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Shivshankar Menon talks about life as a diplomat

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RESHMA

BENGALURU: “I wrote the book for students who are interested in understanding the process of decision making about difficult situation,” said Shivshankar Menon, former National Security Adviser to the Prime Minister of India (Manmohan Singh) and he has also closely worked with A B Vajpayee and P V Narasimha Rao, Distinguished Fellow, Brookings Institution (USA) at his book launch ‘CHOICES Inside the making of India’s Foreign Policy’ at Teri on February 9, 2017.

The discussion was moderated by Dr Ramachandra Guha, eminent  Historian and Columnist. Dr Guha gave the discussion a direction by talking about the five case studies in the book: Boundary negotiations with China, Relationship with Pakistan post Mumbai attack (26/11), Sri Lanka war in 2009, nuclear weapon policy in India and India-US nuclear agreement. One of the case studies discussed at the book launch was about India’s silence after the 26/11 attack. ‘India shamed Pakistan by not responding in the eyes of the world’ was a sentence in the book. Menon explained this sentence stating that the government does not take decisions with an emotional response to a situation. The harm has to be minimized and the gain has to be maximised.

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Shivshankar Menon                                                                                                                RESHMA

“If we had used overt military force, the rest of the world would say, ‘there they go again, the two children are fighting again’. We would have lost our moral high grounds if we used overt military force,” said Menon. India’s finest hour in diplomacy was when it responded to the 26/11 attacks with its silence and not aggressive action on Pakistan. This led the Global community to take notice and pressurized Pakistan to do something about it. India managed to get the closest to get the global community to do anything effective against Pakistan in terms of sanctions and pressure. India never achieved this in the past or since then. The balance in taking appropriate decisions at volatile situations gives this response.

An Army General from audience questioned Shivshankar about media covering the Mumbai 26/11 attack and broadcasting it on television. “Do these things have to be controlled or monitored?” Menon answered saying, “Media needs to be fed. If the media is not given any information then they will go out and find whatever they can and broadcast it. We must have a good communicative relationship with media and not keep them in the dark. By doing so, we will not have any control of what gets broadcasted.”

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