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New Delhi has agreed to stop all oil imports from Iran if in return Washington can get US-based newspapers to desist from criticizing Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh. India also wants US to ensure that social networking sites,Facebook and Twitter, delete all posts criticizing or mocking the PM and other UPA ministers.
Confirming the change in policy, a high ranking Minister told The Unreal Times, “For the West, Iran may be a threat to global peace and tranquility but we are very clear that Facebook, Twitter and of late, Western newspapers, pose a bigger threat to our peace of mind.”
A high level Indian delegation has already been sent to Washington with explicit instructions to bargain hard for these demands. The delegation has reportedly told US officials that, even though stopping Iranian oil imports would increase petrol prices significantly and hurt the Indian economy, the government is prepared to take such drastic steps if US acquiesces to the Indian government’s wishlist.
A member of the delegation, on condition of anonymity, even hinted that the Indian government may allow FDI in retail sector, a highly contentious issue in India, if the US complies with the Indian request.
The PM’s media adviser had earlier demanded an apology after the Washington Post described Dr. Singh as ‘a dithering and ineffectual bureaucrat presiding over a deeply corrupt government’ in its article. When Simon Denyer, the India bureau chief of Washington Post, issued an apology, the media advisor felt chuffed up for a brief while until Denyer clarified that he had apologized only for the malfunctioning of the website, not for the article itself. That’s when the government felt it had no option but to take this up at the highest levels with the Americans.
An angry Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Ms Ambika Soni, called up US officials in Washington DC, requesting to speak to the American Secretary for Information and Broadcasting. On being informed that there exists no such department in US Government and that the US constitution guarantees freedom of speech, Ms Soni humbly pointed out that clause 19a of the Indian constitution prohibits freedom of speech if it is harmful to “friendly foreign states”. She suggested that therefore it would be in the interest of Indo-US ties if US introduced a similar clause to stop American media from mocking the Indian PM in its constitution.
On being asked why the government is so sensitive to criticism from mainstream media, Ms Soni noted that just like Indian Censor Board banned posters of Sunny Leone-starred Jism because they could have corrupted impressionable young minds, severe criticism of Western provenance directed at UPA leaders could, in a similar vein, distort the thinking of youth and adversely affect the outcome of 2014 General Elections.