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20/02/2003-Speech by His Excellency Mr. Yashwant Sinha

Speech by His Excellency Mr. Yashwant Sinha
External Affairs Minister of India
on India’s Foreign Policy Today
at the Diplomatic Academy, Moscow

His Excellency Mr. Yuri Fokin, Rector of the Academy,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Speech by His Excellency Mr. Yashwant Sinha
External Affairs Minister of India
on India’s Foreign Policy Today
at the Diplomatic Academy, Moscow

February 20, 2003

His Excellency Mr. Yuri Fokin, Rector of the Academy,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to be here amongst you today. Having been Co-Chairman of the Inter Governmental Commission for almost five years, I am no stranger to Russia. It is always a pleasure to return to this beautiful city. I understand that the bi-centennial of the Russian Foreign Ministry was celebrated on 8th February as the Day of the Russian Diplomat. I am aware that this Academy which was set up in 1938 has played an extremely important role in grooming generations of Russian diplomats over the years. I am, therefore, honoured that the Academy has provided me this opportunity to share some thoughts on India’s foreign policy today.

The foreign policy of any major country is a direct reflection of its overall national policies, its goals for the future, and self perception of its role and destiny in the world. Permit me therefore to begin with a few words on where India is today and the future it sees for itself.

India is the fourth largest economy in the world on the basis of Purchasing Power Parity. The Indian economy has grown at an average rate of around 6% for over a decade and has emerged as one of the fastest growing economies in the world. At the time of independence, India was a food deficit country dependent on imports from outside. Today India has nearly 50 million tones of surplus food grains and exports grain to many parts of the world. In 1991, India faced a severe macro economic deficit. Today, our foreign exchange reserves have crossed US$ 73 billion. As opposed to policies aimed at conserving foreign exchange in the past at any cost, we are now encouraging Indian companies to go abroad and establish permanent stakes in the rest of the world. A good example in this regard is the Oil & Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) of India which with a view to advancing India’s energy security, has invested not only in Russia but also in Libya, Syria, Iran, Myanmar and Vietnam. The ONGC is also seeking similar opportunities in Sudan, Kazakhstan, Qatar, Indonesia and Venezuela. It is widely acknowledged that India’s human resources are among the best in the world. Our space, nuclear science, bio-tech and other high-tech capabilities are a matter of pride. India’s success in the field of software development is also well known.

Friends, all the above has been achieved by India within a democratic framework and without any dilution in our commitment to the building of an open, free and pluralistic society. India’s democracy is an article of faith for the over one billion people of our country and we have successfully welded together within this democratic framework, a nation of extraordinary linguistic, cultural, religious and ethnic diversity. India today faces the future and the world with confidence and optimism. Ladies and gentlemen, this self-assurance and a sense of achievement also permeate India’s foreign policy.

It is not easy to spell out within one single speech all aspects of India’s foreign policy. Permit me, therefore, to briefly outline some of our recent efforts vis-à-vis three groups of countries – major powers, India’s immediate and extended neighbourhood and our traditional friends and allies. I would also like to discuss the subject of terrorism which both Russia and India believe is one of the most important challenges confronted by the world in the 21st century.

India’s relations with Russia have over the last decade graduated to a level of close strategic partnership.  We have institutionalised annual summits between our leaders. India understands Russia’s security concerns in Europe, Central Asia and the Caucasus. At the same time, we have received understanding from Russia on our concerns. Neither country perceives a threat from the strength of the other and each perceives a stake in the increased political and economic power of the other. Our cooperation in combating terrorism is older than the coalition created after September 11. As President Putin pointed out in his address to the Indian Parliament in October 2000 itself, ‘the same individuals, the same terrorist and extremist organizations are involved in terrorist acts from the Philippines to Kosovo, including in Jammu & Kashmir, Afghanistan and Chechnya’. India and Russia have together created a sound legal basis for cooperation in combating international terrorism. Among our common challenges is also one relating to WMD proliferation and its linkages to terrorism. In fact, there is much we can do together as partners against proliferation. Our extensive relations encompass today intense political dialogue at various levels, close cooperation in the areas of defence, science and technology, atomic energy, space, culture, etc.

During the visit of President Putin to India in December 2002, both sides accorded special emphasis and attention to economic, scientific and technical cooperation. It was noted that this has not kept pace with the political relationship. A document on enhancing trade and investment was signed, which lays down the direction of bilateral interaction in this area for the foreseeable future. As two large and modernizing economies, we share similar perspectives on the pace and direction of the globalization process. We also have the complementarities to exploit opportunities created by economic liberalization and technology diffusion to our mutual advantage.

India and Russia have identified high value and hi-tech items for cooperation like information technology, diamonds, energy etc. The Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC) of India is investing nearly US $ 1.7 billion in the Sakhalin-I project. This is the highest overseas investment ever by an Indian company. We are interested in further expansion of cooperation in oil and gas sector to include joint activities in third countries also. Under the framework of energy security, India and Russia are also cooperating in nuclear energy. The ongoing construction of the Kudankulum Nuclear Plant with Russian participation is an example. This year the two sides will organize trade fairs in each other’s countries. As we speak, an Indian trade fair is being held in Moscow with the participation of around 300 Indian companies.

India and Russia have had substantial military-technical cooperation over many decades. A significant proportion of the military equipment of India’s three armed services is of Russian (or Soviet) manufacture. Our cooperation in this field already includes joint design, development and production of new weapons systems. The historical perspective of defence relations between our two countries is being advanced further through the successful development of the Brahmos cruise missile. We will also be jointly developing a fifth generation fighter aircraft.

My current visit to Russia has been extremely rewarding. We have had wide ranging and open exchange of views on a number of bilateral and economic issues, in the spirit of strategic partnership that exists between our two countries. We have also exchanged views on a number of issues confronting the global community today.

Let me now turn to India’s relations with other major countries. Our relations with the U.S. have undergone a sea-change in the last decade. Over 15 institutional forums have been established which meet regularly. Special attention is being paid to security and defence cooperation as well as trade and investment. The US is our largest trading partner (US$ 23 billion in goods and services in 2002), the predominant destination of our IT services exports (US$ 5.7 billion last year) and the major source of foreign investments.

The European Union is another key trading partner of India and an important investor of capital. The strategic partnership between India and the EU is based on shared values such as democracy, pluralism and liberalism.  We have had annual Summit-level interaction with the EU since the year 2000. India also has warm and friendly relations with the entire range of Central and Eastern European countries, many of whom are now hopeful of entry into the European Union. Our trade ties with these countries have been on the up-swing for the past few years and Indian firms have participated in their disinvestment and privatisation process.

In August 2002, India and Japan agreed on a Global Partnership in the 21st century. During her recent visit to Delhi, Japanese Foreign Minister Kawaguchi spoke of Japan’s strategic partnership with India and India’s pivotal role in their vision to create a pan-Asian economic area extending from East to South Asia. There is also cooperation amongst the two countries to ensure the security of sea lanes. 

Our relations with China are following a positive course. There is steady effort to overcome past differences and build a convergence of interests. Bilateral trade between India and China last year was over US $ 4.5 billion. India’s relations with China are and will remain forward looking and infused with a sense of optimism. They will be based on the conviction that a prosperous India is inevitable.  So is a strong and prosperous China.  Our objective is to sustain the steady expansion and strengthening of relations in diverse fields even as we attempt to resolve the border issue and address other issues of concern.

India has achieved rapid growth in understanding with Iran. Both countries are interested in forging a long term strategic relationship built around energy security and transit arrangements.  Iran is ready to work with India to provide viable and rapid access to Afghanistan, Central Asia and Russia and some projects have already been agreed upon.  We believe that India and Iran have shared geo-political interests in the pursuit of which our region can be knit into networks of economic cooperation.

Turning to India’s neighborhood, let me begin with the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).   It is a matter of disappointment that despite having come formally into existence 17 years ago, SAARC is still to make progress with regard to its primary objective of economic cooperation between its members. Pakistan denies India even the most elementary MFN treatment. Further between India and Pakistan, there are only 18 items out of over 7000 tariff lines where we give each other preferential tariff. Similarly, with Bangladesh, there are 2672 items where India gives preferential tariff. India gets preferential tariff from Bangladesh in only 484 items. India has expressed its readiness to enter into a free trade arrangement in SAARC with immediate effect. We have also suggested that countries of South Asia should move forward and think of a South Asian Union in future. India is willing to go to any length to improve relations with her immediate neighbours. All she asks in return is that they respect and remain sensitive to her security concerns.

India is a member of the ASEAN Regional Forum, where we have excellent cooperative relations with Russia. We are also a summit partner with the ASEAN since last year. Recognizing the positive role India can play in the region, ASEAN countries have actively engaged India. We have responded with efforts to craft special trade and investment arrangements including through an India-ASEAN Free Trade Area to be brought about in 10 years, a BIMST-EC (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand-Economic Cooperation) FTA as also bilateral arrangements such as the India-Thailand FTA and India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement. BIMST-EC and Mekong-Ganga Cooperation (involving India, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos) are other important structural frameworks of India’s “Look-East” policy.   We are also working on a trilateral highway project between India, Myanmar and Thailand. Connectivity, canalizing resources and policy coordination among India and the countries in the region are the tasks that lie ahead. 

India’s historical links with Central Asia provide an asset for building important relationships with these countries with whom we are exploring new avenues of cooperation and new routes by land, air and sea.   India was amongst the first to establish diplomatic missions in all the Central Asian States. We have participated in the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) process from the beginning.  We are also interested in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. In this regard, may I also mention that India has been actively participating in the reconstruction of Afghanistan since the overthrow of the Taliban regime. We have earmarked US $ 100 million worth of assistance to Afghanistan of which one-third has been already provided. Our assistance includes wheat, buses, civilian airplanes and human resources training in various fields including in computers. We are negotiating a preferential trade agreement with Afghanistan and also developing transit routes to Afghanistan through the Chabahar port of Iran. We believe that India and Russia have a commonality of strategic interests in Central Asia and Afghanistan.

As many of you would be aware, the biggest challenge to relations in India’s neighbourhood comes from Pakistan which has persistently refused to shed its compulsive hostility. Pakistan is today, unfortunately, the epicenter of international terrorism.  The Taliban and Al Qaeda, displaced from Afghanistan have re-emerged in the North West Frontier Province and Baluchistan in Pakistan and there is indication that efforts to destabilize the region are being resumed.  India sincerely seeks good relations with Pakistan. There is however no possibility of making progress in this direction unless and until Pakistan fulfills its commitment to destroy the infrastructure on its territory which trains, finances as well as sponsors terrorism and brings to an end cross-border infiltration. Here too India and Russia have a common position.

India has always maintained a high level of commitment to improving relations with traditional friends in the developing countries. We have, with the intention of modernizing our relations with fellow developing countries of Latin America and Africa, launched a special drive to strengthen trade and economic relations, through special bilateral and multilateral trading arrangements. We are pursuing FTAs / PTAs with Brazil, Uruguay, Mercosur and other regional organizations in Latin America. A delegation from the Common Market in East and Southern Africa (COMESA), led by the Foreign Minister of Mauritius, was in New Delhi recently for the conclusion of an India-COMESA MOU spanning diverse facets of economic cooperation. We are also negotiating an FTA with South Africa, the largest African economy.

As many of you are aware, the Non-Aligned Movement is to hold its summit in Kuala Lumpur a few days from now. India continues to attach importance to this Movement which represents the collective voice of the developing world. We believe an organization of developing countries such as NAM remains relevant even in the post Cold War world and proof of that rests in the fact that even today, membership of NAM is growing.

Let me now turn to the issue of terrorism. Terrorism is among the greatest challenges to democratic societies and international stability.  The wounds inflicted by terrorism on India and Russia went unnoticed by the world. The events of September 11 have, however, created greater awareness of this phenomenon. 

In the global war against terrorism, there can be no room for double standards, of distinction between terrorism that can be tolerated and one that cannot, of terrorism directed against the West and that directed against the others, of the former being untarnished evil and the latter requiring resolution of its root causes. Some progress has been made since September 11 in strengthening cooperation in the field of counter terrorism. But we still have to develop new paradigms of international cooperation based on actionable intelligence. We have to develop new technologies, systems and institutions for the protection of our people. We have to systematically target financial and communication networks of terrorists and their safe havens.  The experience of Afghanistan teaches us that we have to deal with failing or failed States not only for the suffering that their own people undergo, but to prevent terrorists from exploiting the chaos to inflict suffering on people elsewhere. Most of all, we must develop a consensus on how to deal with sovereign states, whose policies, social ethos and institutions breed the mindset that sustains international terrorism. 

The nexus between terrorism and weapons of mass destruction is frightening and there is today grave danger of these weapons falling into the hands of terrorist outfits.  There is also growing incidence of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and delivery systems, as a result of conscious political and strategic choice by governments.  Some of these countries not only have links with terrorism, but also avowed policies to change the status quo through force or resort to nuclear blackmail. These are issues which are of particular concern to India because the best example of a conjunction between authoritarian rule, support for terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, proliferation and drug trafficking is to be found in the neighbourhood of India. These are concerns shared by Russia and the rest of the international community.

Ironically, regimes of technology denial, created in the name of non-proliferation are being maintained even in the face of mounting evidence of their failure to prevent proliferation. The case of North Korea’s nuclear development programme and Pakistan’s involvement is the most recent illustration. Pakistan’s own clandestine acquisitions of nuclear technology and missiles as well as related technology were earlier instances. These denial regimes have neither been negotiated multilaterally nor are they effective in preventing proliferation to irresponsible regimes. However, they are used to deny developmental tools to States such as India with impeccable non-proliferation credentials. As a developing economy, there is a pressing demand in India for energy security. Nuclear power generation provides a clean, viable alternative. But, international cooperation in civilian nuclear power generation remains hostage to denial regimes such as the above insisting on “club” rules rather than genuine non-proliferation.  India will continue to place emphasis on multilateral efforts to establish instruments and norms that will enhance respect for international law rather than perpetuate the concept of unilateral advantage, whether in the field of security or trade or other areas of international interaction. 

Finally, a few words on a country which today is under great international focus.  Iraq was once the source of 30 per cent of India’s oil needs and home to 90,000 Indians working in that country.  India believes that every effort should be made to avoid war and find a peaceful solution to the current crisis. For this to happen, it is imperative that Iraq complies with the UN Resolutions and extends full cooperation to UNMOVIC and IAEA, so that any lingering questions about eliminating weapons of mass destruction are removed.  With over three million Indian expatriates in the Gulf region, we are concerned about military action in Iraq.  India, like other developing countries also has special concern with regard to volatility of oil prices and security of oil supplies. The crisis over Iraq is one of the biggest challenges ever faced by the U.N. We hope the international community will show the wisdom to prevent an erosion of the credibility and legitimacy of the U.N. by striking a balance between the objective of achieving Iraq’s full compliance with the UN Resolutions and the means adopted to reach this goal.

Friends, the decade following the end of the Cold War has been a period of extra-ordinary challenges for India in the realm of international affairs. Like Russia, India too was confronted with the need to rapidly adapt to a sudden and total change in the world order. Besides the political adjustment, India’s economy had to gear itself to deal with the wave of globalization that has been sweeping across the world. Further, Jehadi elements turned their targets on the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, actively aided and abetted by our western neighbour who has sought to wage a proxy war against us. The last decade has also been a period when extraordinary pressure was mounted on India by the international community to abandon its nuclear option.

India’s response has been to confront these challenges head on. For this purpose, it adopted a number of strategies including the infusion of a heavy dose of pragmatism and realism into the making of foreign policy, pro – active efforts to build national strength, intensive engagement with major powers and active economic diplomacy. India can note with pride that significant success has been achieved in overcoming these challenges. We have today built close political and economic relations with a wide spectrum of countries across the world and India is widely acknowledged as an emerging power and an important player on the world stage. Friends, pursuit of national interests is the primary foreign policy goal of all nations, including India. In the future also, India will continue to evolve and implement a foreign policy that maintains a healthy balance between her principles and tradition of idealism as well as the demands of realism.

Let me conclude, ladies and gentlemen, by stating that the world is poised at a turning point in history. Institutions we have grown up with such as the U.N., etc., appear under threat. We may soon face a world which has completely changed beyond all recognition. However, in the midst of all this turmoil and turbulence, if there is a ‘constant’ and one unchangeable reality, it is the friendship between India and Russia.

Whatever happens in the rest of the world, I have no doubt that our relations will continue to remain strong and robust. As is evident from the remarks I have made here today, India and Russia share common perceptions, common interests and common challenges. The building of a multi-polar world is our common goal and our world view is one. It is this mature understanding of the mutuality of interests that has inspired our Strategic Partnership which is a declaration of our solidarity in the emerging political, economic and security scenario of the new millennium. Friends, there is compelling logic for close India-Russia relations and India stands ready to work with Russia to make the world a better place for the entire humanity.

Thank you.

 

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