- By Colum LynchColum Lynch is Foreign Policy’s award-winning U.N.-based senior diplomatic reporter. He previously wrote FP’s Turtle Bay blog, for which he was awarded the 2011 National Magazine Award for best reporting in digital media. He was also the silver medal recipient of the 2013 Elizabeth Neuffer Memorial Prize for a three-part series documenting the U.N.’s systemic failure to protect civilians in Darfur, Sudan. Colum’s investigations have uncovered an American spy operation in Iraq, Russia’s monopoly of the $1 billion-a-year U.N. aircraft leasing market, and a Chinese diplomatic campaign to silence U.N. investigators scrutinizing Chinese arms deals in Africa. His deep digs into the U.N. bureaucracy have exposed sexual misconduct by U.N. blue helmets from Bosnia to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and documented monumental dysfunction in the U.N. office charged with rooting out misconduct and corruption. He now devotes his reporting chops to documenting President Donald Trump’s efforts to reorder the international system. Born in Los Angeles, Colum received a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1985 and a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in 1987. Before moving to FP, Colum reported on diplomacy and national security for the Washington Post for more than a decade. He has appeared frequently on national news programs, including the Lehrer NewsHour, as well as on MSNBC, NPR, and the BBC.
Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna‘s visit last week to the United Nations was supposed to provide New Delhi with an opportunity to shine on the world stage, to show that India is a serious emerging power that deserves to sit with other world powers. It didn’t quite turn out that way.
Krishna, in his first appearance before the U.N. Security Council since his country began a two-year stint in January as a temporary member of the U.N. security body, read the wrong speech. For three minutes, Krishna read from the official statement of the foreign minister of Portugal, Luis Amado, noting with a gracious smile his "satisfaction regarding the happy coincidence of having two members of the Portuguese speaking countries" addressing the 15-nation council." (See the video: Krishna begans at 1:08:10)
The gaffe has fueled calls from India’s opposition politicians to have Krishna step down, saying his mistake has brought "shame" to India at a time when it is trying to prove to the world that it is a serious player on the world stage.
The mistake occurred after Amado, who spoke before Krishna, decided to ditch his speech in favor of extemporaneous remarks on the theme of the council debate: the connection between social development and security. Copies of his official speech, however, were circulated to the council’s members, including one copy that landed on top of Krishna’s speech.
In all fairness, it is often tough to tell the difference between the standard speeches delivered before the U.N. Security Council. The Portuguese statement sounded off familiar themes that could have been read by virtually any delegation. For instance, it noted that it "is impossible to implement effective poverty reduction strategies" in a place wracked by political chaos and violence. It underscored the importance of meeting the Millennium Development Goals — a series of internationally accepted health and poverty benchmarks aimed at eliminating poverty — in order to spur economic development in the Third World.
It was not until Krishna highlighted the importance of coordination between the United Nations and the European Union that the Indian delegation grew suspicious. India’s U.N. ambassador, Hardeep Singh Puri, approached Krishna, slid the Portuguese text off his pile of paper, and instructed him to read the Indian statement buried beneath it. "OK," a puzzled Krishna said before asking: "I have to start all over again?" Without so much as a pause, or a recognition of the gaffe, Krishna started again, beginning with a reference to Mahatma Gandhi’s famous line "poverty is the worst form of violence." You’d think — that if he had taken the time to glance at his speech before reading it — he would have noticed the omission.
As for Krishna, he suggested the slip-up could have happened to anyone. "There was nothing wrong in it," he told the Press Trust of India. "There were so many papers spread in front of me, so by mistake the wrong speech was taken out."
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*Update, 11:37 a.m., Feb. 14, 2011: This quote was corrected along with corrections of misspelled names and typographical errors.