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UPA walks the tightrope over Malaysian protests

Nov 30, 2007 10:23 PM IST Politics Politics
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New Delhi: Snubs are hard to ignore especially if important political allies have been at the receiving end. So when a Malaysian minister asked Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi to mind his own business regarding the protests by ethnic Indians in Malaysia he virtually forced the UPA to react. Members of Parliament had also begun demanding that India intervene officially on behalf of the ethnic Tamils in Malaysia. “Remarks by the Malaysian minister are very unfortunate to say the least. The country has created a difficulty for itself,” former external affairs minister Natwar Singh said. On Thursday, the US State Department forcefully condemned the use of excessive force against peaceful protestors. So, five days after the crackdown on the anti-government rallies in Malaysia, the Indian government finally expressed its concern. “We have friendly relations with Malaysia and we are in touch with the Malaysian authorities in the related matter,” External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee told Parliament. But Mukherjee was careful to make the point that these protestors were all Malaysian citizens and the PM also did not single out Malaysia for criticism. “It’s a matter of concern whenever Indians or PIOs are in difficulty anywhere in the world,” Manmohan Singh said. Clearly, the UPA was aiming for a fine balancing act by blunting Opposition at home but at the same time ensuring ties with a friendly country did not suffer. (With inputs from Smita Nair)