RIYADH: Shashi Tharoor, minister of state for external affairs, was at the centre of yet another controversy after his remarks here on Saturday evening that Saudi Arabia could be a “valuable interlocutor” between India and Pakistan.
The remark, in response to a question from a reporter, triggered a storm on Sunday, with many viewing it as a deviation from the country’s stand to treat the dispute with Pakistan as a bilateral affair, and reject all suggestions of third-party mediation.
Tharoor strongly argued that he had been misinterpreted as he had not used the word “mediation or anything like that”. He also tweeted, ruing the misinterpretation of the word “interlocutor”, while insisting that an “interlocutor was different from a mediator”.
But with a row threatening to build up back home, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had to clarify matters through a press statement.
“A section of the media has misread my remarks. What I basically said was that Saudi Arabia is a valuable interlocutor for India. Any other interpretation was neither meant nor warranted,” Tharoor said.
On Saturday, Tharoor had been asked whether India expected Saudi Arabia, given their close ties with Islamabad, to help address the terror threat from Pakistan. “We feel that Saudi Arabia has a long and close relationship with Pakistan, that makes Saudi Arabia even more a valuable interlocutor for, when we tell them about our experience, Saudi Arabia listens as somebody who is not in any way an enemy of Pakistan, but a friend of Pakistan and, therefore, will listen with sympathy and concern to a matter of this nature,” he had said.
With the news of “departure” playing big on channels back home, Tharoor questioned the interpretation. “An interlocutor is someone you speak to. If I speak to you, you are my interlocutor. I mentioned the Saudis as our interlocutors, i.e. the people we are here to speak to,” he tweeted. Saudi role in Indo-Pak talks? Tharoor sets off row
Diwakar, TNN, Mar 1, 2010, 12.59am IST