x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Whose line is it anyway?

A UN speech by Indian's extern affairs minister was going swimmingly, until he realised he was reading the wrong one.

The largest democracy in the world, an economic dynamo of massive proportions and the locus of one of the world's oldest civilisations: there are many strong arguments for India's bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. The oratory of its external affairs minister SM Krishna would not, alas, be one of them.

Last Friday, Mr Krishna made India's first speech during this session of the Security Council. The minister blundered on for a full three minutes before an unfortunate fact dawned. The speech, in fact, belonged to the Portuguese foreign minister and Mr Krishna had cribbed it by mistake.

Of course, he could perhaps be forgiven. The hefty topic of his choice, "Maintenance of International Peace and Security: Interdependence between Security and Development", is hardly the grist of great speech-making that will seize the attention of the masses. And Mr Krishna managed to carry the event off with some aplomb, merely inquiring whether he had to begin anew when his error was pointed out.

He defends himself that it was an honest mix-up because there were so many speeches laid out in front of him. But if even the speaker can't tell the difference, what about the audience? How many times have speakers made the same mistake droning on at a UN talkshop and nobody noticed?