Thursday, July 21, 2005

how to convince everyone you're not ready for prime time

jul 21st

pathetic! eye-witness account of c-span coverage.

why do indian politicians (of all stripes) always reliably buttress the impression that they are really rustics from a banana republic?


forwarded by a friend

Poorly Prepped P.M.'s Poor Performance At The Joint Session Of Congress

The Prime Minister of the Republic of India was about seven minutes late for
his address. Live on C-SPAN from 10:00 A.M., Vice President Dick Cheney and
Speaker Dennis Hastert stood awkwardly near their chairs, not talking to
anyone, till the P.M. showed up.

The P.M., as is customary for guests at the Joint Session, was escorted by
Senate Majority Leader Dr. Bill Frist and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.
Although the P.M. shook hands with the VP and the Speaker upon reaching the
dais, his handshake with Hastert appeared very brief and not full and firm.
The P.M., really a bureaucrat and not much of a politician, appeared
somewhat nervous. In comparison, his handshakes with some in the audience
and with the four Joint Chiefs of Staff (Pentagon) on the way to the dais
appeared more genuine. May be because of familiarity from the Generals'
prior visits to New Delhi. The P.M. surely has learnt the 'do's and 'don't's
of handshaking from all his years in the West.

(American diplomats receive lessons from the State Department on foreign
customs. They are taught how to do Namaste in Bharat and how much to bow in

Upon being formally introduced by the Speaker, the P.M. got the customary
standing ovation. It was, however, not thunderous. A speaker generally
starts saying 'thank you, thank you,' and the crowd then takes its time to
stop clapping. The P.M. seemed to enjoy the spectacle for quite a while,
before starting his 'thank you's.

Although the hall was mostly full, I noticed a large number of youngsters
there. I did not notice many prominent Congresspersons whenever the camera
spanned the audience; they had sent their interns and pages instead.

There has been some analysis of the substance of the P.M.'s remarks. This is
about the form. His delivery was remarkably poor. It looked like he was
handed the speech not too long ago and was not as familiar with it as he
should have been, as he read the papers in front of him. Many in the
audience, including the VP and the Speaker, read along as they were provided
copies. His ad-libbing left much to be desired. Two phrases stuck in my
mind, 'second-generation' and 'development process,' (which are not in the
published text) as he paused and smiled nervously in-between his deliveries
of phrases. ('Second-generation,' is spoken almost as one word, not
'second,' pause, look up, smile, and then 'generation.')

I wondered how many in the audience got bored with his reading rather than
speech-making, and tuned him out.

Certainly not a way to be persuasive. But then again, was he trying to
persuade anybody at all, having turned down invitations from the NY Times,
the Wall Street Journal, and PBS? Does he understand that his appeals to
Corporate America in this speech did not reach their targets, because
corporate execs do not watch C-SPAN but read the WSJ? Did someone tell him
that his deals with Bush on nuclear technology are useless till the Congress
decides not to withhold approval? That the American people do call and write
to their representatives and could oppose the technology transfer when
India-haters like the influential Rep. Ed Markey are seen blasting India on
the evening news? (I was surprised to notice Markey personally present at
the speech.) The P.M. is in dreamland if he thinks Bush is going to expend
his political capital, of which he has little left anyway, to see this
technology transfer through; Indian politicians themselves and the money of
the Indian-Americans will have to do the persuading.

When the P.M. talked about India's place in the U.N. Security Council, a few
people clapped. The camera showed a group of about half a dozen
African-American Congressmen not only refrain from clapping but snicker and
laugh derisively. This is profoundly troubling because we desis are deemed
to be racist. (When the P.M. of India visited Boston in 1994 or thereabouts,
the best hotel in Boston was told that only whites may serve the Indian
party. African-American employees were forced to take the day off, and filed
complaints with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, keeping
the story in the news for a while. I had to apologize personally to my
colleagues; my brother had to explain to his colleagues that 'Mississippi
Masala' is fiction, not fact. Stories have also appeared about unfriendly
attitudes in India towards students from African countries.)

India needs the friendship of all forty African-American Congresspersons.

Today's Boston Globe already has headlined its editorial "Dangerous Deal
with India." To boot, yesterday's Times of India reports that the Indian
Embassy has fired its Washington lobbyists.

Although scheduled for an hour, the P.M. was done in less than forty
minutes. Probably a relief. When he finished, his escorts, Senator Frist and
Rep. DeLay approached, clapping, to see him to the door, all per the
customs. He, however, had no clue as to what to expect next. He repeated his
poor handshakes with Hastert and Cheney, and then pointing to the wrong
direction, asked the Speaker if he could exit that way, only to be pointed
to the waiting escorting party. (One cannot really miss the very tall Frist,
waiting a few feet away.) Later, when he proceeded the wrong way, Senator
Frist was seen grabbing his arm to turn him 180 degrees.

Unbelievable that the Indian Embassy does not know the protocol, or had not
taken the trouble to brief the P.M. Such faux pas could be ignored fifty
years ago, but India is on an equal footing and is competing with the best

The P.M. did clarify who his controllers are, paying a tribute in his speech
to the Late Rajiv Gandhi as the economic liberalizer of India, but
neglecting the Late P V N Rao for whom he was Finance Minister.

We know the P.M. is no orator. I personally was expecting much better job of
convincing than this show, though.

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