Hotel – where many of the victims of the November terrorist attacks on Mumbai lost their lives. Officials further let it be known that Mr Miliband had displayed an 'aggressive' and disrespectful attitude in private meetings with ministers. He was reported to have breached protocol and caused offence by addressing the elderly Mr Mukherjee by his first name, despite the minister pointedly referring to his much younger counterpart as: 'Your Excellency.' Arundhati Ghose, India's former ambassador to the United Nations, said: 'He was totally tactless. 'It was so familiar that it is almost condescending.' The Bharatiya Janata Party, (BJP) the main opposition, described the visit as a 'diplomatic disaster'. In his article and speech, Mr Miliband said: 'Although I understand the current difficulties, resolution of the dispute over Kashmir would help deny extremists in the region one of their main calls to arms, and allow Pakistani authorities to focus more effectively on tackling the threat on their western borders.' In response, an editorial in the Hindu newspaper described Mr Miliband's trip as an 'ill-conceived foray', adding: 'Such ham-handedness plays into the hands of those who are in denial and rationalise violent extremism by finding 'just' causes for it.' The Conservatives accused Mr Miliband of damaging British relations with a strategically important nation. William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary, said: 'It is clear that the Indian government is extremely unhappy about the visit of the Foreign Secretary. 'Good relations with India are very important to Britain, and must be handled with care and consistency. If David Miliband's comments caused a diplomatic storm in Delhi, then those relations will have been damaged by his visit.' Vishnu Prakas, spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi, added: 'Mr Miliband is entitled to his views, which are clearly his own and are evolving. 'We do not need unsolicited advice on the internal issues of India like Jammu and Kashmir.' Mr Miliband's implied criticism of George Bush, the former US President who coined the phrase 'war on terror,' was undermined this week when new President Barack Obama used his inaugural speech to confirm that he considered America to be 'at war'. It is known some allies of Mr Brown were also surprised at the tone of Mr Miliband's speech. One MP close to the Prime Minister told the Daily Telegraph that Mr Miliband should note the warm words of support Mr Brown offered President Bush in his press conference on Monday. Mr Brown pointedly thanked the outgoing President for all he had done in the fight against terrorism. A Foreign Office spokesman said: 'The UK and India enjoy 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.'