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Scrutiny
  
Better look dumb on paper?
As Ambassador to India, Roemer has had a wonderful stint full of achievements, but revelations of his diplomatic communications to the US government have undermined his character to a significant extent
29/09/2011

Serena Williams, while losing quite unimpressively at the US Open this week, screamed at the match referee after sorely losing a point, “If you ever see me walking down the hall...walk the other way” Many Indian politicians might wish to replicate Ms. Williams’ greetings for Timothy Roemer, whose two years term as 21st US Ambassador to India (July 23, 2009 - April 26, 2011) provided unprecedented success for American interests in India. During his tenure, President Barack Obama made his longest stay in a foreign nation in India; US export to India surged by 17%, both countries signed the Counterterrorism Cooperation Initiative and many high level American diplomats including Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano made their visits to India.

While all that may be impressive, his amateurish interpretations of diplomatic affairs as an ambassador surprised many and have seriously undermined his achievements, as WikiLeaks cables made some of his official cables public. As ambassador, his statements were supposed to be highly responsible and he should have ideally not painted them with his own perceptions on the situation. But his cables have yielded rather undesirable results, ever since they caught the WikiLeaks bug.

As per one of the WikiLeaks cable releases, former National Security Advisor of India M. K. Narayanan told Roemer that India wants to “maintain a regular dialogue with China so as to avoid a repeat of the 1962 Indo-China war.” In another cable, he reported to US that Narayanan had told him that India was not interested in David Headley’s extradition. Narayanan strongly refuted this in the media. The same was proved again when WikiLeaks revealed Roemer’s comments about Rahul Gandhi’s statements on saffron terrorism at a luncheon hosted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at his residence in July 2009. Roemer wrote about how Rahul talked about the possibility of LeT receiving local support in the country as well as on his (Rahul’s) perception of the greater threat of Hindu radicals faced by India. The cables created a huge controversy in the country.

The more vivid example was his documentation of the incident of Jammu & Kashmir CM Omar Abdullah’s resignation on July 28, 2009 after he faced allegations in the Srinagar sex scandal of 2006. Opposition leaders including People’s Democratic Party’s Muzaffar Hussain Beig leveraged this embarrassing incident to the hilt. As per WikiLeaks cables, Roemer’s reporting to the US government said, “Post expects Abdullah to remain as CM, but his emotional reaction combined with prior missteps (sic) impair his ability to focus on good governance and development in J&K.” He further added his own analysis saying, “As Abdullah resumes his post as CM, he will need to resist reacting to PDP provocation and instead focus on the good governance and development pledges that got him elected.”

That all US Ambassadors are in one way or the other expected to be similar to secret agents passing on sensitive information to the US government, is now quite an accepted fact post the WikiLeaks imbroglio and the global exposing of almost all US Ambassadors. But it is clearly inappropriate to colour their communication with personal judgements and interpretations, particularly when they are backed by limited knowledge on the subject. And Roemer would have lost brownie points even in the US government due to this. But what is surprising in all is how easy it was for almost all top politicians to fall for Roemer’s advances... all, except at least one. Who, you ask? Mayawati – she refused to meet Roemer when he visited Uttar Pradesh in March 2010. Guess who’s laughing all the way to the sandal-rack.

By:- Akram Hoque
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