Must learn to be less thin-skinned, says Shashi Tharoor as GoI protests over Singapore PM’s remarks

Feb 20, 2022 | Kashmir Coverage (General News)

New Delhi: Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Friday said it was most unseemly for the Indian Ministry of External Affairs to “summon” the envoy of a friendly country like Singapore over remarks by their prime minister to their own Parliament, and asserted that “we must learn to be less thin-skinned”.

Tharoor’s remarks came after India on Thursday lodged a strong protest with Singapore over the comments made by its Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong that almost half of the lawmakers in the Lok Sabha have criminal charges pending against them and suggesting a decline in the country’s democratic polity from “Nehru’s India”.

“Most unseemly for MEA to summon the HC of a friendly country like Singapore over some remarks by their PM to their own Parliament,” Tharoor said in a tweet.

“He (Lee) was making a general (& largely accurate) point. Given the stuff our own pols utter, we must learn to be less thin-skinned!” the former minister of state for external affairs said.

“We should have handled the matter with a statement saying ‘we heard with interest the PM’s remarks. But we don’t comment on other countries’ internal matters, nor on debates in foreign Parliaments, & urge everyone to follow the same principle.’ Far more effective & less offensive,” Tharoor said in another tweet.

Singapore’s high commissioner to India Simon Wong was called to the Ministry of External Affairs and he was conveyed that the comments were “uncalled for” and that India objected to them strongly, according to reports.

Earlier, Lee Hsien Loong invoked India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru while arguing how democracy should work in the city-state during a passionate debate in Parliament.

“Most countries are founded and start off on the basis of high ideals and noble values. But more often than not, beyond the founding leaders and the pioneer generation, over decades and generations, gradually things change,” Lee said on Tuesday during the debate on the Committee of Privileges’ report on complaints about untruths told by former Workers’ Party lawmaker Raeesah Khan.

“Things start off with passionate intensity. The leaders, who fought for and won independence, are often exceptional individuals of great courage, immense culture, and outstanding ability. They came through the crucible of fire and emerged as leaders of men and nations. They are the David Ben-Gurions, the Jawaharlal Nehrus, and we have our own too,” he said.

Imbued with enormous personal prestige, they strive to meet the high expectations of their peoples to build a brave new world, and shape a new future for their peoples, and for their countries. But beyond that initial fervour, succeeding generations often find it hard to sustain this momentum and drive, Lee said.

The texture of politics changes, respect for politicians declines. After a while, the electorate comes to think this is the norm, and you cannot expect better. So, standards get debased, trust is eroded, and the country declines further, he said.

“Many political systems today would be quite unrecognisable to their founding leaders. Ben-Gurion’s Israel has morphed into one which can barely form a government, despite four general elections in two years. Meanwhile, a stream of senior politicians and officials in Israel face a litany of criminal charges, some have gone to jail.

“While Nehru’s India has become one where, according to media reports, almost half the MPs in the Lok Sabha have criminal charges pending against them, including charges of rape and murder. Though it is also said that many of these allegations are politically motivated,” Lee said.

The 70-year-old prime minister said each succeeding generation must protect and build upon the system that Singapore has inherited.

News Desk | Free Press Kashmir