Mandelson pacifies India over Miliband terror gaffe

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Peter Mandelson has had to smooth over a diplomatic rift with India caused by the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, it emerged yesterday.

The Secretary of State for Business last week flew into the storm caused by his Cabinet colleague and reassured Delhi of Britain's "solidarity" with the country.

Mr Miliband enraged Indian counterparts by linking the terror attacks in Mumbai to the Kashmir dispute in a newspaper article. New Delhi ministers and officials also complained he had been a "disaster" and "arrogant" during talks earlier this month.

Lord Mandelson arrived in India on a trade visit just as the diplomatic row erupted. India's dismay at Mr Miliband was raised by the Foreign Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, in a meeting with Lord Mandelson. However, the Foreign Minister also tried to draw a line under the row by publicly saying India now treated the matter as a "closed chapter".

A source present at the talks said the Secretary of State for Business "expressed Britain's solidarity with India and in tracking down suspects of the Mumbai terror attacks".

The disclosure that Lord Mandelson came to the rescue of the Foreign Secretary will deepen Mr Miliband's embarrassment. It left the impression of the Cabinet veteran being forced to clean up after the mess left by his "novice" younger colleague in India, a country which places huge emphasis on respect for elders.

The shadow Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said yesterday: "It is becoming clear that David Miliband's India tour was a serious diplomatic disaster. To have to be rescued by Lord Mandelson adds political humiliation on top of that."

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