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Scrutiny
  
US: Pranab is still the External Affairs minister
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s State Department considers Pranab Mukherjee to be India’s foreign minister! More similar gaffes inside...
30/09/2010

Truth is stranger than fiction, but fiction does appear to have an irresistible appeal for two of the world’s largest administrative agencies, the US State Department and CIA. The official web portals and communiqués of the US State Department and CIA are splattered with notable misinformation and errors that would be necessarily considered highly affronting at a diplomatic level.

Last week, we showed how both the State Department and CIA confidently misrepresented India’s map (and showed Kashmir as part of Pakistan) on their websites. We had no idea there was more to come – perhaps even ‘the’ reason for why the Americans seem to be making no headway with India on foreign affairs. The US State Department’s official website mentions that the Minister of External Affairs of India is (still) Pranab Mukherjee! S. M. Krishna, the current Foreign Minister of India since May 2009, has been notably left out of the State Department’s official communiqués. Incidentally, Krishna has also met Barack Obama in various forums, including at New York in September 2009. Not all listed information is wrong, though. Some US government letters are thankfully still reaching the right addresses in India. The Home Minister of India is correctly named as P. Chidambaram; and so are some other Indian politicians.

Mistakes on the CIA and State Department’s websites are not only India-centric but can be found in the case of other countries too. What’s interesting is that, in spite of the official websites of these respective countries portraying genuine information, the US has failed to recognise the same in its own records. First, the comical. In South Korea, three years ago, a series of protests against the CIA finally forced the agency to correct the information about South Korea’s origins (CIA had earlier amusingly stated that “South Korea has been a nation for a millennium;” South Korea, apparently a stickler for dates, protested en masse as this nation has been in existence only since the last 4000 years). This was apart from the CIA correcting the misrepresentation of the number of deputy prime ministers that South Korea had had. However, the country is still trying to convince the agency to rectify names of two locations on CIA’s map of South Korea.

On the same lines, Northern Cyprus is still being shown as a part of Republic of Cyprus, despite the region having gained independence in the year 1983, 27 years earlier. On another line, while the whole of Kashmir is shown as being “disputed”, Taiwan is peacefully included on the map of China. This has to be seen along with the fact that Taiwan is shown as a separate country on the US Department of State site with the names of its President and Prime Minister. And when it comes to Myanmar, both the CIA and US State Department list the country under its old name Burma. In 1989, Burma changed its name officially to Myanmar; a rename that was endorsed by the UN. Apparently, not by the CIA/State Department.

While some of the mistakes – including India’s foreign minister’s name – are evident typographical mistakes (and show the lack of intent within the government to keep critical diplomatic facts updated), some of the mistakes, like Kashmir or Taiwan, seem deliberate and evidently committed with political intent. This can be considered even propaganda if one were to assume the worst, as many institutions globally (including schools) refer to these websites for authentic information. There’s a thin line between a diplomatic error and a strategically planted insult. Imagine if were considering Bush still to be the US president.

By:- Sray Agarwal
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