In the Classroom with Foreign Minister Salman Khursheed

The UPA government wants to appear serious about getting engaged with the masses. Foreign policy an area considered reserved for the experts and the professional also got a nudge to become comprehensible to the proverbial “Aam Admi”.
In collaboration with CNBC Aawaz, MEA ( Ministry of External Affairs ) came up with a show to explain the complexities and the ground rules of diplomacy to the wider audience. The show therefore was conducted in Hindi ( the official language of the Union ).

The show was called “Foreign Policy Classroom” in English and curiously enough in Hindi the title ran as “Kutniti ka Mahakumbh” ( Mahakumbh of Diplomacy ). It was for the audience to figure out the connection between a classroom and a religious congregation such as a Kumbh Mela.

MEA Head Mr Salman Khursheed explained the initiative as part of the overall scheme to make governance participatory. According to him the early post independence decades witnessed a largely engaged citizenry primarily due to the influence of stellar leaders like Nehru.

The show got an interesting spin when Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai came on board. While questions continued to be in Hindi Mr. Mathai’s answers were in English. Without the translations or subtitles this was almost like putting a question mark on whole exercise. Apart from the generalities about the Indo – China relationship and the hang ups in Indo – Pak realtions Mr Mathai chose to give a straight forward answer to the question related to shortage of officers in IFS. He located the origin of the problem to the downsizing of government decided upon during the 90s. He claimed that the trend stands to reverse following the 2008 cabinet meeting.

With the moderator’s preference for English jargon such as strategic thought process, bickering, cohesion inclusive conversation etc. one wonders about the extent to which the show succeeded in its goal of engaging the common man. If the number of views and comments on the Ministry’s channel on You Tube are to used as parameters the show seemed to have missed its target by a significant margin.

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