Shashi Tharoor and Sunanda Pushkar watch a World Cup match in Nagpur on Saturday. (PTI)
New Delhi, March 15: Almost forgotten after his inglorious exit from the ministry or remembered occasionally for his boyish infatuation with Sunanda Pushkar, Shashi Tharoor today showcased his oratorical skills in the Lok Sabha with such finesse and command that many members lamented this wasted talent.
The IPL controversy had snuffed out his budding tenure as a junior minister in the external affairs berth but his speech on foreign policy today may have triggered a debate whether he could have developed into a fine foreign minister.
As most Congress MPs, including foreign minister and his former boss S.M. Krishna, lustily thumped the desk and rushed to shake hands with Tharoor, Sunanda beamed with pride in the Lok Sabhas visitors gallery.
He is too talented to be written off, said a senior minister, wondering if such speeches could help rehabilitate a man who had a big fall while stepping out in the world of politics. Tharoors future as a Congress politician was more or less sealed after Sonia Gandhi had named him in a formal statement she issued to prove that the party took action against those facing corruption allegations.
Tharoor today not only defended the Congresss foreign policy, he also tore apart veteran BJP leader Jaswant Singhs arguments, demonstrating his abilities to play the partisan political game without any inhibition.
He rubbished Jaswants charge that Indias policy was being formulated by America and said strategic autonomy meant the right to make its own decisions. He said: When world leaders say: Are you with us or against us?, we simply tell them Yes, we are with you when we agree with you, we are against you when we disagree with you.
Seeking to allay Jaswants fears of an expansionist China, Tharoor said: We cannot overlook the fact that this country, with which we fought a war in less than five decades ago, is now our largest single trading partner.
Tharoor added: The reality of China of 2011 is not the reality of 1962. The fact is that todays China is a country with which we have had $51 billion of trade in the last fiscal year. The Prime Minister of China has spoken of $100 billion by 2050. We are conscious that we have the worlds longest unresolved frontier with China. China has far too much a stake in its economic relationship with India to be tempted to engage in any sort of military adventure. I do not think we should fear China. We should be confident and look the Chinese in the eye and say, come and enjoy our market as long as you do not misbehave when our direct interests are affected on the border.
On the US, Tharoor said: The fact that we maintain good relations with a country which still is the worlds sole superpower, though it is an adjective that it is in danger of losing very soon, is something we ought to be proud of, that a country of such importance in the world values its own relationship with India is something that we should accept on our terms and we are doing so.
Tharoor discounted Jaswants reliance on WikiLeaks revelations, saying they are just conversations, not policy. There are grave limitations to such documents or sources.
Tharoor strongly defended the Prime Ministers Pakistan policy, saying that the stand of not talking had stopped delivering results.
It was right after the Mumbai attack to suspend the talks and use it as a source of leverage to get Pakistan to conform with the expectations of India. But the era of diminishing returns has long since set in. I think it is extremely important that we recognise that by refusing to talk to our next-door neighbour, while it professes its willingness to talk and cooperate with us, merely gives us the appearance of intransigence and unaccommodativeness in the eyes of the rest of the world, without giving us any tangible benefits in return, Tharoor said.
Triggering thundering applause, Tharoor said: I would agree with Jaswant Singh when he said that Pakistan is skating on thin ice. But should we break a hole in that ice or should we help it skate off the ice?
He confronted Jaswants attack on the governments decision to vote against Iran by saying: Yes, we have a wonderful civilisational relationship with Iran. But that does not mean that we have to agree with everything that Iran does. There is no question that it is not in India s interest to see new nuclear powers in our neighbourhood.