Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna still appears to be suffering from foot-in-mouth syndrome.
On Thursday, during Question Time in the Rajya Sabha, Krishna was asked by Shri Shivanand Tiwari (Janata Dal-United) about the status of Pakistani prisoner Mohammed Khaleel Chisti, currently being held in Ajmer jail in Rajasthan. Krishna, oblivious to the full facts of the case, replied that Chisti was in a Pakistani jail.
Had he stopped at this, he could have still gotten away with the excuse that it was a slip of the tongue. But Krishna went on to declare that Pakistan had been asked to show leniency in this case on ‘humanitarian grounds’ as the subject is more than 80 years-old and is wheelchair-bound. Chisti was arrested by police in Rajasthan over a 19-year-old murder case after coming to India to see his ailing mother. He was found guilty by the court and sentenced to life imprisonment last year.
As a stunned house listened to Krishna’s comments, Brinda Karat (CPI-M) interrupted the minister and said the questioner was referring to the case of Dr. Chisti, who is being held in an Indian jail. I think you have misunderstood the question entirely sir,’ Karat added tartly. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh chose this moment to step in, before the situation got out of control, and said he had asked Home Minister P. Chidambaram to contact the Rajasthan government on the Chisti issue.
Krishna’s gaffes seem to be increasing in frequency. While addressing a joint press conference with visiting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last month, Krishna mistakenly said India and Afghanistan aren’t neighbours, a controversial statement in light of India’s claims to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Last year, Krishna started reading the speech of the Portuguese representative at the United Nations, speaking for a few minutes before it was pointed out that it wasn’t his own.