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Krishna hits a Portugese note in UNSC speech.

EXTERNAL affairs minister S. M. Krishna committed a major faux pas at the United Nations Security Council ( UNSC) in New York on Friday, leaving more than a few red faces in the ministry and the government.

While delivering his speech at the UNSC, Krishna read out portions of the Portuguese foreign minister's speech instead.

The occasion was significant as it was the Indian foreign minister's first speech at the UNSC after New Delhi entered the coveted body on January 1 as a non- permanent member after nearly two decades.

Krishna was scheduled to speak after his Portuguese counterpart Luis Amado at a session on Friday on ' Maintenance of International Peace and Security: Interdependence between Security and Development'. Portugal has also been elected to the UNSC for a two- year period.

As soon as the minister started speaking, almost everyone present realised that he was reading from Amado's speech, as a few lines were out of place. Krishna apparently did not realise his mistake and went on.

" On a more personal note, allow me to express my profound satisfaction regarding the happy coincidence of having two members of the Portuguese Speaking Countries, Brazil and Portugal, together here today," the minister said as a horrified Indian contingent watched. " The European Union is also responding in this manner in coordination with the United Nations."

It was after three minutes that India's permanent representative to the UN, Hardeep Puri, intervened and asked him to start afresh.

Clearly embarrassed, the ministry of external affairs ( MEA) on Saturday tried to play down the minister's gaffe.

It insisted that the " mistake" was not so crucial because the initial paragraph of all formal addresses contains " certain salutations and courteous references and he had used such expressions from the address of the previous speaker". Sources in the MEA said it was a " genuine" mistake. Amado had delivered an extempore speech and its written summary was distributed to all other 14 ministers of the UNSC members and five invitee ministers.

Krishna spoke immediately after Amado and he mixed the text of his own speech with the summary of what the Portugese

minister had said. The copy of Amado's speech in a folder did not bear either his name or the name of his country. Hence, the " honest and inadvertent mistake", a source said.

A former foreign minister, who did not wish to be named, put the blame on the Indian diplomats and ministerial staff present.

" They should have alerted the minister within a few seconds.

It was their responsibility to ensure that he had the correct speech before he began," he said.

Apart from Puri, other Indian diplomats present included MEA additional secretary ( international organisations) Dilip Sinha and adviser to the minister

Raghavendra Shastry. All of them were sitting right behind Krishna.

This is not the first time that Krishna has made such a goofup.

But with India lobbying for permanent membership of the Security Council, the incident undoubtedly is a major embarrassment.

A senior Opposition leader expressed outrage at the minister's gaucherie in New York.

Describing the incident as unimaginable, a foreign policy expert said: " Every speech is different from the other. The minister should have realised his mistake within 30 seconds." Ministers usually go through the draft of the speech prepared for them and Krishna, too, would have done the same, he said.

To rub salt on India's wounds, Pakistani TV channels took potshots at Krishna. Islamabad had expressed reservations against India's entry into the UNSC.

MINISTER'S SLIP ONE TOO MANY

During a meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi in Islamabad last July, S. M. Krishna reportedly read out from the background note. The note was meant to help him prepare for the meeting and was not part of the formal speech.

Krishna again committed a faux pas last year when a European Union dignitary was on a visit to India. He read the personal instructions meant for him, which are usually put in third person in brackets in the speech prepared by the ministry officials.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Feb 13, 2011
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