Anyway, back to the controversy and thank GOD this time Twitter has no relevance unlike in previous controversies where a few semi-literate "writers" (wateva that means!) almost presented Twitter as a sort of a shady nook whose motley crowd and radical approach to communication, "spoilt" a good orthodox Congressman like Tharoor and led him to commit heresies. For once it is obvious that people will say what they have to say and journos would represent them as they want to, irrespective of the medium of communication.
Now, to the actual controversy, the lines in question are,
“That Indian foreign policy drew from our sense of civilisation, and the extraordinary contribution by Mahatma Gandhi and Nehruji’s articulation of our civilisational heritage, both enhanced India’s standing in the world but also earned us the negative reputation of running a moralistic commentary on world affairs—that has come through very clearly in your speech.” [emphasis mine] [Source]
(Pssst.. all wannabe journalists, when you quote somebody, you mark the text explicitly,attribute to the actual source and mention changes you make. )
If you take a look at the last line, it is very obvious that Mr. Tharoor was actually summing up the points made by Lord Bhikhu Parekh's speech in the Indian Council of World Affairs seminar. Ignoring this aspect while reporting cannot be anything but malicious. If a newspaper of Times of India's stature indulges in tactics which wouldnt even qualify as yellow journalism, there is reason to worry.
However, i would like to go further and ask what was wrong with the lines as such even if we were to disregard the above fact and especially hen it was said in an academic seminar?
What is wrong with just stating the obvious ?
The movement that shaped the Indian national identity of the late 1800s and 1900s, itself has grown from our sense of civilizational heritage as percieved and articulated by our founding fathers, could the foreign policy be any different ? Further, the moralistic lines Nehru followed was not perfect but getting caught in the cross-fire of the two great Cold-War rivals , the USA and the USSR was the last thing the infant Indian state should have wanted to get caught up in. Pakistan is the perfect example of how bad things could have gone if India did not take a neutral position during the Cold War.A moralistic approach put India in the non-aligned block's leadership, and gave it a much bigger role in global affairs. But it also earned the ridicule of the Western bloc, especially the USA which has always viewed its foe as the supreme evil that other free societies should help them defeat. But the same point of view is not tenable in India.
Anyway, the term "negative influence" refered to should be taken in a lighter context, and not always as criticism, one must not remember the context in which the statements are made. In this case it clearly seems to be an adulation in the same manner as one would say "brutally honest" .
Well, to be brutally honest, i must tell Mr. Shashi Tharoor that it seems he is trapped between the two Indias. The first one seeks, transparency, openness, progressive thought and the other orthodoxy,conservatism and propriety....