Miliband Admits He Could Have Chosen His Words Better

22 February 2009
The Times of India


New Delhi: 'You learn every day in this job... you've got to try and take that forward. I know words matter in diplomacy,' says David Miliband, British foreign secretary, looking back at his most disastrous foreign trip yet - to India in January. It is not an apology, but it's the closest you're going to get from someone who apparently believes he did the right thing, though perhaps he could have finessed it better. Brutally attacked by the Indian media after he made the fatal error of connecting Kashmir to the Mumbai attacks, pushing for the trial of the LeT jihadis in Pakistan and not India, Miliband conceded in an interview on Saturday that his words could perhaps have been better chosen. In India, he was seen to have glossed over Pakistan's responsibilities and he displayed enormous ignorance of the causes of Islamic terrorism in India. The interview explains that while Miliband was bubbling over with intelligence and wit, he appeared to lack 'practical intelligence' which was probably responsible for his gaffes. Indians are not so forgiving. Miliband was not merely unconscious of his words, he was also suitably ill-mannered, said senior government officials who sat in on his meetings with the PM and foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee, where he referred to both leaders by their first names, a dereliction of propriety. 'Whether in private meetings with ministers or in his public comments, he took the same line. He underlined the urgency of resolving the Kashmir issue so that terrorists were not able to use it as a pretext for their violent actions. On the Mumbai attacks, he said while there was evidence that the attackers came from Pakistan, they were not directed by the state,' an official said. The interview says he was deeply moved by the 'anguish' Indians felt over the attacks.' ...there's such deep anguish about the attacks - such anguish, anguish, anguish,' he noted. In the days after his visit, Miliband was panned in the UK as well, not for the fact that he was seen to be mounting a challenge against his Prime Minister Gordon Brown, but because the British foreign minister took another direct hit - from Sri Lanka. After nominating a special envoy for the island nation, which the UK thought had been agreed, the Sri Lankans turned around and told them where to get off.