New Delhi: Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor, who hit the media headlines once again for his reported remarks, this time on Jawaharlal Nehru, Sunday said sections of the media were doing a disservice to the country with “inaccurate, dishonest, irresponsible and tendentious reporting”.
“I am dismayed by the inaccurate and tendentious reporting of a statement attributed to me at a seminar organized by the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) on Jan 8,” Tharoor told reporters at a hurriedly convened press conference at South Block.
Tharoor, who was caught in yet another controversy when he remarked Friday that while Nehru’s foreign policy had taken India to a new level in the international arena, he agreed with criticism that Indian diplomacy at the time was often seen as a “moralistic running commentary on other countries’ behaviour”.
Tharoor spoke after British MP, Lord Bhikhu Parekh, delivered a lecture at the ICWA, during which he said Nehru’s policies presented India in a light of “moral self-righteousness”.
Congress spokespersons promptly criticised Tharoor for his reported remarks when media drew attention to them.
Clarifying his remarks, Tharoor said Sunday: “I was summarising Lord Parekh’s main points, I stated and I quote that Indian foreign policy drew from our sense of civilisation, and the extraordinary contribution by Mahatma Gandhi and Nehruji’s articulation of our civilisational heritage, both enhanced India’s standing in the world but also earned us the negative reputation of running a moralistic commentary on world affairs – that has come through very clearly in your speech.”
“I went on to point out that there was more to Nehruvian policies than that, alluding to the use of force in Goa as an example of realpolitik in Indian policy,” he added.
“I expressed my agreement with Lord Parekh’s views of Indian civilisation, secularism and pluralism, which accord closely with my own — and indeed with the profound convictions of the Congress Party and the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government,” he added.
“Not one among the large numbers of professional diplomats present found anything remotely controversial in the event,” Tharoor said.
When asked whether he has spoken with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over the fresh controversy, he said: “I have spoken to a number of people who were disturbed about this reporting.”
“As a matter of policy I am not going to reveal any internal conversation. But I have absolutely no doubt that those in possession of a polity in this country want to have the accurate picture not a distorted and an inaccurate picture as we have seen in the papers today,” he added.
On being asked that Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi criticised his remarks on Nehru, Tharoor said: “I think you should ask Congress spokespersons what they said without verifying.
“You all in the press go and thrust on the spokespersons and assure them that this is what I said. I am not here to criticise spokespersons and at least one of them is my good friend and he is certainly going to look into the substance for any further statement being issued by him,” he added.
Tharoor advised the media to be more careful and and contextual in its reporting. “My remarks have been distorted…I am pained at the inaccurate reporting,” Tharoor said.
He said that some media organisations quoted him inaccurately. “It is a basic tenet of good journalism that any quotations within quotation marks should be the exact words spoken…. This is not merely unprofessional, it is dishonest. I demand a correction.”
But, he also praised some media outlets for having the integrity for not reporting the “distorted version” and said he “applaud(s) those news channels and newspapers that saw the remarks in context”.
“Irresponsible reporting may briefly gratify a few sensation-seekers in the media, but they do no credit to the need for informed discussion of foreign policy issues in our democracy. India deserves better. So, frankly, do I,” he added.
Tharoor said that “India should be seen as a serious player in world affairs, including in the world of ideas,” and said unless there was free and frank discussion on various aspects of Indian foreign policy in institutions like the ICWA, it would defeat the very purpose of establishment of such institutions as churning place of ideas.
When asked whether such controversies embarrass the party, Tharoor said: “If you continue to misreport like this clearly people are not going to judge me by what I say but what you all are reporting. You are the only one who misreported and you all owe apology to the country for misreporting.”
Tharoor has earlier been in the line of media fire for his tweets questioning the wisdom of the government’s new visa regulations and their negative effect on tourism.
“…I have been in this ministry for about six-seven months. We have done serious hard work on Africa, on relations with the middle east, Latin America. I will be leaving for Latin America in two days time stopping in Africa on the way first. There has been so much work but not even a fraction of serious work that has been taking place gets serious attention of the media,” Tharoor, a former UN diplomat and author, lamented.