Remember the time when an Iraqi journalist threw shoes at former US President George W. Bush while he addressed a press conference in Baghdad about five years ago?
It was a pathetic sight having to see the President of the most powerful country in the world awkwardly ducking to avoid being hit by shoes.
No one remembered what President Bush had to say at that particular press conference. But the world remembers the shoe attack, which made headlines everywhere.
Sadly enough, the incident elicited very little sympathy among Americans for the beleaguered President at that time. The war on Iraq had dragged his popularity ratings so low that hardly anyone in America even bothered that the American media did not stand up for the dignity of their President let alone for the Office of the President of the United States of America.
The White House did not ask Iraq for an apology, hoping, I am sure, that there was more dignity in ignoring the issue than by harping on it.
I am reminded of that situation today when in the wake of a particularly nasty commentary published in the Washington Post on Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his government, a riled up Prime Minister’s Office is demanding an apology from the American national daily.
The criticism in the said article is no less ‘humiliating’ than a hurled shoe. But, except perhaps for the Congress Party and the Prime Minister’s Office, the Indian media and Indians in general have not taken a wholly sympathetic view of the Prime Minister’s predicament.
After all, no one can deny the observations (I am not sure they can be called allegations) made in the Washington Post article about the strangle hold of corruption in Indian politics, particularly in the Manmohan Singh cabinet; no one can deny that the Indian Prime Minister has not taken a moral stand on the umpteen corruption scandals involving his ministers over the last four years.
One would still give him the benefit of the doubt that he is not corrupt. But undeniably he has failed in his role as the Executive Head of the country, as an Economist and his own image as an able policy maker.
The Washington Post article should be embarrassing for the country as a whole because it reflects not just on its government and politicians but on every Indian in general.
I don’t buy the excuse that the article smacks of the clichéd myopic western view of a developing country. Because, about a decade ago when the world was told that India was “shining” they enthusiastically believed it and wholeheartedly supported every initiative to polish it further. But if Indian politicians thought the new found prosperity was only theirs to pocket and not for the overall betterment of the country, it is clearly their bad.
What the Prime Minister’s Office needs is not an apology from Washington Post but a mirror for introspection. Guys, why don’t you just suck it up and shape up or better still, ship out.