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02 December 2023

Indian minister ridiculed over UN speech gaffe


India's 78-year-old foreign minister, S.M. Krishna, is battling to save his reputation after mistakenly reading from the speech of his Portuguese counterpart at a United Nations meeting in New York.

Krishna read the first three minutes of the wrong text last week before one of his officials stepped in to point out his error, the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency reported.

"On a more personal note, allow me to express my profound satisfaction regarding the happy coincidence of having two members of the Portuguese-speaking countries, Brazil and Portugal, together here today," Krishna told the UN according to PTI.

The minister later brushed off Friday's gaffe, telling reporters in New York that "there was nothing wrong in it."

"There were so many papers spread in front of me so by mistake the wrong speech was taken out," he said. "Unfortunately, it happened."

The Hindustan Times on Tuesday teased Krishna by suggesting that the very public muddle-up allowed India to acknowledge its debt to Portugal, which was once a colonial ruler of Goa and other parts of the country.

"If we junk the colonial baggage, there is a lot we can thank the Portuguese for," it said, mentioning Goa's famous food. "The least we can do is read out their speeches once in a while."

Dilip Cherian, a public relations guru and regular columnist at the Mumbai Mid-Day newspaper, predicted Krishna might not fare well in the next cabinet reshuffle.

"All of Delhi is giggling about the rather international faux pas by the rapidly ageing foreign minister," he wrote. "Making an ass of himself at the UN is one thing, but brushing it aside as normal is absurd."

Nirmala Sitharaman, spokeswoman for the opposition BJP, said the speech mix-up proved the government's "level of incompetence has reached to its optimum."