Date: 9/5/2005


STORY BEHIND SONIA GANDHI'S U.S. TRIP CANCELLATION/// > Fear of facing questions about her soft attitude towards Islamist > organizations made Sonia cancel her U.S. trip. It is a foreign > relations disaster for India. > /// > N.S. Rajaram/// > ------------------------------------------------- > /// > The UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi was supposed to visit Washington > beginning September 14, the same week when Prime Minister Manmohan > Singh will be in New York for the United Nations General Assembly > session. The invitation to Sonia Gandhi came from the former > president Bill Clinton. It was for a seminar of world leaders on > global issues. Nelson Mandela and Mikhail Gorbachev are also > expected to attend. > /// > The invitation was a big feather in Sonia's cap— an acknowledgement > of her stature as a world statesman. The Indian Embassy in > Washington had put in a request to the White House for a meeting > between Sonia Gandhi and President Bush— a rare honor indeed. Then, > last week, Sonia Gandhi abruptly cancelled her trip. She gave no > reasons, but those close to her claimed some `party work.' What > really happened? > /// > The Indian media has not commented on it, but American sources give > a fairly clear picture. To begin with, the timing of the > cancellation was unfortunate. Sonia had recently visited Russia at > President Putin's invitation, accompanied by the External Affairs > Minister Natwar Singh. Her abrupt cancellation so soon after the > Russian visit has not gone well with the Americans— either the media > or the officialdom. It has raised eyebrows and suddenly brought > media attention on Sonia. > /// > Until the trip cancellation Sonia was virtually unknown in the West > except for her fairy tale like marriage to Rajiv, and more recently, > her supposed `sacrifice' in giving up the prime minister's post, > which was never offered to her. Many Westerners believe that the > Gandhi family is related to Mahatma Gandhi and somehow Sonia with > her `sacrifice' was following in the Mahatma's footsteps. This is > now set to change. > /// > Things began to go wrong for Sonia with Salman Rushdie's article in > The New York Times (July 10, 2005) denouncing the Indian > Government's reaction to the Imrana outrage. Without mentioning > Sonia by name, he attacked her major allies especially Mulayam Singh > Yadav. He also called for the enactment of a uniform civil code. > This of course is regarded as `communal' in India, which Rushdie > also noted. > /// > This was a bombshell. The Indian media has tried to downplay it, but > it struck a chord with the American public. The Wall Street Journal, > one of America's leading newspapers, published a letter from me in > which I pointed out that the Sharia, like the antique Code of > Hammurabi and the Mosaic Law is an academic curiosity that has no > place in a country with a constitution and a judiciary. > > Both Rushdie's article and my letter (in which I called Sharia a > medieval monstrosity) were soon picked up by other publications and > websites in the U.S. and Europe. I was contacted by several U.S. > publications with questions about Sonia's background. The Washington > press corps also got interested and a move was afoot to have a > reception at the Press Club during Sonia's visit where she would be > questioned by the media. > /// > The issue soon began to snowball. Some people remembered that Sonia > had given a lecture at the Bin Laden family founded Oxford Institute > of Islamic Studies shortly after the 9/11 attacks. In her talk she > had tried to whitewash the 9/11 attacks by speaking vaguely > about `extremism and fanaticism' in religion without mentioning > Jihad or Islamic terrorism. The Telegraph of London called it > a `strongly pro-Muslim talk.' > > At this point, the U.S. political establishment also became > involved. Some Congressional staff members seem to have been alerted > to Sonia's performance at the Oxford Institute and her attempt to > whitewash Jihadi terrorism. There were concerns that Sonia might use > her talk at the Clinton Foundation seminar also for similar pro- > Islamic propaganda. This too made the rounds in Washington. > /// > As a result of all this, within a matter of weeks, Sonia Gandhi's > image changed from that of a sacrificing fairy tale princess to one > of an unscrupulous politician willing to be used by Islamists for > their propaganda. Had she visited Washington as originally > scheduled, the U.S. media would have given her a torrid time. > /// > By canceling her visit Sonia may have escaped media attention for > the moment, but the problem will not go away. Now the U.S. media and > officialdom are looking at some other connections— like her old KGB > links. When KGB records were thrown open following the collapse of > the Soviet Union, Russian scholars as well as some news publications > found that the Soviets had been channeling funds into a firm > controlled by her husband Rajiv Gandhi as far back as 1982. > /// > Shortly after Rajiv Gandhi's assassination in 1991, citing KGB > records, a Swiss magazine reported that Sonia Gandhi was controlling > a secret account worth over $2 billion dollars in her minor son's > name. > /// > None of this is new. A.G. Noorani had reported on it in The > Statesman in 1999, while Subramanian Swamy had raised it repeatedly, > only to be ignored. What seems to have alerted Americans this time > was the timing of Sonia's visit to Russia at Putin's invitation. It > happened to coincide with the Paris Air Show where the Americans, > the French and the Russians were all trying to sell military > aircraft to India. > /// > In addition to the timing of her Russian visit, President Putin's > background as a former KGB official is bound to raise suspicions > that he might be using his influence and possible previous links to > Rajiv and Sonia to sell Russian aircraft to India. The fact that > Putin replaced the Russian ambassador in New Delhi—a career diplomat— > with a former high KGB official will only add fuel to it. > /// > For all the questions—from the Oxford Center talk to the KGB > connection—the Imrana outrage will probably prove to be the greatest > embarrassment. He studied silence and refusal to condemn it the face > of wordlwide outcry smacks of a soft attitude towards Islamic > Fundamentalist outfits. In the circumstances, it is not surprising > that Sonia should have cancelled her trip. But Manmohan Singh, when > he visits the U.S., is likely to have his hands full trying to > control the damage. > /// > The fact of the matter is that no matter how much the Indian media > might want to build her up, Sonia Gandhi is a provincial woman from > a small Italian town. Her background and education have not equipped > her for a role on the world stage at this critical period in > history. > /// > The problem for Sonia is that the world is not 10 Janpath much less > Orbassano, Italy. You can take Sonia out of Orbassano but not > Orbassano out of Sonia. She will continue to be an embarrassment to > India. .........................000000000