I havent done indecent exposure

Updated: Jul 30 2006, 05:30am hrs
AS part of the NDA government, Jaswant Singh began the exercise to set Indias record with the US straight. Now, watching from the Opposition benches, the senior BJP leader is not all optimistic of the progress made. In the limelight with his book Call to Honour, which refers to a mole in the P V Narasimha Rao government, Singh says its an attempt to warn of impending dangers. At the same time, he calls himself a student trying to understand the country. In a freewheeling discussion with the Express groups reporters and editors over lunch at the Express office, Singh gave diplomacy a break to put all his concerns on record. Excerpts:

THE MOLE CONTROVERSY I havent used the word mole (in my book). There are two reasons why I cited that portion. First, there exists truly a fairly lengthy note written-not by an Indian-in which a great many things are mentioned. Among them what the US should be aspiring for as far as India is concerned, and it lists non-proliferation. This is 1995. I cite it this year in the context of that, when the US threw in my face that India misled it. We did know that it was factually wrong.

Second, we must be aware of the political and international games of the US. I have no intention to sensationalise all this.

THE MOLES IDENTITY: The PM said I lack decency. I havent done indecent exposure. I had a telephonic request for a meeting sent to him the next day. I waited till Thursday. On Thursday I had a written request sent for time. If I dont get a response even to this, Ill have to re-examine what I do.

RELATIONS WITH US, CHINA, PAKISTAN: Today the internal situation for India is the worst I have experienced in the last decade. Between my going to Pakistan and coming back, the deterioration there is so sharp as to be unbelievable. About 80,000 Pak troops are trapped between Waziristan and north Baluchistan. On China we are just trundling along. Before the Agra summit we announced a series of steps voluntarily. Pakistan called it deflective diplomacy. The situation in Pakistan is that General Musharraf desperately wants some success. He is trapped in Afghanistan. The Indian foreign policy is trapped in inability.

THE NUKE DEAL: We must have very sound and forward-looking strategic relations with the US, military, economic and nuclear. It is wrong and misleading and disingenuous of the Government to say this deal is based on the hook of energy. Its a mistake to make the agreement the icon of Indo-US relations. Icon is the totality of Indo-US relations. What if it (the nuke deal) turns out to be fake Indo-US relations should not go back to the start. Also, there was no need to engage in the euphemism of peaceful nuclear explosion. In dealing with the US it is infinitely better to be upfront and candid.

NEED FOR A FOREIGN MINISTER: All PMs wish to, and should up to a point, run the foreign policy of the government. But it is wrong for a PM to think that he should also be the foreign minister. Today, governments have become so complex and the demands on a foreign minister are too much. We are unmindful of the serious situation in Sri Lanka. You cannot outsource the management of your foreign policy.

MAY 1998 NUKE TESTS: We dont judge these only on the ground of prudence. A bold step creates its own environment and ambience. Any time you can find fault with the timing of 1998, but it was remarkable. The aim all along was never to ask, no quid pro quo, no stepping back, but to harmonise views between the US and India.

AID TO LEBANON :(The PMs announcement of Rs 10 crore aid) was a deeply disappointing statement. It was delayed in time, it was deficient in policy and it was miserly in what it offered to Lebanon. This statement is bureaucratic, therefore it is timid, not simply because Rs 10 crore are involved.

Ten crore is insulting, truly insulting. We could have sent in medical aid, a team of army doctors. We have a very valuable relationship with Israel, we must continue to nurture it, but we cannot place our policy at ransom and subject it to Israeli approval here.

RELATIONS WITH ISRAEL: They are not drifting back, they have already (drifted back). Just as the US internal policy is so crucially influenced by the Jewish vote, because of the reality of the Indian scene, all internal politics must reflect on external politics. But external politics cannot become subject to the deficiencies of internal politics.

MUMBAI BLASTS & PARLIAMENT: We did (discuss them). But there is another thing. I dont call it just parliamentary deficiency, its a deficiency of all of us as Indians.

We as India through history absorbed so many shocks...we internalise it, two-three days later it's in the past.

SHIVRAJ PATIL: A very disappointing home minister. Hes extremely dapper. There is something disturbing about so much...The place where he works in Parliament, the first thing you notice is a leather brush comb.

GUJARAT It is wrong to think Gujarat didnt disturb. It (the riots) disturbed even Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. How can you assume so (that it didnt disturb) when so many people are killed because of certain situations that arise because of the lighting of a bogey. But to continue to scratch at that scar and to continue to hold Gujarat as somewhat deficient in something is wrong.

Gujarat is an extremely well administered state today. Modi is a very hard-working, administratively able and honest CM.

BJP AFTER VAJPAYEE, ADVANI: We should stop worshipping icons. All political parties in the country are private limited companies, except in a sense the BJP and the CPI(M). The BJP has to compete against family concerns, so this question keeps cropping up-Chehra kaun sa hai (Who will be the new face). I know there is a process of evolution going on in the BJP...its not visible. And in that process a lot of weight is being shed. In this age of thinking Indians, why should we think in terms of who

RAJNATH SINGH: He is the leader of the BJP. He will stand where his talent and latent abilities can be projected by himself and the party, and recognised by the rest of the country. To call him interim will be unfair to him. There is nothing interim about him.

FIGHTING 2004 LS POLLS UNDER VAJPAYEE: It was not an error. It was a collective decision of the party. Ataljis prime ministerial tenure was quite outstanding.

INDIAS PRIME MINISTERS: Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was a remarkable human being...in the period he led India, he was the right choice...Mrs Gandhis premiership resulted in perhaps the most destructive decade of Indias history. It was a period of constant experimentation with India. Assam, JK, Punjab, Blue Star, IPKF...each of them have left such scars and deep grooves that we are still trying to find an answer to them.

INDIRAS ACHIEVEMENTS: She brought a sense of personalised discipline in an otherwise chaotic Congress party. But it proved to be negative...she destroyed the party.

P V NARASIMHA RAO: He was a grossly underrated PM. His own party does injustice to him. He had a remarkably astute mind and was able to distill the problem. His management of Indias security was astute.

FUTURE BOOKS: Its really an effort by a student to try and understand what happened to the country because if I have a better understanding I might be able to deal with it better.