NEW DELHI: A single phrase in the opening remarks of defence minister
during the recent 2+2 meeting sent the ministry of external affairs and the United States’ state department tossing translations back and forth like the proverbial hot potato.
An early transcript by the American state department of the four opening remarks by the principals quoted Rajnath Singh saying “in the area of defense we are challenged by reckless aggression on our northern borders … (inaudible)”.
Of the two ministers, Singh was the only one to make a reference to China. Foreign minister
did not refer to China in his public remarks at all.
However, the video of the remarks did not have Rajnath saying these comments. He is heard saying: “Aaj ke samay mein jo challenges hum face kar rahe hain, unki wajah se hamari partnership aur bhi mahatwapurn ho jaati hai.”
For many conspiracy theorists, it was America putting words in the Indian defence minister’s mouth. Questions from journalists yielded no clarity.
Behind the scenes, though, the external affairs ministry told the American side, they had to fix the problem. The American side pointed to the interpreter provided by the Indian government, who had said these lines, translating Rajnath’s Hindi into English.
The MEA and the defence ministry lobbed the ball into the US’ court, which it struggled to clarify. A US embassy spokesperson in New Delhi said: “The original American transcript of the 2+2 opening statement was prepared from an audio recording of the Indian government interpreter’s English-language delivery to American participants.”
Basically, what seems to have happened is that Rajnath strayed from the prepared remarks. The interpreter was slow to pick up and make changes on the fly. It was a storm in a teacup.
The American state department inserted the clarification into their transcript as did the department of defence. The final transcript read: “Excellencies, in the area of defense we are challenged by reckless aggression on our northern borders — (inaudible).* (As delivered by Indian Government English-langu-age interpreter.)
The MEA officially washed its hands of the affair — at least in public.