Nirupama Rao comes to Basit's defence during panel discussion

The occasion was a discussion -- 'Bureaucrats: Heroes or Victims' -- organised by Outlook magazine here last night to celebrate its 15th anniversary when former External Affairs Ministry official K C Singh criticised Basit, saying he speaks "English in Punjabi".

Responding to Singh, Rao sought to reject his contention and said, "I know Basit. I have been watching him at meetings. He puts across Pakistani point of view with clarity. What he says, we may not agree. We have to give credit where it is due. He is a professional."
The argument and counter-argument came after Outlook Editor-in-Chief Vinod Mehta asked Singh why the Pakistani Foreign Ministry was faring better in public relations and always "pulling our pants down".

Singh said the Pakistani establishment does not have the "league which was available to it before. Pakistan's PR machinery is not upto the mark."

Rao was of the opinion that the communication skills of Indian bureaucrats, specially in her Ministry, have improved over the years. "A lot of matrix has changed with the 24X7 news channels," she said.

Union Home Secretary G K Pillai acknowledged that there is "far more" pressure on bureaucrats as there are a lot of channels and newspapers and "everybody wants breaking news".

"You can handle media being more open and not that secretive," he said.
Asked about being called by Chinese officials in the wee hours for a meeting during her days in China as Ambassador, Rao said she did not treat it as "harassment though certainly it was an inconvenience".

"China wanted to make a point. They felt it was a crisis situation in Tibet (ahead of Beijing Olympic torch relay in Delhi) and they wanted to deal with it. It taught us how Chinese leadership saw the situation..They were very polite and cordial," she said.
Rao and Pillai, who hold two top crucial posts, also had some advice to junior officers and civil service aspirants on how to deal with their careers.

Both agreed one has decide on how to conduct oneself in the government as bureaucrats can become "heroes as well as victims".

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