Mr. Inder Kr. Gujral
Mrs. Shiela Gujral
Excerpts from the book "A Foreign Policy for India"
I cannot sufficiently emphasise what a great honour and privilege it is for me to be the first Prime Minister of India to visit the new South Africa. As I stand before you today, in the fulfilment of the present, and on the verge of a new century, my thoughts go back to the past which cannot but for all times to come unite the histories of our two countries. Almost a century ago, in 1896-97, a young lawyer, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, his wife Kasturba and their children, made a voyage from Bombay to Durban. Their steamer was lashed by a severe storm near Madagascar. But the tempest passed and this family of destiny reached the welcoming shores of South Africa, then governed by one of the most hated despotisms known to mankind. The young lawyer had come for a stay of 12 months. He stayed for 21 years. And it was on South African soil that he was transformed into a revolutionary leader - a Mahatma. It was on this soil that he forged his tools of peace and non-violence and Satyagraha. That was the magical touch of your great country.
The Father of our Nation was physically born in India. Politically he was born here in South Africa. He himself acknowledged that his stay in South Africa was the most creative experience of his life, a phase which changed its entire course. With great humility and even greater sincerity, may I take this opportunity to first of all convey to you, and through you to all the people of South Africa, the lasting gratitude of my countrymen for giving us the visionary giant who led India to freedom and independence.
Mahatma Gandhi left the shores of South Africa in 1914. What began as a mass struggle in South Africa went on to become a great freedom movement in India. In time it became the inspiration for the struggle for liberation in other parts of Asia and Africa. The painful sufferings of your people made us in India realise that as long as the people of South Africa remained in bondage, our own freedom remained incomplete. We were convinced that, beyond our freedom, one more task remained to be completed: the total emancipation of the people of South Africa.
I can say, therefore, with complete conviction that the values for which India fought its freedom struggle, and the ideals which moved Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, found fulfilment only on February 11, 1990 when, from the confining walls of a prison in Cape Town, after 27 long years of imprisonment, one of the greatest human beings in the annals of mankind, stepped out to freedom: Nelson Mandela. In that one step to liberty, mankind learned that freedom is always earned, never conferred. In that one step towards freedom, the freedom of every human-being, in any part of the world, received sanctity. In that one moment, Madam Speaker, the entire world paused to understand that human courage and fortitude will always triumph over the forces of tyranny and oppression.
I take this opportunity to pay homage to you, President Mandela and to the thousands of valiant freedom fighters who made the goal of a democratic and free South Africa come true. In doing so, I can do no better than to most fully endorse what President Mandela has himself said about his countrymen: "My country is rich in the minerals and gems that lie beneath its soil, but I have known that its greatest wealth is its people, finer and truer than the purest diamonds."
Both India and South Africa stand today on the threshold of the 21st Century. We are united by a shared past and by the frontiers of a common ocean. We are united also by the values to which both our polities are wedded. Both our countries take pride in being democracies. I would like to felicitate this august House on its remarkable achievement in finalising South Africa’s path breaking Constitution. Your Constitutional Assembly has led the country from despair to hope and from there to the halls of opportunity. For all the parties to reach a consensus on the fundamental tenets of your new polity, to build into the Constitution a Bill of Rights, and then to have each provision of the Constitution seen and certified against that Bill of Rights by a Constitutional Court, is an accomplishment for which the entire democratic world gives you its unreserved salutations.
India’s own experience with parliamentary democracy is unique, considering the size and diversity of the electorate that our Parliament represents. It is an article of faith, and a way of life. Since 1947, we have had 11 parliamentary elections which have been fair and peaceful, involving an electorate of over 500 million which is larger than the entire population of Europe. A notable feature has been the institutional strengthening of democracy at the grass-roots level. Today, our local bodies or Panchayats, manned by over 3 million elected representatives, together constitute the broadest representative base which exists in any country in the world. As any dynamic and living institution, democracy has also shown the resilience to adapt to new realities. I have the honour of presiding over a coalition government in which as many as 15 political parties spanning the entire country participate directly. Your own example in South Africa of a government of national unity has shown that, where common ground exists, parties can overcome their individual identities and work together in the nation’s interest. The policy of reconciliation which forms the bedrock of the new South African nation is unique in both its capacity to forgive, and its ability to bridge the divide between a confrontational past and a forward-looking and cooperative future.
If the democratic character of our governments provides the common basis to our policies, there are distinct similarities in the texture of our societies as well. Both our countries are multi-racial, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual. In both our countries a hundred diversities flower, even as the unity of the nation triumphs. We have noticed the special care that has been taken by your Constitution to safeguard pluralism and the freedom of choice. In India too, we take pride in the secular character of our State, where all religions have the freedom of faith and worship. Hindus may, in terms of religion, constitute the majority, but we also have the second largest number of Muslims in the world, and we rejoice in the fact that all the major religions have their followers in our country.
History and a common vision have united our two peoples in other ways as well. In certain economic sectors, our countries have made considerable progress, and are, indeed the equal of any nation in the world. At the same time, both our nations are equally resolved to ensure that the benefits of economic change and prosperity percolate to all sections of our people. Your Constitution has certain clear obligations on the need for the state to ensure the betterment of the living conditions of the people. It is a matter of pride to us that our Constitution was forged, and has grown, on a similar perception. While Liberty and Equality remain pivotal in its Preamble, we have placed above these basic ideals, the fundamental concept of Justice - social, economic and political. We have realised from our experience of the last fifty years that the State must pioneer social change and we have not hesitated to amend our Constitution and our laws to make them vehicles of change. It is a matter of pride to us that our Parliament has been the prime instrument for righting centuries old wrongs in our society.
In this golden jubilee year of our freedom, our Parliament met in a Special Session. In an unprecedented manner, members of both Houses of Parliament setting aside party affiliations, took stock of our achievements and shortcomings. At the end, what emerged was a collective vision for India as it steps into the 21st century, a united and democratic India which is resolved to strive for social equity, education for all, planned regional development, gender justice and the creation of a scientific temper.
The time has come for both India and South Africa to build a rapidly growing super structure of cooperation on the foundations of our deep and abiding commonalties. Both our countries have declared themselves to be strategic partners. That South Africa is the only country with whom India has sanctified such a communion is testimony to the uniqueness of our ties. The need of the moment is to give this strategic partnership even greater content, so that our historic and friendly ties become an instrument for the long term and concrete benefit of our two peoples. As we celebrate the miracle of a new South Africa, and the miracle of an India celebrating 50 years of freedom and democracy, we need a blueprint for the future, which can guide us towards ever greater and mutually beneficial interaction, so that we can firmly and with confidence, step into the flux and ferment of the new century.
I am taking the liberty, Madam Speaker, to mention some of the elements which, I believe, could constitute such a blueprint for the future. Firstly, I envisage a substantial growth in the areas of bilateral cooperation. Much has been achieved. We have established a Joint Commission which has already met twice. Our bilateral trade which amounted to a modest US$80 million in 1993 has crossed US$600 million last year, and is expected to touch the US$1 billion mark in 1997. There is greater interaction between Indian and South African corporations. Several documents in vital sectors have been signed. A number of agreements are currently being negotiated. However, I believe that what has been achieved thus far is but a stepping-stone for a major and sustained expansion in all areas of bilateral endeavour, especially in the economic and technological fields.
It is significant that there are important changes underway in both our economies which can facilitate this desire to match intention with potential, and aims with achievement. In India, the process of economic reform is proceeding with clarity and direction. In the last 3 years, economic growth has averaged 7% per year. The macro economic indicators are promising. The rupee, is stable. Full convertibility is on the horizon. Inflation is around 4% annually. The country is brimming with professional skills. Foreign currency reserves are comfortable and foreign investment flows are rising. There are estimates that India will emerge as the fourth largest economy in the world by the year 2015 with an emerging middle class market larger than the entire population of USA and West Europe.
The important point, is that both our countries need to seize the existing opportunities from a long-term perspective, for the simple reason that our ties are not only complementary but enduring. Our bilateral trade will, I understand, exceed the figure of US$2 billion by the year 2000. India can profit from South Africa’s skills and technology in the fields of mining and infrastructure development. We can, I believe, be of special help in the development of small scale industries, the housing sector, human resource development and employment-generation programmes and science and technology.
Our aim should be to set targets of achievements which set guidelines for our interaction into the next decade and beyond. I would urge that, even as our partnership gathers strength, it should involve all segments of our societies. The institutional framework of our bilateral interaction should be strengthened, and non-governmental initiatives encouraged, to provide greater focus to our commitment to South-South cooperation and to address the specific needs of the less privileged sections of our populations. We cannot be unconscious of the fact that the edifice of our respective democracies rests on the twin pillars of development and social justice.
In this context, I believe, there is scope for a much greater interaction between our two Parliaments. We were privileged to have you, Madam Speaker, lead a Parliamentary delegation to India some years ago. That visit marked the first genuine contact between the people of India and the people of the new non-racial, democratic South Africa. I take this opportunity to propose, for the consideration of both our Parliaments, the setting up of an appropriate parliamentary consultative mechanism that would help give a people’s orientation to our emerging partnership.
Like concentric circles, emanating from a single impulse, a second area, of great importance for the future, is the strengthening of our joint endeavours in the vital area of regional cooperation.
We recognise the geo-strategic location of South Africa, and its role as the leading economy in its region, and within the South African Development Community (SADC). We are in a similar position in South Asia, and give great importance to the strengthening of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). We are, of course, conscious, that the population of all the South Asian countries is less than half of ours, and India’s GNP is more than twice that of the combined GNP of all our South Asian neighbours. But we see our size as an instrument to improve the climate of and cooperation in our neighbourhood, and to become a factor of peace and stability in our region. Consequently, in recent times we have consciously chosen to pursue a policy which is asymmetric. In simple terms, this means that while dealing with our neighbours we do not insist on mechanical reciprocity. We are willing and able to do more for them than they can do for us. I am happy to inform you that such a policy, which some people have called the "Gujral Doctrine", has paid rich dividends and has already led to a significant strengthening of the atmosphere of trust and cooperation in our region.
Given the specific roles of our countries in their respective regions, both India and South Africa, must, I believe, play a definitive role in strengthening the ties between the littoral communities of the Indian Ocean. In this context, we consider the birth of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation, through our joint efforts, as a landmark event. An Agreement between India and the SADC is to be signed in Delhi in a few days time. We see South Africa as a bridge head into the markets of Southern Africa and we hope we can play the same role for your country as a spring board into South Asia and beyond.
A third dimension of the blueprint that I have in mind is the imperative need for greater interaction between our two countries in such world forums, and, on such international issues, that have the power to mould our common destiny and aspirations in the decades ahead.
The Cold War may have ended but the world is still riven by tremendous inequalities. In such a situation, the Non-aligned Movement (NAM) continues to represent the collective aspirations and interests of the developing countries. It enables developing countries to formulate a consensus approach on vital issues of development, peace and stability. It signifies a powerful voice against the severe imbalance in the distribution of economic and political power in the world, and, its membership has grown and in no way lessened over the years.
Even before our independence, India had subscribed to the principles of Non-alignment in order to fully preserve her freedom of independent thought and action. The people of South Africa were, in a sense, never outside the Non-aligned Movement. There was no one major meeting or summit within the NAM when the struggle of the people of South Africa against apartheid did not figure in its deliberations.
We believe that South Africa’s forthcoming Chairpersonship of NAM will enrich the Movement and infuse it with renewed vigour in order to face the priorities and challenges of the future. As a founding member of the Movement, my country, Madam Speaker, will always be at hand to ensure that the common vision of a new world order, to which we are both committed, is fulfilled, to the great extent possible, during your historic leadership of the Movement.
Even as India has been in the forefront in strengthening the solidarity of developing countries, it has been in the vanguard of the world’s crusade for nuclear disarmament. While preaching the virtue of non-proliferation to the rest of the world, no nuclear weapon power, Madam Speaker, is prepared to abandon its weapons or even contemplate a date when it might free the world entirely of these weapons. We believe that the nuclear nations of the world cannot be permitted to eternalise their monopoly while demanding a different behaviour from the others. Such an approach is a negation of the very democratic values our two countries cherish so dearly. India would like to work closely with South Africa to mobilise global opinion in a time-bound framework for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
Another vital area where the interests and principles of both India and South Africa coincide is on the vital question of the reform of the United Nations. The creation of the United Nations must be regarded as one of the most outstanding achievements of this century. It is imperative that this unique institution strengthens its democratic credentials and provides greater and due representation to the aspirations of developing countries. Both India and South Africa, Madam Speaker, have an important responsibility to ensure that the democratisation of the United Nations, and in particular of the Security Council, is fair and equitable, and on the basis of global, non-discriminatory, and objective criteria.
I have outlined some of the areas where with both our countries, in the interests of our peoples, and in the interests of a better world, can, and must, intensify their interaction. And I am sure that in this joint endeavour, both our governments will have the fullest support of this august House, and of the Indian Parliament.
My visit to your great country coincides with the fiftieth anniversaries of three defining events of our inter-linked histories. These are, first, the independence of India, the struggle for which was so deeply influenced by Gandhiji’s experiences in this country; second, the "Three Doctors’ Pact" which saw the strategic coming together of the African and Indian resistance movements in South Africa; and, not least, the Asian Relations Conference in Delhi when Jawaharlal Nehru referred to the special responsibility that Asia bore to the people of Africa. Nehru’s vision was farsighted. He foresaw the resurgence of the great continents of Asia and Africa when, at the same Asian Relations Conference in 1947, he said: "Standing on this watershed which divides two epochs of human history and endeavour, we can look back on our long past, and look forward to the future that is taking shape before our eyes."
As I stand before this Assembly of distinguished representatives of a nation reborn, I cannot but feel conscious of the river of human history being once more at a turning point. Destiny has enjoined the peoples of India and South Africa to strive together for that goal of universal human freedom which their leaders - Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Mr.Nelson Mandela - had dreamed of. The road is long and the journey has only just begun. What does give us satisfaction, however, is the knowledge that in this journey it is the people of India and South Africa who are the leaders.
In India, a nation of nearly 960 million people has been celebrating the Golden Jubilee of our Independence. Our joy on this occasion is laced with a mood of introspection, not only about the fifty years of freedom, and our successes and failures during those years, but also about the new millennium that is at our doorstep. As I look ahead, I am reminded of the words of Daniel Webster – "We see before us a probable train of great events."
Indians today are engaged with India as never before. In the last five decades, democracy has entrenched itself in an unassailable manner all over the country. There is a pervasive sense of change, at a faster pace and for more pointed results. The pulse beat of the economy has picked up. The mood of our businessmen, industrialists and farmers is upbeat. Social change, empowering the hitherto backward and oppressed sections in the country, has accelerated. The myriad diversities and pluralism of my country have found mature expression. One reflection of this is the existence of a coalition government at the centre. Our experience of coalitions is relatively new, but the learning process, as befitting a mature democracy, responsive to the mandate of the people, has been both agile and fast.
India is now one of the most participatory democracies in the world. Two million democratically elected people govern the country from the Panchayat (Village Council) level to the Parliament. At the apex level, single-party rule is now regarded as outside the realm of possibility, as coalitions have become more the norm rather than an aberration. Some of the largest states have coalition governments of two and more parties. The Union Government is in the hands of the United Front, a coalition of 13 parties with a Common Minimum Programme for development and social justice, supported from the outside by the Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) parties. This has accelerated the process of decentralisation of resources and power from the Union to the States and from the States to the Panchayat system.
The election of 1996 clarified several central issues relating to the shape and substance of Indian democracy in the years to come. Three of these are defining issues – relations between the Union and the States, definition of national identity, and rapid entry into the political arena of hitherto politically and socially peripheral segments of society. The question of national identity has assumed aspects of a nation-wide battle, conducted through words and elections, between two streams of thought – one exclusivist, the other pluralistic. The pluralistic school is seemingly winning. It is spearheaded by the United Front that holds power at the union level.
Social elements that were not adequately represented in Parliament’s Lower House, known as the Lok Sabha, forcefully asserted themselves in the 1996 elections. Approximately half of the members of the Lok Sabha are drawn from the backward castes and hitherto oppressed classes representing mainly small and middle farmers and landless workers. The backward castes now rule in seven States either by themselves or in coalition with one or more parties. Among these states are Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, the most important States by virtue of industrialisation and population, and Gujarat and Bihar.
India’s economic reforms, in accordance with our needs and priorities, are an ongoing process. Any reform process must carry with it the people of the country and help serve the interests of the less privileged. Such sensitivity is only natural for a democracy. Democracy itself allows such priorities to find due reflection, and provides the only real foundation for enduring, irreversible change.
Our economic reforms have significance for the United States, which is India’s largest trading partner and its single largest source of foreign investment. Many multi-national corporations are already in India. In certain sectors, which are of particular interest to the US, India is forging ahead. There are over 500 computer software companies in India, and India’s software exports have grown over 30 times in the last 8 years. The Indian market is growing, and will continue to grow significantly in the years to come.
A new generation of Indian industrialists and entrepreneurs has emerged. In a number of industries, Indian companies now enjoy global ranking. The changes in the Indian economy offer significant opportunities for our friends and partners. In the coming years, India must be one of the few countries in the world where every year there is a need to add tens of thousands of megawatts of power, thousands of kilometres of roads and highways, millions of telephones, and millions of tonnes of nitrogen or cubic meters of gas. In this sense, India is the world’s pre-eminent development frontier, and the opportunities for further Indo-US cooperation are obvious.
A great deal of our foreign policy is now tuned to our economic and infrastructural needs. You may be aware of the success we have achieved in the short span of 16 months in improving our relations significantly with our immediate neighbours in South Asia. A mood and a climate for cooperative development and security prevails in most of South Asia. India’s relations with Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal have never been so good. What is more important is that the policy of good neighbourliness, labelled by foreign affairs analysts as the `Gujral Doctrine’, is built around a broad national consensus and will, I am sure, survive the ups and downs of the fortunes of political parties in future elections.
The 30-year river water treaty with Bangladesh has paved the way for an extended river water development system between the two countries. The Chakma refugees have resumed their homeward passage from north-eastern India to Bangladesh, and trade is flourishing between us. With Nepal, the Mahakali River Agreement has satisfied all sections of the Nepalese, while the opening of a 61 km trade route from Nepal to Bangladesh across the Indian territory is the first inter-state transportation linkage between the two countries.
Our principle that India does not ask for reciprocity in building ties with the smaller nations has caught the imagination of people far beyond South Asia. A sub-regional Growth Triangle has been formed with Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Bhutan and Thailand for faster development cooperation in the eastern flank of the sub-continent. Sri Lanka wishes to join a similar group in the South. Indian investment is flowing into Sri Lanka. Our commitment that no country in South Asia will lend its territory to any elements for use against the interests of another country has evoked very positive reactions in the island Republic. Its President, Mrs.Chandrika Kumaratunge, paid rich tributes to India on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of our independence, and these gladdened every Indian and Sri Lankan heart.
May I now turn to the very important issue of Indo-US relations. I had a most constructive meeting with President Bill Clinton yesterday afternoon. As the world’s largest and oldest democracies, we share certain basic beliefs, as in the rule of law and in the essential, inviolate and equal dignity of all human beings. An active engagement between us can only serve the interests of peace and human well-being and contribute to a more just and equitable world. We have a heavy schedule of bilateral visits ahead of us, leading up to the likely visit of President Clinton to India in 1998, and it is important that we took this time to appreciate each other’s views and approaches.
We value your understanding in the matters where differences have existed. India began its campaign for a nuclear weapon-free world, almost as soon as it was born. Our disarmament credentials need no clarifications. We have been in the forefront of discussions leading to the Chemical Weapons Convention because we regard this as a genuinely non-discriminatory multilateral disarmament treaty. India was among the first countries in the world to support the Treaty. We actively participated in the decade-long negotiations, and became an Original State Party. Indeed, India was elected unopposed as the first Chairman of the Executive Council of the Organisation for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
The initiative for banning nuclear weapon tests comprehensively is a four decade-old Indian initiative. However, we are obliged to refrain from signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) as it emerged in 1996. Likewise, we have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) because it is a treaty that makes an arbitrary and discriminatory distinction amongst nations. Moreover, these treaties, in their present form, do not address our security concerns in creating forward movement towards a nuclear weapon-free world but tend instead, to perpetuate a discriminatory nuclear order. Now, with the end of the Cold War, the role and utility of nuclear weapons is being reconsidered even in the United States. Many distinguished Americans have in recent months highlighted the diminishing utility of nuclear weapons and the need to do away with them in order to prevent future proliferation and enhance global security. This welcome development could provide our two countries an opportunity to work together in an area where understanding has so far eluded us.
Our peaceful nuclear experiment in 1974 has not been followed by any subsequent test. We have scrupulously refrained from weaponisation. Since we are so surrounded by nuclear weapons, we cannot remain indifferent to the strategic compulsions in our region. We do not wish to be a nuclear weapon state, but, in the present circumstances, the need to keep our nuclear option open is unavoidable.
We want our friends in the United States to understand that we cannot lower our guard as far as security is concerned. However, let me also say that we are not pathologically obsessed by security. We wish to strengthen the atmosphere of cooperative development and security in our region, and do not wish to carry the dubious baggage of the 20th century into the 21st.
There are other areas in Indo-US relations that we want to reinvigorate. I have in mind cooperation in the frontier areas of science and technology. Our Green Revolution benefited greatly from US assistance as well as cooperation with American scientists. Now, as we are on the threshold of a quantum leap in our economic possibilities, we remember that period with nostalgia. Some of our existing mechanisms for cooperation in science and technology, and education and culture, need to be revitalised. We need to jointly look for innovative ways to facilitate these contacts. Our bilateral cooperation in combating narcotic trafficking and terrorism is another area in which useful and effective work is already being done, and could be further strengthened. In economic matters, it is my view that any points of friction need to be juxtaposed to an appreciation of long-term benefits, and the perception of enduring priorities.
Another area on our broader canvas must necessarily be our interest in joining other nations in the task of reforming the UN. This is an issue on which we have had some degree of dialogue. India’s claim to a permanent Security Council seat is based on the strength and the global reach of our foreign policy, our commitment to the UN processes, including peace-keeping operations, and on the strength of our conviction in the democratic functioning of multilateral arrangements. We believe that we qualify on the basis of any global, objective and non-discriminatory criteria. We look forward to working closely with the US on this critical aspect of UN reform, as we have in the past on various other facets of UN functioning.
We are concerned with other aspects of UN reform as well. We do not see such reforms merely as an exercise to trim the budget of the world body. Instead, we feel that reforms should contribute towards a strengthened UN and its capacity to respond effectively to the priorities identified by the overwhelming majority of its membership. The concept of security should not be narrowly viewed. A world in which underdevelopment, poverty and social alienation persist, can never be at peace with itself. It has been said, very truly, that ``poverty anywhere is a threat to prosperity everywhere’’. Preserving international peace and stability, likewise, will require an environment where all countries are allowed a certain minimum of economic opportunity and well being. We believe it is in the interests of all nations to ensure that the pivotal role of the UN, as the truly global forum for the promotion of peace, security and development, should be suitably reinforced.
To sum up, I believe that there exists, today, an objective basis on which Indo-US relations can enter a qualitatively new phase in the years to come. This revitalised, re-invigorated and strengthened relationship will be moulded, I believe, by three distinctive realities:
First, the commonalties that we share - democracy, an open society, rule of law, pluralism and the dignity of the individual. These, I believe, must become a dynamically influencing factor in strengthening our relations. It has been said that England and the US are two countries separated by a common language. Sometimes, it appears that the US and India are two countries separated by a common political system! The time has come for us to look beyond what Freud has called "the narcissism of minor differences", and build on those factors which so uniquely constitute both our heritage and our commitment.
Second, a nation of 960 million people is today firmly on the path of economic reform and progress. We are committed to the goal of bringing India into the forefront of the global economy. This endeavour opens up infinite possibilities for a new dimension to Indo-US relations. The opportunity should not be lost.
Third, the role of India as a factor of peace and stability, in its own region and beyond, must find due recognition in forging a re-evaluation of the scope and direction of Indo-US relations, in the interests of both countries.
I believe that these factors, taken together, can give a new content and thrust to the friendship between our two nations.
[Council on Foreign Relations, New York; 23rd September 1997]
An eminent commentator has termed the 20th century the "short century", as well as the "age of extremes". It has been a short century because its years have been swallowed up too fast by one earth-shaking event after another - two World Wars, two great revolutions, the 50-year Cold War, and the emancipation of over one hundred nations from the shackles of the Western empires. It has also been a "century of extremes" because of the many polarisations that have visited it. Not the least serious and dangerous of these polarisations is the divide between the rich and the poor nations of the world, between those who, with the help of science, technology and information, have scaled the peaks of material civilization and those like ourselves who have lagged behind because we have had very limited access so far to the real engines of change and development, which are science, technology and information.
It is only about a month and a half ago that I took over as India’s prime minister. However, I have served my country as its foreign minister, and for long years as an active observer, analyst and participant in its gigantic struggle to move forward. Gigantic because it represents the collective effort of one sixth of humankind. Just take and Indian general election. The Numbers of voters exceed the total population of the United States of America! Today, there is anew pulsebeat that is throbbing in the hearts of several billions of men and women, particularly the youth, that enters my arteries and gives me an inexplicably severe blend of pain and pleasure. Last week, in Delhi, I have just begun what every prime minister before me has done with equal fervour - meet several hundred common citizens of my land one morning each week. My first meeting lasted two hours. Hundreds, perhaps a thousand cane form far and near, but I could meet only a few hundred of them. They all had their tales of want and misery. But amidst them, was a dignity, a certain will-power, a hint of self-reliance, and a hope that tomorrow will be better than today.
I am quite sure it is the same with the people and the youth of Nepal. You too, have social and economic problems, as we have ours. But now your people have the sane vision of hope and future as do our people. For the first time, you have determined to undertake comprehensive development of your greatest God-given resources, the waters of your rivers and falls. Whatever political difficulties you may have to face- and each society in South Asia is destined to pass politically difficult times in the next decade or so-power, water and forests will soon join together to bestow on Nepal a new age growth, development and progress. As you move into that better age. I would urge you to remember the words of Socrates: "Living well, and beautifully, and justly, are all one thing."
The tale which now hangs by the tide of time is that Asia, especially the Asia-Pacific region, is returning to claim the pinnacles of material and spiritual civilization, which of commanded only three and a half centuries ago. The 21st century will be the Asia-Pacific century. Just about three weeks ago, the world economic press carried a report that be the year 2020, China would have the largest economy on the planet. The tigers and dragons of the Pacific Rim and China have well and truly arrived on the global economic horizon. India, with a seven percent growth rate for three consecutive years, and perhaps moving towards eight percent the making. Japan is already an economic superpower. Asia’s face is changing fast, and the message is clear. We, in South Asia, are determined to throw away the chains of slow growth and mass poverty that have hitherto bound us. We are determined to claim our rightful place.
This new Asian drama that is unfolding before our eyes is one of unprecedented cooperation between and among Asian countries on the basis of equality and genuine sharing of the fruits of our labour. India, home of the world’s second largest population, is now trying to weave together a South Asia policy based on cooperation, friendship and goodwill. As we inevitably become part of he global economy, we realise that we can move forward only hand on hand with our immediately neighbours, our minds and muscles bound together by a common destiny. The time of conflicts and quarrels is gone. All over the world, past enemies are now close friends and South Asia cannot, and must not, remain outside this process.
The way forward for all of us in this region is the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). I have been a committed exponent of healthy cooperation all my thinking and active life. Any dispassionate analysis of he state of affairs in our region will demonstrate the futility of the kind of policies we have followed, all of us, in the last 50 years. Look around us and you will see that countries that started later on the path of independence, and from a weaker position, are now significantly far ahead of us. We continued our sterile squabbles while others utilized regional cooperation to race ahead of us.
We must now mobilise all our will-power and resources for the common good of our peoples. I am sure that a moment more propitious than this for laying the firm foundations for future cooperation amongst ourselves will not recur for a long time. In the last one year, a new pattern of relationships has been built between India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Sri Lanka. Each one of us is the other’s keeper. Now, I hope, the new South Asian spirit will also prevail in India-Pakistan relations. If that happens-and I am certain that it cannot but happen - South Asia will no longer perceived by the outside world as a conflict-prone region, but as a region of peace and friendship and cooperation among 1.2 billion people.
South Asia, which is now linked to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) through India’s association with it as a Full Dialogue Partner, must be able to imbibe the ASEAN spirit of cooperative regionalism. In the next few years, this region will emerge as one of the largest areas of preferential trade and commerce. The opportunities being created must e seized by us with all the strength at our command. Nepal, for example, must take the fullest advantage of the new relationship emerging between India and Bangladesh. Through Bangladesh, Nepal will soon find routes of trade and commerce linking it with the countries of Southeast Asia, thus opening up to itself new vistas of development and prosperity.
For many years we have been talking about South-South cooperation. Today, that long -cherished dream is becoming a reality. The Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Iran, and several other countries of the South are talking pare in India’s infrastructural development. India has some forty joint projects with these countries and more are being planned with a sense of earnestness never witnessed before. China and India are now linked be multiple ties of cooperation. What is noteworthy is that transfer of technology is an impressive feature if the current phase of South-South cooperation. It does not take a visionary to predict that in the years just ahead, the distances between Asia-Pacific nations will shrink, trade will boom, increasing volumes of investments from within and outside will be drawn, and that science and technology and the information revolution will impart a dynamism to our life that we have hitherto been denied.
This is the time for Asian statesmanship to rise above petty disputes and differences, to bury the divisive issues of the past and to embark on the new road to collective progress. This is the time for Asian people to work hard, with hope and confidence to build the future that lies ahead. For the first time since the liberation of our nations from the yoke of Western colonialism, we have the real prospects of fast development. At the same time, as ours economies open up, as the world comes to our shores we ourselves venture our to explore uncharted avenues of which have lent us strength and stability. We must never sacrifice the interests of the meek and the poor for the lure of deceptive promise of high growth at the cost of our political and economic sovereignty.
One of the many variations between my role as India’s foreign minister and my role as India’s prime minister is that I am directly concerned now with the most challenging task before us, which is good governance. Our governments must learn how to perform better. Government is the largest service unto the people. It has to be honest, quick, effective, efficient, accountable, transparent, and compassionate. Prime ministers are the servants of their peoples, not their masters. And people must be enable to realise that this is not just empty rhetoric. Perhaps, for a bit too long, we have taken advantage of the age-old patience of our people/ that patience may be longer be there. Demands for a better life are willing up from the bottom of our societies. As development quickness, old cleavages that mark the current phase of our societal development, but we do need to work to heal them. A certain degree of restlessness and many protests and demands will continue to mark each passing day in our political life. Politicians are no t infallible. We take mistakes, and we sometime place power above people. But as longer as we live in democratic societies where the people have the final power to make and unmake their rulers, there is no despair. Indeed, there is much hope. We must not forger that the developed nations of the West took four to five centuries to arrive where they are today, and they have faced countless wars, revolutions, dismemberment of empires and states, and two devastating World wars to achieve what they have achieved. Compared to their experience, we have spent only five decades in South Asia, or less, as in the case of Bangladesh, to build new societies without social revolutions. It is my conviction that by prompt, correct, compassionate responses to people’s grievances and wants, we can avoid a lot of social unrest. While the state mist protect the integrity and sovereignty of its frontiers as well as the wellsprings of its moral and spiritual ethos, its own coercive arms must not used without compassion, without respect for basic human dignities and human rights. That is what I an learning each day in the office that I presently hold. And that is the experience I want to share with my colleagues in South Asia.
With Nepal, I am glad to say that we have together built the best bilateral relations ever and set an example for the emerging South Asia of goodwill and cooperation. Now is the time to build on the foundations we have laid together. The Mahakali River Treaty between Nepal and India will turn our to be an epoch-making blueprint for the all-round economic, development of Nepal, with a great deal of spill-over benefit for India. the Mahakali Treaty was signed by one government, ratified by another and the Instruments of Ratification have been exchanged by a third government. This should convey the consensus that today covers Indo-Nepal relations. Both of us are now waiting for the detailed project report for the Pancheshwar Project. I am glad to report that a 6000 MW peaking power plant is to be installed at the Pancheshwar Dam after necessary infrastructure development. with an abundance of power and water, Nepal will be as green in the next ten years as it was until a few decades ago. Its mountainous regions will open up for transportation, and the sherpas will no longer have to carry on their back heavy loads for climbing expeditions.
I would like to make here a candid and transparent call to the future. Relations between Nepal and India have seen their ups and downs as relations between two close neighbours anywhere in the world are bound to. The downs are over; it is now time for the ups. Our bodies witness a remarkably free flow of people. These are more open and free than international borders anywhere else and so should this remain.
The changes in your government have brought all political parties face-to-face with the constancy of Indo-Nepal friendship. In India too, recent political developments have led to various political parties coming together to form a government. As you know, a thirteen-party coalition rules in New Delhi now, and it enjoys the support of two more parties, the Congress- I and the CPI-M form outside. It is, thus the, most representative government India has in relations with Nepal and other neighbours in the light of the major trends and process of global change. I say this to you in all frankness. If you have any problem with India- and there can always be problems between to neighbours -please come forward and discuss these with us close friends. As prime minister of India, I assure you that you will get an equally friendly response. With candour shall we come to you if ever we feel that our vital interests are not getting the needed attention of understanding. That’s the way we shall walk, hand in hand, on the new highway of development that we in South Asia are building for the 21st century.
The curtain is about to fall on the 20th century Future historians, in recalling our times may well describe the latter half of this century as golden age in human civilization. And with good reasons. By and large, with a few highly unfortunate exceptions, world peace was maintained. Countries and entire continents overthrew the thrall of foreign domination. South Asia, for centuries oppressed, awoke to life and freedom.
Around the world , the mental barriers of a fractured humanity the division of colour, of creed, or of caste came tumbling down. Science and technology progressed as never before, and with them economic opportunity, so that the horizon of mankind’s aspirations expanded manifold. People around the world could take freedom for granted, build lives of achievement for themselves, and dream of yet better ones for their young.
Will this golden age survive? Will the democratic freedoms and global solidarity that nourished mankind’s achievement flourish now and into the 21st century? Or will the world relapse into a pre-colonial mind-set, an era of warring tribes and nations, of rule by strong men through force alone? This is the question of our times.
Democracy should never be taken for granted. It is not the product of enactment alone, but of shared values and ideals ,of submission to the larger good of one’s fellow beings. Where individuals or nations refuse to acknowledge to common good, ignore the large interest, or fail to perceive their shared destiny, democracy cannot really survive. In the words of Pope John Paul II:
"If there is no transcendent truth, in obedience to which Man achieves his fully identity, then there is no sure principle of guaranteeing just relations between people. Their self interest as a class, group or nation would inevitably set them in opposition to one another. If one does not acknowledge transcendent truth, force of power takes over. …..As history demonstrates, a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism."
Discriminatory regimes, unrepresentative councils, onerous conditionalities and unilateral actions, real or threatened, do not just dilute some abstract principle of law and fairplay, they undermine the very basis of mankind’s democratic rights and freedoms, now and into the future. We need to travel in just the opposite direction. A sense of fellow feeling, an independence of spirit , a love of what is right and just; ultimately, it is only this thin and intangible strand of ethics that protects the entire patrimony and achievement of mankind.
Mahatma Gandhi had put this idea in this characteristically simple and direct terms. "I will," Gandhiji said, "keep India and its freedoms intact, only if I have goodwill and amity towards the entire world, not just that little corner of the world called India."
These words of Ghandhiji convey the essence of our belief,. They are the basis of our foreign policy and the message that I would like to leave with you today.
[Nepal Council of World Affairs, Kathmandu, Nepal, 7th June 1
The turn of a century is a kind of natural punctuation mark in human affairs and prompts us to take stock of exchange that has taken place. For us in India, the 20th century has been era of profound exchange. Almost exactly midway through it, we threw off the shackles of colonialism and awoke t freedom. We were aware that we were being born as an independent nation into a world that was already dangerously divided by the Cold War. Yet we were also fortunate that our freedom struggle had provided us with a self-image and a world-view. It had instilled in us the values of participatory democracy, respect for individual faiths and freedoms, and a deep commitment to preserve variety in society. Our earliest interaction with the outside world was naturally driven by these values. Just as we had fought for freedom and a just and egalitarian society for ourselves, so too did we seek an end to colonialism everywhere and a just and egalitarian world order.
Shortly after assuming responsibility as independent India’s first Prime Minister, Jawahar Lal Nehru would observe:
"I have become more and more convinced that so long as we do not recognise the supremacy of moral law in our national and international relations, we shall have no enduring peace. So long we do not adhere to right means, the end will not be right and fresh evils will flow from it. That was the essence of Gandhiji’s message and mankind will have to appreciate of in order to see and act clearly….. Let us try to get rid of fear and base our thoughts and actions no what is essentially right and moral, and then gradually the crisis of the spirit will be resolved."
This stream of thought was and remains India’s precious heritage Independence for us did not signify only the new-found freedom to control our own destinies. More importantly, it represented an obligation and a call to duty to stand up firmly for what was right and just. By upholding what was right and just, we, in essence, upheld and reinforced our own independence.
Independent India’s early years in international fora are remarkable for their idealism and enthusiasm. This commitment was reflected even before our independence, when we became an original signatory of the Charter of the United Nations, and thus, a founder member of this organisations. Subsequently, we participate in the founding of the General Agreement on Tariffs and trade its successor, the World Trade Organisations. The same holds true in the case of the International Labour Organisation, the World Health Organisation, the Food and Agriculture Organisation and various other international agencies and bodies.
The maintenance if peace was one of the fundamental principles of the UN, and it was natural that India would not hesitate to put men and material where they were required in order to maintain and reinforce peace. We participate in nearly every and Sinai, to the latest in Haiti and Angola.
India was the first country to place the issue of apartheid on the agenda UN. We did likewise on the crucial issue of global disarmament. We were also amongst those who pioneered the concepts of non-alignment, a movement which today embraces over 110 countries in its fold.
Through the UN and the NAM, India has consistently sought to build a better world by strengthening the structures of international cooperation. We have spoken in every international body during every debate of any consequence to express our viewpoint and our voice of moderation and reason has invariably been heard and respected. In this context, I am particularly proud that, in this 50th year of its independence, India will host the next Ministerial Conference of the NAM.
Today, more than ever, there is need for the developing countries of the world to have a much greater voice within the councils of the UN. The Non-aligned Movement too needs to be reinvigorated. Together, we seek a renewed commitment to multilateralism, a new international partnership for economic development and cooperation against terrorism. We also seek a more peaceful and secure world for all though genuine and comprehensive disarmament including the total elimination of nuclear weapons.
I hope I have been able to convey a sense of how India sought to find its rightful place on the world stage. The principles of truth and non-violence, of tolerance and justice, which guided India’s freedom struggle, also inspired the vision and subsequently development of India as a free society, and shaped its foreign policy. We do not believe that any one model of democracy can lay claim to superiority of perfection. But we do believe that the fundamental principles of democratic societies have much in common- equality and non-discrimination, freedom of choice, adherence to the rule of law, secularism and tolerance.
I am firmly of the view that these are the very principles that should form the basis of an international order where different nations have to co-exist and cooperate to build a better future for our coming generations.
India has always sought friendship with all nations. Even while constrained by the realities of the Cold War, we opposed the division of the world into blocs. With you in Sri Lanka and others, we forged a framework of non-alignment through which we retained our freedom of choice and action in dealing with the major powers. The changed era of the ‘90s, with new equations between the erstwhile great powers, has opened new vistas for Indian foreign policy. We have restructured our policies to encompass these changes, giving a thrust to our ties with our traditional partners such as the US, Russia the European Union and Japan. At the same time, we have sought to unfold a vision that has at its heart the redefinition of our immediate and extended neighbourhood.
Our geographical position in South Asia, within the Asia-Pacific region, as a major presence on the Indian Ocean Rim, and as a close neighbour of the Gulf region and Central Asia, is the main factor in this vision. As Pandit Nehru said 50 years ago,
"We are of Asia and the peoples of Asia are nearer and closer to us than others. India is so situated that she is the pivot of western, southern, and Southeast Asia. In the past; her culture flowed to all these countries and they come to her in many ways…."
This same vision informs our interaction with all these regions. Our status as a Full Dialogue Partner with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will, we believe, work to the mutual benefit of both our regions. With regard to China, we are anticipating progress in both economic cooperation and a full-fledged dialogue on security issues. The visit to India by the President of the Republic of China had marked an important step forward in our bilateral cooperation. We also expect important breakthroughs in our relationships with the emerging Central Asian states and at the forthcoming meeting of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation.
Within the South Asian region, which is our common home, I would like to say that, for my government, the development of close and friendly relations with our immediate neighbours commands the highest priority. Both in our pronouncements, and through our actions, we have shown our belief in the primacy we attach to relations with our neighbours. My first bilateral visits, too, have been with neighbours, and we have repeatedly emphasised that our attitude is constructive and principled.
I have had occasion in the recent past to talk about my view of inter-state relations, especially in India’s immediate neighbourhood. That is a view based on five points with the inherently simple premise of non-interference in the affairs of our neighbours and respect for their sovereignty. The "Gujral Doctrine", if I may call it so, states that, first, with its neighbours like Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, India does not ask for reciprocity, but gives and accommodates what it can in good faith and trust. Second, we believe that no South Asian country should allow its territory to be used against the interests of another country of the region. Third, that none should interfere in the internal affairs of another. Fourth, all South Asian countries must respect each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. And finally, they should settle all their disputes through peaceful bilateral negotiations.
India has already demonstrated that it will practice what it preaches. We have shown that we are ready to go that extra mile and take that extra step that can get things moving. I am fully convinced that the few simple ideas that I have outlined, if implemented seriously by all nations of our region, can result in a fundamental recasting of South Asia’s regional relationship, and propel our region to the forefront of the Asian resurgence. I am sure that they would also lead to a climate of greater confidence and close and mutually benign cooperation in our region, where the weight and size of India is seen positively.
We aim to achieve this goal both through bilateral interaction with our neighbours, as well as through the framework of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). A peaceful, stable and constructive environment in our neighbourhood is vital for us as we pursue the goals of accelerated development for ourselves and the region. We need neighbours who are developing at least as fast as we are to avoid imbalances which feed dissatisfaction and political problems.
I would stress that our hand of friendship will always be stretched out to our neighbours. We are ready to work to build up confidence and establish cooperation in all facets of our relationships. You might well know of the offer of a dialogue we made to Pakistan soon after our government took office. Even while we are awaiting Pakistan’s response, we are taking unilateral steps to improve the relationship at the people-to-people level. We are also trying to preserve a positive atmosphere, by avoiding polemic, and ignoring and occasional hostile rhetoric from across the border.
We have recently discussed and implemented some significant initiatives with Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh which are steering our relations to higher levels of cooperation. The treaty on sharing of the Ganga waters has established a landmark in our relations with Bangladesh, and opened up new vistas of constructive collaboration in all areas of our interaction. I say, with not a little pride, that this treaty has been welcomed, not only in India and Bangladesh, but the world over, and is a clear demonstration of what can be achieved with a little sincerity and lots of determination. In time, we expect that the entire eastern region of the subcontinent, including Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and India would see a surge of development through cooperation in the areas of transport, energy development, water management, etc.
Our aim is to develop an integrated strategy for what we hope will be a resurgent area of growth. We are also taking steps to ensure that greater access to the Indian market is provided for these economies so that a thrust can be given to industrial development in these countries. Meanwhile, we remain committed to a free trade area in South Asia by the year 2000 if possible, and latest by 2005 as has been agreed to by all SAARC countries. I would state at this point that we are also willing to look at bilateral frameworks for trade liberalisation in case the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) are prevented from taking off as a result of the hesitation of any of the South Asian partners.
Let me at this point dwell briefly on SAARC. In the past decade of its existence, SAARC has clear achievements to its credit. We are already grappling with the core issues of economic cooperation. Fast progress in SAPTA and realisation of our mutual commitment to a South Asian Free Trade Area by the turn of the century or latest by 2005 is a priority. It may sound ambitious, but I have had the opportunity of speaking to several of my colleagues within SAARC, and a broadly shared conviction of the benefits of trade liberalisation in the region is clearly evident. It will be our endeavour to put this process on a fast track. SAPTA, or SAFTA for the matter, will serve to create a conducive market environment for growth of intra-SAARC trade to its optimum levels, and remove the artificial distortions that have been created for a variety of reasons. This, however, is not enough. We will have to take the process much further, opening up areas like investment, banking, export-import (EXIM) credit, travel, communications, energy resources and so on, to reap the rewards of our regional complementarities, and bolster the capacities of all our countries to derive full benefits from such cooperation.
We are currently exercising our minds on new initiatives for SAARC’s second decade. We are looking at new possibilities of cooperation in fields such as preservation of the environment, protection of biodiversity, education and information and media. The SAARC Chamber of Commerce organised the first SAARC Economic Cooperation Conference in November last year, to discuss and recommended possible initiatives on an entire gamut of related subjects, including trade liberalization, investment, energy, science and technology, telecommunication links, travel and tourism, business data networking, human resource development, women entrepreneurs and the social dimensions of business development. We fully support this initiative and we hope it will become a regular feature on the SAARC calendar in the coming years.
Let me turn now to our approach to relations with Sri Lanka. In keeping with our broader neighbourhood policy, we would like to extend the maximum possible cooperation to Sri Lanka as a good friend and neighbour. You are today seeking to overcome the consequences of long years of conflict which have exacted a heavy toll on your society. We have watched with great interest and, may I say, admiration, the efforts made by Sri Lanka under the leadership of President Kumaratunga to work for a political resolution of this conflict within the framework of a united Sri Lanka. On occasion, the process has seen setbacks, but we are confident that given your commitment to a negotiated settlement of the problem, peace and stability can be restored. I hope that day will come soon. It would also afford me the opportunity to drink in the beauty of Sri Lanka as unequivocally as Pandit Nehru did and I quote:
Lanka is an enchanted place, beautiful till the eyes get satisfied with its beauty and nature’s prodigality. It is ever afternoon there and the summer breezes blow and rustle through the graceful palm trees. And the great blue sea kisses lightly its pleasant green shores and sings a lullaby which soothes and intoxicates. One forgets almost the struggle and misery of the world of action."
Naturally, this was in a moment of leisure. As a scholar and as a statesman, Nehru drew from the world of the spirit to spur on action in the temporal world. For him, the message of the Buddha, that great son of India, and of the world, was a special guide in a world of confusion and bewilderment. And so it must be for us as we seek a pathway amid the fog of conflict and competition.
As a close neighbour, India cannot but be affected by the conflict in Sri Lanka. Our desire to be helpful without being obstructive is based on our assessment that a settlement in Sri Lanka would have a beneficial fallout for India and for the entire region. Our own experience as a multicultural and multi-ethnic democracy leads us to concur with the aspiration for political and constitutional reform and negotiations as a way out of the crisis. The devolution proposals put forward by your government seem to us to be a reasonable basis for negotiations towards a political solution.
As I just said, we have a vested interest in such a solution. We would like to see refugees, who have crossed the Palk Straits and come to our shores, return to their homes in safety and dignity. It is our earnest hope that there would be no need for more people to risk their lives and come to India. We would like the Palk Straits to become a gateway for peaceful commerce and communication among our people. We feel that the difficulties faced by various sections of some of the specifically affected populations can be better addressed when there is no conflict raging in the backdrop. We can dream of once again making the maritime frontier, which we share, an area of peace, and then take up collaborative ventures for advanced research and exploitation of ocean resources. Situated as we both are at the centre of the Indian Ocean, our maritime interests are close and interwined. Together with the Maldives, our partner in the SAARC, we can explore possibilities to turn this region into a prosperous growth area. Our friendship will also provide an anchor for the security and prosperity of the Indian Ocean region.
Both India and Sri Lanka are members of a subcontinent which has vast natural resources and talent, and is in the midst of the great endeavour of eradicating poverty. We are both committed to rapid economic growth to provide better living standards for our people, and better social development. We have also been long-standing partners and our commercial transactions have grown manifold in the last few years to reach over US$ 500 million at present. This is no small achievement, and credit must go to the large numbers of business persons, professionals and others who have taken advantage of the process of economic liberalisation in both countries. We now seek new ways of cooperation and plans for unleashing the energies latent in our societies.
I started by recalling that both India and Sri Lanka are close to the 50th anniversary of their independence. Both can reflect with pride on their achievements as democratic societies over these last five decades. We must draw inspiration from the glorious legacy of our common religious and cultural heritage to build just and peaceful societies. India and Sri Lanka are among the very few countries in the developing world that have combined political democracy and free plural societies with rapid economic development, and a great degree of economic and technical modernisation. Let us go ahead with the confidence that our cultural and civilisational roots provide us. Here, I recall the words of the late S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike at the Asian Relations Conference in Delhi 50 years ago:
"In our own interest, in the interest of humanity, we must make a supreme effort to skip some pages of history, to bridge a gulf of history, and step out into the sunlit land of freedom prepared straightaway, or at least with the briefest interregnum to take an equal place, and to share an equal responsibility, with the free and progressive nations of the world.
I am only too well aware of the serious difficulties that face us in achieving that object. Internally, conflicts of a communal and of an ideological nature, externally, mutual suspicion and distrust; generally, difficulties, political, economic, administrative and strategic. But let us also remember this. On the measure in which we succeed in overcoming these difficulties, will depend not only our own fate that of humanity as well."
Both our countries are indeed fortunate in having bad prescient and far-sighted leaders who not only had a sense of the history of our countries, but also a very clear idea of the role they had and the challenges that would need to be met as we sought to fulfil that role. Our culture, our traditions, our resources and the inspiration of our leaders provide us with the foundations of what should be a renewed effort on our part to build a brighter future. Ours is a shared destiny on the subcontinent. Let us all join hands in realising that destiny.
[Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies, Colombo; 20th January’97]
|Essential Tenets||Bilateral Dialogue||Regional Cooperation||Contemporary Challenges|
Mr. Inder Kr. Gujral
Mrs. Shiela Gujral
Excerpts from the book "A Foreign Policy for India"