Mr. Inder Kr. Gujral
Mrs. Shiela Gujral
Excerpts from the book "A Foreign Policy for India"
Fifty years is a short time span in the life of any nation, even more so for a nation like India which gained its independence only fifty years ago. Yet, it would not be an exaggeration to say that in this short period of time, India has not only managed to draw up for itself a credible foreign policy design, but has also been able to chart a steady course in what has mostly been a turbulent international environment.
To begin a look at India's role in world affairs in retrospect, I have a plethora of choices before me. I could refer to the numerous writings and pronouncements of Nehru and other leaders on the role they envisaged for a free India. But if I may digress slightly, I would like you to dwell on how interesting it is, and how prescient it was of that generation of people, that they had such a vision even before India realized its independence. In fact, one of the most unique aspects of our freedom struggle was that its world view transcended domestic challenges and preoccupations, and extended to a critical scrutiny of developments across the world. For our freedom fighters and our first Prime Minister, the independence of India was not an end in itself: it was part and parcel of the search for an equitable world order towards which India would have to lend its voice and weight. This explains our engagement, from the beginning of our nationhood, in all the larger causes of the world, with a passion and conviction which the status quo entrenched powers found irksome. This same engagement was to contribute to the shaping of our foreign policy.
I feel, therefore, that nothing would be more appropriate than to begin with the historic broadcast over All India Radio, made by Pandit Nehru, almost exactly fifty years ago, on 7th September, 1946, in his capacity as the vice president of the interim government. He said,
"...we shall take full part in international conferences as a free nation with our own policy and not merely as a satellite of another nation. We hope to develop close and direct contacts with other nations and to cooperate with them in the furtherance of world peace and freedom. We propose, as far as possible, to keep away from the power politics of groups, aligned against one another, which have led in the past to world wars and which may again lead to disasters on an even vaster scale. We believe that peace and freedom are indivisible and the denial of freedom anywhere must endanger freedom elsewhere and lead to conflict and war. We are particularly interested in the emancipation of colonial and dependent countries and peoples and in the recognition in theory and practice of equal opportunities for all peoples..."
I often marvel at the majesty of thought and clarity of vision, evident in even as short a section of the speech as I have just quoted. When freedom was still almost a full year away, Nehru was already putting into place the blueprint of what was to become the cornerstone of our foreign policy. The small extract I have quoted contains within it the germs of the ideas of Non-Alignment, pluralism, democracy, social justice, equality for all nations and peoples, peace and friendship between countries, security for all, and the social and economic uplift and overall development of hitherto colonized countries. All these became features of our foreign policy. It is important to realize, however, that this blueprint was not a spontaneous product of Nehru's genius, but that it represented a distilled vision of every major strand of thought and action in our freedom struggle.
Our freedom struggle itself shaped our world view. We were not only fighting the British here, but were also thinking in larger terms. We were fully aware that the Raj was not confined to India, but was part and parcel of world imperialism, exploiting us through a network, a system. It was clear, therefore, that we had to fight against the larger system. What was even more interesting, when our leaders visualized the international dimension of the freedom struggle, they were aware that our defiance of colonialism was not to be confined to India alone; it had to be worldwide. This was the thinking behind sending 50 volunteers to Spain and sending a medical team headed by Dr. Kotnis to China. It was not as if this would tilt the balance or provide succour, but was clearly meant to be an act of defiance. At the same time, we also defined our attitude to other dimensions of imperial rule. Apartheid, for instance. The Gandhian experience in South Africa was there for us to follow, and our policy of opposition to apartheid is one of the most significant examples of how pre-independence experiences defined our future foreign policy.
It is also interesting to see that the Indian perception of foreign policy, even before we became free, was never confined between the Himalayas and the Indian Ocean. Our vision was much wider and, therefore, when we became free, we felt that we were part of a world movement. It is no surprise that Nehru called the first Asian Relations Conference even before he became Prime Minister, in order to convey the message that our foreign policy was not confined to narrow perceptions of interests but that it had a broader conception.
To sum up, I would say that the Indian freedom struggle, whose heritage we must respect, spelt out the outlines of what later became our foreign policy. It gave us pride, made us stand up, and even educated our masses on foreign policy. It also made us realize that freedom cannot be sustained unless you talk in terms of an independent foreign policy. Indian foreign policy was not something which we read about in text books or heard about at the university. It was a product of the freedom struggle itself. Resisting oppression meant independence and was spelt out as the defining characteristic of an independent foreign policy.
India became free in an environment where the world was already dangerously divided by the Cold War. Our experiences naturally meant that we could not join any camps, a fact to which Nehru alluded in his broadcast. What is interesting is that Nehru and Congress resolutions spoke of autonomy of choice and an independent foreign policy and refused to join camps much before the word NAM was coined. Non-Alignment came much later, and the perception was born before the word. India continues to wear this as a badge of identity and honour. Though derided and ridiculed initially, it symbolized for us and numerous newly-independent countries independence in decision-making and autonomy of choice. Today, it remains an important element of our foreign policy.
We realize that the Non-Aligned Movement has to reorient its priorities in keeping with evolving times, but we do not believe that its relevance has diminished as a result of the termination of the Cold War. The Non-Aligned Movement was not a by-product of the Cold War or a response to it. It was rather a collective response to the inequity and entrenched imbalance in the distribution of economic and political power and influence in the world. It was also a response of colonized peoples to centuries long indignity and disempowerment which their societies had suffered. The Asian Relations Conference which India hosted in New Delhi on the eve of independence was an expression of the fact that the political philosophy of non-alignment predated its institutionalization.
Imbalance and inequality in the distribution of advantage and benefit in the world persist, and, in different manifestations, have even intensified. The need for the articulation of the viewpoint of the disadvantaged today is as strong as ever before. Clearly, a world in which the strong are without enlightenment and the weak are without recourse, the objectives of order, peace and prosperity can hardly be sustained. The need for the developing countries to frequently consult and develop positions and approaches which safeguard their rights and national interests is essential. The substance of this new concert would necessarily have to tackle the new global challenges which are gathering force at the close of the 20th century.
Today, we no longer talk of the North-South divide and dialogue, although the equation between the two remains essentially unchanged. While the developing world is now largely supportive of mutually beneficial global integration, it still has cause for concern in the emerging global agenda. Issues such as labour standards and the 'social clause', intellectual property rights, the right to define national investment policy, the pace and scope of privatization, equitable balance between rights and obligations of investors, particularly multinationals, extra-territorial application of domestic laws, the intrusive and calculated invoking of the human rights agenda, are all collective pressures requiring collective responses. This is where NAM still has a relevant role to play. The Movement also needs to assert itself on the issue of representation for the developing world in international organizations and deliberations, and global disarmament issues, particularly nuclear disarmament.
Let me also touch upon the Indian role in the United Nations. Just as India was a founding member of the NAM, so too was India a founding member of the United Nations. Our belief and faith in an international order, and in a system of relationships that would preserve peace between nations and assist in the equitable development of all nations, led to India's being in the forefront of the affairs of the UN. Since its inception, we have participated actively in all its activities, ranging from developmental work to peace keeping. Our contribution to the latter has been especially noteworthy as we have taken part in nearly every significant UN peacekeeping operation undertaken over the last half century. We continue to support the work of the UN, even as we believe that the continued credibility of the UN requires a reform of the organization to reflect present day realities better.
Strengthening the United Nations, therefore, is an important foreign policy objective of the United Front Government. While the membership of the UN has increased greatly, the voice of the newly sovereign states in decision-making in the UN remains unheard. There is an imbalance in the authority and weight of its structures and organs. The role and authority of the General Assembly, the sole universal organ of the UN, also needs to be reaffirmed, so that its voice finds greater resonance in other bodies. The Security Council must be made more representative in order to enhance its legitimacy and effectiveness. The vast increase in the membership of the UN since its founding, especially of the developing countries, must find adequate representation in permanent as well as non-permanent members category. This reform and expansion must be an integral part of a common package that addresses not only the failings of the past, but also the needs of the future.
India's has been a voice that has been raised on all of the issues I have just outlined. Our thoughts and actions in world affairs have had a strand of continuity running through them. The very thought process that decided in the fifties to stay away from the global power divide and plough an independent, if at times lonely, furrow in the affairs of the world, recently decided to stay out of the so-called `Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty' or CTBT, because it did not even touch the central issue of ridding the world of the curse of nuclear weapons. Independence of mind and autonomy of action, then, have been the hallmark of India’s foreign policy as much with the first Indian government headed by Jawaharlal Nehru as with the current Indian government.
Let me now turn to what I envisage is the future role that India has in world affairs. A coherent foreign policy can only flow from clearly defined objectives on the domestic front. It is to promote the inherent strengths of a country that a government follows a certain policy in the external sphere. The principal objective of the foreign policy of the United Front Government is to further strengthen India's democracy, and ensure all-round economic and social development with justice and equity. With this in mind, we have embarked on a course where we do not aim to carry unnecessary baggage from the past, and where we extend an outstretched hand of friendship to every nation of the world.
I am of the view that this design, to begin with, is best implemented in our own neighbourhood. This also fits in with my view of treating India's relationships as extending outward in a series of concentric circles. Our immediate neighbours constitute the first circle and we have started to reshape our relations with each of them. In all cases, our policy is driven by a simple five point framework. First, with neighbours like Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, India does not ask for reciprocity but gives all that it can in good faith and trust. Secondly, no South Asian country will allow its territory to be used against the interest of another country of the region. Thirdly, none will interfere in the internal affairs of another. Fourthly, all South Asian countries must respect each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty. And, finally, they will settle all their disputes through peaceful bilateral negotiations. The aim of these five principles is to build a climate of close and special cooperation, where the weight and size of India is regarded positively and as an asset by these countries. These principles, scrupulously observed, will, I am sure, recast South Asia's regional relationships for the mutual benefit of all our countries.
I am happy to say that we have succeeded to a large measure in generating this confidence and that the policy is already bearing fruit, even in respect of our relationship with Pakistan. Prime Minister Deve Gowda, on taking office, communicated to the then Pakistan Prime Minister India's readiness to resume talks. He offered to talk about the entire gamut of India-Pakistan relations including those issues on which the two countries held different views. That obviously meant Kashmir and issues like nuclear capability and missiles. While we are still waiting for Islamabad's response, we have unilaterally taken several measures to improve the relationship at the people-to-people levels, and also encouraged economic and commercial links between the two business communities. There has been a heartening response to these from within Pakistan itself, and we intend to continue with this approach.
Our relations with Bangladesh have undergone a qualitative transformation. Following visits by myself to Dhaka and by my counterpart to New Delhi, the Prime Ministers of India and Bangladesh recently signed a historic treaty on the sharing of the Ganga river waters. Both of us recognize that a major thorn has been removed from our bilateral relations. In keeping with the policy of asymmetry, we have not insisted that Bangladesh grant us transit rights. By conceding transit to be the sovereign right of Bangladesh, it was possible for us to fertilize the mind of that country about how to make the best use of transit facilities for its own economic and social development. It is my hope that by resolving long-standing bilateral problems and looking at development in regional terms, it will be possible for us in India to develop not only the neglected region in India's Northeast, but also the adjoining areas of Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.
Indo-Nepal relations are historically unique. We have open borders and the Nepali citizens are free to live and work in India. With the just endorsed Mahakali Treaty, the Indo-Nepal relationship has reached another milestone. India will continue to work with Nepal more or less on Nepal's own terms. In the meantime, we have conceded Nepal's request for greater access to the Indian market, and for transit through Bangladesh to South-East Asia and the Far East.
We have likewise extended the maximum cooperation to Sri Lanka towards restoring peace and stability in its northern and eastern provinces as well as in the area of economic and technological cooperation. As regards the ethnic conflict in that country, in keeping with our neighbourhood policy, we are committed against any interference in what is clearly an internal affair of Sri Lanka.
The second aspect of our immediate neighbourhood policy is concerned with the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). One feature of the economic transformation of many regions of the world has been the qualitative enhancement of regional cohesion. Whole regions are transforming themselves by burying animosities and joining hands for collective advancement. In the industrialized world, national identities have been blurred within this larger purpose, and in some other parts of the developing world, this process has produced spectacular results. We strongly believe that the South Asian region cannot remain immune from this logic of collective self-interest. In our Chairmanship of SAARC during the current year, which incidentally coincides with the launching of the second SAARC decade, we have tried to advance the same spirit of shared self-interest that we have pursued at bilateral levels.
The results are slowly but surely making themselves felt. It was with our encouragement that the historic decision to strive for a South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) latest by the year 2005, was taken after the launching of the South Asian Preferential Trade Arrangement (SAPTA) in New Delhi in December 1995. The first meeting of Commerce Ministers of SAARC and the first SAARC Trade Fair, which will now become annual events, were also held under our Chairmanship. The goal of reaching regional investment and double taxation avoidance agreements has also been accepted. There are a series of other initiatives, for example on standardization and customs cooperation. Recently, the first SAARC Economic Cooperation Conference - which will also become an annual event - concluded in New Delhi with far reaching recommendations in diverse areas of cooperation, including telecommunications, human resource development, science and technology, energy, data networking, business information and travel and tourism. These recommendations will now be processed through the SAARC machinery.
I had the opportunity, only a fortnight ago, to chair the 17th Session of the SAARC Council of Ministers. We discussed a broad agenda of issues. One of the highlights of our deliberations was the initiative on sub-regional cooperation. Eastern India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan form a clear economic and ecological sub-unit in our region, and there is every reason for us to encourage more intensive cooperation in that area than may be feasible for the region as a whole. Similar potential exists for South India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. I am glad to say that we received whole-hearted support from these countries for this idea, for which provisions also exist in the SAARC Charter.
It is my view that SAARC cannot remain an association of governments. It must promote contact between the people of the region. Hence the added emphasis on people-to-people contact. A large number of voluntary organizations have expressed their desire in cooperating regionally and deserve our encouragement. In this context, we have discussed possible measures to facilitate travel and tourism in the region and it is hoped that there will be some breakthrough on this subject. In a world where other regional organizations are making rapid progress, we cannot afford to lag behind. With so much in common amongst us, South Asian nations must rise above their differences and act together in their best interests. I am glad that our chairmanship has been recognized by member-states as having been dynamic and forward looking and has given a lift to the SAARC spirit.
Apart from the SAARC, we have other important neighbours with whom we are evolving new relationships. With China, we seek relations of stability and mutual benefit, exploiting potential for favourable growth where it exists and not allowing areas of difference to cast a shadow on the entire relationship, while addressing them squarely. This was the tenor during the recently concluded visit of the Chinese President, when India and China also signed an important agreement on confidence building measures in the military field.
We have been deeply concerned about developments in Afghanistan and have clearly stated that they run counter to the principles we espouse. We have succeeded in having our traditional role of a friend and well-wisher of Afghanistan recognized through the invitations extended to us to participate in the conferences on Afghanistan in Tehran and the United Nations.
As we approach the end of the 20th century, our attention is riveted on what has widely been described as the Asia-Pacific Century. The Asia-Pacific region already produces almost one-half of the world's GDP. Reputed international affairs analysts presume that, in the next 20-30 years, there will be five major world powers, and three of them will be in Asia, namely, Japan, China and India. Right now, however, the exact scope and implications of the Asia-Pacific Century remain to be spelt out. Pan-Asian regionalism will take some time to emerge as a stable international phenomenon; but when it does, it will truly change the world. In the 21st century, Asia and the Pacific rim are likely to be the West's true peers in wealth, technology and skilled human resources.
What are the prospects for India's relations within the wider Asian region? I turn again to Nehru's broadcast where he says,
"We are of Asia and the people of Asia are nearer and closer to us than others. India is so situated that she is the pivot of western, southern and south-east Asia. In the past, her culture flowed to all these countries and they came to her in many ways. Those contacts are being renewed and the future is bound to see a closer union between India and southeast Asia..."
Immediately beyond the SAARC circle lies the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which is truly a circle of growing prosperity, built upon successful regional cooperation. It has emerged as a major centre of economic and political power which has turned it into one of the most significant networks of financial, technological and commercial resources into which India can integrate. India has been a sectoral dialogue partner of the ASEAN for some years, and, last year, the relationship was upgraded to the status of a Full Dialogue Partner. India is thus embarked on building a development partnership with ASEAN, and is also looking forward to membership of the organisation for Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).
With ASEAN, the growth of friendly and mutually beneficial interaction, whether in economic or political and security related areas, has been striking. I myself had the pleasure of sensing the growing climate of collaboration and trust when I attended the first Post-Ministerial Conference of ASEAN in Jakarta in July last year. Many of the ASEAN countries, such as Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia, are among the largest investors in India. Thailand alone has nearly 30 joint ventures in India. Many ASEAN countries are also keenly interested in the infrastructure sector in India. There is now a clear recognition of India as a key factor of stability and economic dynamism in the Asian region, and it will be our endeavour to utilize fully the opportunities offered by such fast paced growth taking place so close in our neighbourhood.
The next layer to which our concept of the extended neighbourhood applies is the Central Asian region. We consider Central Asia as part of our proximate neighbourhood. Developments there affect us a great deal. We have established missions in all Central Asian states and have reached a high level of productive dialogue with them. This is another region where India happens to enjoy a lot of goodwill. The lack of common land borders and of access through civil war torn Afghanistan is an impediment, but we have gained access to Central Asia through Iran. The leaders of all Central Asian Republics have visited India and high level visits from the Indian side have also taken place.
Another region which we consider as part of the wider neighbourhood is the Indian Ocean rim region. The Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation will meet formally in March next year to begin deliberations on promoting cooperation between nations from the south Pacific, south and south east Asia, southern and eastern Africa and the Gulf. Most nations will already be part of some other regional grouping and the Rim's discussions will be the richer as it will stand to gain from the varied experiences that the members will be able to share.
If this exposition of India's neighbourhood policy gives the impression that we will concentrate on the so-called East to the exclusion of the so-called West, let me hasten to add that we, in India, have never been wedded to a dichotomous East-West or Orient-Occident world view. For us, the world is a single entity, the West and the East profoundly influencing one another, and, together, building a better future for the entire humankind. India gave the world the concept of "vasudhaiva kutumbakam" (the world is one family) and this universality continues to inform our policy. It is with this in view that we have taken major steps to consolidate our relationships with our traditional partners in the European and American continents as also with Japan and a newly emergent and democratic Russia. The advancement of economic ties is a principal feature of our continuing dialogue with all these partners.
I would now like to discuss in some detail an issue that recently generated a great deal of debate, both here in India and abroad, which is our stand on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Many of you would recall that India was among the first countries to demand a complete test ban since the 1950s. We welcomed the Partial Test Ban Treaty as a first step towards a comprehensive ban. We have never departed from our goal which is to see a nuclear weapon-free world which, for us, is an article of faith. In 1988, the then Indian Prime Minister, Mr.Rajiv Gandhi, presented to the United Nations a phased programme aimed at total universal nuclear disarmament by all countries of the world. Such a programme must necessarily begin with the nuclear powers.
Yet, it seems that Cold War mind-sets persist. Some countries continue to rely on nuclear weapons for their security while trying to develop new justifications for their doctrines and new roles for their nuclear arsenals. India has always followed a consistent and principled policy on nuclear disarmament. It is based on the conviction that these weapons are not weapons of war and that the global elimination of all nuclear weapons will enhance the security of all nations. We have rejected partial and discriminatory approaches, as reflected in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the recently concluded CTBT, that are dictated by the technological preferences of the nuclear weapon states and enable them to perpetuate their nuclear hegemony.
India's position is not merely an idealistic position but rooted in our own national interests. With a declared nuclear weapon state to our north, another undeclared nuclear weapon state to our west, and vessels carrying nuclear weapons sailing in the Indian Ocean, India cannot afford to give up her nuclear option or accept any restraints on it, unless there is genuine acceptance of the goal of nuclear disarmament and concrete movement towards it in a step by step manner as part of a well-defined nuclear disarmament process.
It has been India's consistent policy not to sign unequal, discriminatory treaties. That is why India was not a party to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). India undertook a peaceful nuclear test as far back as 1974 but, as a mark of unparalleled restraint, has studiously refrained from weaponisation. It has scrupulously observed the provisions of the NPT even while remaining out of it. We have not exported nuclear know-how or material to foreign countries. Neither have we openly nor in a clandestine manner helped the process of proliferation. Others have, including some of the major nuclear powers.
The NPT was extended indefinitely in 1995. An openly discriminatory treaty of great importance for the fate of the world and of humankind was given an indefinite lease of life. We stood away from the treaty but we were not indifferent to proliferation of nuclear weapons, vertical or horizontal. We were among those countries responsible for inscribing nuclear disarmament on the UN agenda, and, since the mid-50s, we have been unwaveringly committed to a nuclear weapon free world. Therefore, when the CTBT came up for debate at the Disarmament Conference in Geneva, we made it abundantly clear that we would not go with a draft unless it contained a pledge by the nuclear powers that they would proceed towards complete nuclear disarmament within a reasonable time frame.
Unfortunately, our position was not taken seriously by the world's nuclear powers. While the reservations of other states were entertained, our requests were studiously denied. In what was a clear violation of international law, a clause was devised that made entry-into-force of the treaty contingent upon Indian ratification. This, after we had firmly expressed ourselves against the treaty. And all this was done without consultations with all the members of the conference.
In my first statement in the Parliament on CTBT in July, I had said that while we could not sign the treaty, we did not want to be spoilers. I meant that if unfair, arbitrary, and implicitly coercive conditions were not imposed on those who would not sign the treaty on highly principled grounds, we would let the CTBT draft pass the Disarmament Conference, even though we would not sign it. Yet, there was no consultation with us, nor an effort to accommodate our principled objections, both to the treaty and the mode of its passage. Finally, we were left with no option but to block the Treaty, which was then hurriedly taken to a reconvened 50th session of the UN General Assembly and adopted by a majority vote. We have said, and I say again here that India will not sign this Treaty in its present form - neither now nor later.
While I am on the subject, I would like to invite you to take a look at the present strategic situation around India, if you wish to understand better our position. We are surrounded by nuclear weapons. In the East, there is China, a full-fledged nuclear power. In the South, there is Diego Garcia, a major American naval base for nuclear submarines as well as aircraft carriers. In the West, the Gulf region contains nuclear weapons. Is it possible for any government in India to remain indifferent to this gigantic array of nuclear arms across it eastern, southern and western borders? What is our response to this manifestly dangerous security environment? We have no desire to go nuclear unless we are forced to. But we cannot give up our nuclear option. No one in my position can, at least not until there is a time bound commitment by nuclear weapon states to global disarmament.
We have been warned of isolation from the international community, of explicit or implicit coercion by the nuclear powers. India remains undaunted by these threats. When 970 million people are united behind their Government's principled position, who can isolate them from the world? There are many countries who sympathize with our position and whose people would like their Governments to adopt a similar stance. But for one reason or another, they have thought it prudent to go along with the nuclear powers. In any case, I have been assured by the various Foreign Ministers that I have met, including the US Secretary of State, that differences over CTBT will not affect bilateral relations.
India's views on global nuclear disarmament find endorsement by NAM. At the 1995 summit, the NAM Heads of State expressed the conviction that the new world environment offers better opportunities for dealing effectively with problems relating to disarmament and promoting a more secure world, free of all weapons of mass destruction. The NAM countries have called for urgent negotiations on a phased programme of nuclear disarmament and have put forward a 25 year Action Plan. Our views have been strengthened by the recent opinion of the International Court of Justice, which stated that "there exists an obligation for all states to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control". We perceive a gradual acceptance of the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free-world even among sections of the states belonging to the western alliance. The Canberra Commission Report, and other initiatives by Pugwash and US-based Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs), are indications of a strengthening conviction in this regard. The Indian role has been pivotal in advancing this ideal and we intend to continue with it.
I had said in the beginning that a coherent foreign policy can only emerge from well-defined objectives on the internal front. A cardinal factor in our foreign policy is the element of domestic consensus on important issues, which lends to it an element of stability, continuity and solidity. It is no small thing for a nation of close to a billion people to have held such a steady and steadfast course for nearly half a century. The unity of the people and parties on what matters is our real strength in the world. A crucial objective of the foreign policy of my government, on which there is consensus, is to pursue policies that will help in achieving the accelerated social and economic development of India. India is a late comer to liberalization and the opening up of its economy to the global market. What China began in 1978, we started only in 1991. Even in this brief time, we have seen more than satisfactory results of which you would all be aware. We realize that if we are to achieve even more, we will have to attract large investments in the infrastructure sectors of our economy such as power, transportation, and telecommunications. I am glad that significant progress has been made on these fronts.
The end of the Cold War has had its most dramatic impact on the international security environment. The reunification of Germany, the disappearance of the Warsaw Pact and the setting up of structures for security cooperation in Europe are historic developments that mark the end of the bipolar East-West confrontation. In conjunction, we have the developments in globalization, regional cooperation, and the information revolution, all of which are making countries all over the world ever more interdependent. This is as it should be, given that modern day phenomena like environmental problems, development, terrorist crime, etc., have a trans-national reach. We in India are determined to tackle these problems and have indicated that we are ready and willing to cooperate with others in finding solutions to them.
The challenge for us is formidable - the future of 970 million people, in a world caught up in the throes of change. Our ideal is world peace, for it is that alone that can ensure development for the entire humankind. That objective, though, is still far off. We are still grappling with the problems of resurgent ethnic identities and consequent violence within and between States. The United Nations has to be strengthened to enable it to build a peaceful, cooperative world. The end of the Cold War must result in the 'peace dividend' that is the right of all people of the world, who have been denied for too long a voice in their affairs. The vocabulary of nations must reflect the pressing reality of today’s world, which is peace and development for all. Today, more than ever before, we need to appreciate the fact that while there may be many nations, there is only one world.
I end, as I began, by returning to that 1946 broadcast by Nehru. He said,
"India is on the move and the old order passes. Too long, we have been passive spectators of events, the playthings of others. The initiative comes to our people now and we shall make the history of our choice. Let us all join in this mighty task and make of India the pride of our heart, great among nations, foremost in the arts of peace and progress. The door is open and destiny beckons to all..."
I can think of nothing more inspiring than these words as we re-dedicate ourselves to the task of nation-building and taking India to the forefront of the countries of the world where she rightly belongs. This year, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of our independence, we reaffirm our desire to continue to work with all countries of the world, with the West as well as the East, with the North as well as the South, to the utmost of our abilities and resources, to build a better world.
[Nehru Centre, Bombay; 3rd January 1997
The sinews of Indian foreign policy were formed much before the emergence of independent India on the world stage. It is one of the unique features of the Indian liberation struggle that its world-views transcended domestic challenges, travails and preoccupations and extended to critical scrutiny of developments across the world. For our freedom fighters and our first prime minister, the independence of India was not an all-consuming goal: it was part and parcel of the search for an equitable world orders towards which India would have to lend its voice and weight. It was prescient of our leaders to recognise that constriction of national sovereignty has both a national and international dimension. This explains our engagement, form the beginning of our nationhood, in all the larger causes of the world, with a passion and conviction which the status quo-entrenched powers found irksome.
Our foreign policy is rooted in the universalist inspiration which has always characterised Indian thought, lessons imbibed from our historical experience, and the nature of Indian society which is a universe in itself. The tenets underpinning it are an approach of enlightened globalism and those defining India’s national identity, namely, the principles of pluralism, democracy, social justice, secularism, preservation of the country’s territorial integrity and security and the social and economic uplift of the people as a whole. We believe that these are the elevated principles on which human society should be organised and therefore do not see a difference in their relevance and application domestically and on the world stage. These are the true sinews of our policy, as by this term is meant the fibers which energise the conduct of our policy and which give constancy to our world-view.
While stressing the element of continuity in providing coherence to our foreign policy we also recognise that any policy requires resilience, innovation and creativity on response to changing times, particularly in an era of accelerating change as ours. I would like to touch upon some of these new eras emphasis.
One features of the economic transformation of many regions of the world has been a qualitative enhancement of regional cohesion and creative cooperation. In the changing face of the world, it is whole regions that are transforming themselves by burying animosities and joining hands for collective advancement. In the industrialised world, national identities have been blurred within this larger purpose and in some other parts of the developing world this process in under way. We strongly believe that the South Asian region cannot remain immune from the logic of collective self-interest and both under our chairmanship of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), as well as in delineation of principles governing relations with our neighbours, we have tried to advance, with some success, a spirit of shared self-interest. In SAARC, it was with our encouragement that the historic decision to strive for a South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) latest be the year 2005, was taken after the launching of the South Asian Preferential Trade Arrangement (SAPTA) in New Delhi in December last year. The first meeting of the Commerce Ministers of SAARC and the first SAARC Trade Fair, which will now become annual events, were also held under our chairmanship. The goal of reaching regional investment and double taxation avoidance agreements has also been accepted. There are a series of other initiatives, for examples on standardisation and customs cooperation, which cannot all be mentioned. Just a week ago the first SAARC Economic Cooperation Conference - which will also become an annual event - concluded in New Delhi with far reaching recommendations in diverse areas of cooperation, including telecommunications, human resource development, science and technology, energy, data networking, business information and travel and tourism. These recommendations will now be processed through the SAARC machinery. Our chairmanship has been recognised be member states having been dynamic and forward looking and has given a lift to the SAARC spirit.
In our bilateral relations, we have shown through action our belief in the primacy we attach to relations with our neighbours. This is also appropriate as the perception of India’s status and strength cannot be divorced from the quality of its relations with neighbours. My first bilateral visits have been with neighbours. We have emphasised that our attitude is benign and constructive and five clear principles have some times been called, if I may be presumptuous to say, the "Gujral Doctrine". First, with its neighbours, India does not ask for reciprocity, but gives and accommodates in good faith and trust. Secondly, no South Asian country should allow its territory to be used against the interest of another country of the region. Thirdly, none should interfere in the internal affairs of another. Fourthly, 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. These five principles, scrupulously adhered to, will achieve a fundamental recasting of South Asia’s regional relationships, including, I venture to say, the difficult relationship between India and Pakistan. In the emerging world order at the dawn of the next century, we seek to advance cohesion, synergy and mutual goodwill in our region. We cannot allow it stagnate as a backwater of Asia.
Another area of new emphasis which has emerged is what is described as economic diplomacy. Consideration of economic security and advancement have never so openly and pervasively characterised international relations as they do now and, as a core aspect of external relation. The country is undergoing a veritable revolution in economic policy and growth rates and in giving our economic growth dynamism be integrating with the world economy where advantage accures to us. Our external relations have to fully reflect this new emphasis. A separate Investment Promotion Cell has been opened in the ministry. Our mission have been activated to play a role appropriate for them. The External Affarirs Ministry takes the lead and an interactive partner with major investors, together with the economic ministries. Our Full Dialogue Partner status with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations(ASEAN), the leading role play by India in G-15, particularly in Harare recently, progressive participation in the working groups of the organisation for Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the coming into force early next year of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation, have been some of the recent multilateral accomplishments of our policy. Bilaterally, Promotional activities with the leading investing countries are in high gear.
Belief in the Non-aligned Movement (NAM), implying independence of thought and autonomy of action, has been and remains an important element of our foreign policy. The movement has to reorient its priorities in keeping with evolving times, but we do not believe that its relevance has diminished as a result of the termination of the Cold War. The Non-aligned Movement was not a by-product of the Cold War or a response to it. The political philosophy governing it had in fact already been expressed in our world-views since independent and even before. An early expression of it was th Asian Relations Conference which India hosted in New Delhi on the eve of independence. The Non-aligned Movement was rather a collective response to the inequity and severe and entrenched imbalance in the distribution of economic and political power and influence in the world. It was also a response of colonised peoples to centuries-long indignity and disempowerment which their societies had suffered and the consequence of which are with us still.
This imbalance and inequality in the distribution of advantage and benefit in the world persists and, in different manifestations has even intensified. The need for articulation of the viewpoint of the disadvantage vis-a-vis the "demandeurs" is as strong as ever, as well as the need for the developing countries to frequently consult and develop position and approaches which safeguard their rights and national interest. The diction and direction would of course necessarily have to respond to the new global challenges, which have gathered force at the close of the century. We no longer talk of the North-South divide and dialogue, although the equation between the two has generally not changed in essentials. While the developing world is now largely supportive of mutually beneficial global integration, it concerns in the emerging global agenda remain and are currently focussed on issues such as labour standards and the "social clause", intellectual property rights, right to define national investment policy, pace and scope of privatisation, equitable balance between rights and obligations of investors, particularly multinationals, extraterritorial application of domestic laws intrusive and calculated invoking if the human rights agenda. These are collective pressures requiring collective responses. Apart from the increased profile of such issues within NAM and G-77, the movement also has to grapple with the representative weight needed for the developing world in international organisations and deliberations, and global disarmament issues, particularly nuclear disarmament.
The continued credibility of the United Nations requires reform of the organisation. While the membership of the UN has increased greatly, the voce of the newly sovereign states in decision-making in the UN remains unheard. There is an imbalance in the authority and weight of structures or organ. There is a need to affirm the role and authority of the General Assembly, the sole universal organ of the UN, so that its voice finds greater resonance in other bodies.
The Security Council must be made more representatives in order to enhance its legitimacy and effectiveness. The vast increase in the membership of the UN since founding, especially of the developing countries, must find adequate representation in the permanent as well as the non-permanent members category. Reform and expansion must be an integral part of a common package. The reforms must address not only the failings of the past, but the needs of the future.
The end of the Cold War has had its most dramatic impact on the international security environment. The reunification of Germany, the disappearance of the Warsaw Pact and the setting up of structures for security cooperation in Europe are historic developments that mark the end of the bipolar East-West confrontation. Yet, the old mind-sets persists. Some countries continue to rely on nuclear weapons for their security while trying to develop new justification for their doctrines and new roles for their nuclear arsenals. India has always followed a consistent and principled policy on nuclear disarmament. It is based on the conviction that these weapons are not weapons of war and that the global elimination of all nuclear weapons will enhance the security of all nations. We have rejected partial and discriminatory approaches, as reflected in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and recently concluded Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), that enable nuclear weapon states to perpetuate their nuclear hegemony.
India’s position is not merely an idealistic position but rooted in our own national interest. With a declared nuclear weapon state to our North, another undeclared nuclear weapon state to our West vessels carrying nuclear weapons sailing in the Indian Ocean, India cannot afford to give up her nuclear option or accept any restraints on it unless there is genuine acceptance of the goal of nuclear disarmament and concrete movement towards it in a step-by step manner as part of well-defined nuclear disarmament process.
India’s views on global nuclear disarmament find endorsement by NAM. At the 1995 summit, the NAM heads of state expressed the conviction that the new world environment offers better opportunity for dealing effectively with problems relating to disarmament and promoting a more secure world, free of all weapons of mass destruction. The NAM countries have called for urgent negotiations on a phased programme of nuclear disarmament and have put forward a 25-year Action Plan. Our views have been strengthened be the recent opinion of the International Court of Justice, which stated that "there exists and obligation for all states to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control." We perceive a gradual acceptance of the goal of a nuclear weapon-free world even among sections of the states belonging to the western alliances. The Canberra Commission Report, other initiatives be Pugwash and US-based NGOs, are indications of a strengthening conviction in this regard. The Indian role has been pivotal in advancing this ideal.
While being traditionally located in the framework of Panchsheel, non-alignment, developing friendly relations with all countries and enlightened self-interest, our foreign policy needs to be innovative and responsive to change, so that developments do not leave us at a disadvantage. If the arena of interaction is seen as a series of expanding rings, starting with our neighbours and proceeding to the proximate neighborhood (what the Russians occasionally call the ‘near abroad"), and then to the wider world, it will seen that our interaction with all has been proactive and constructive.
With our immediate neighbours, we wish to build a climate of close and special cooperation, where the weight and size of India is regarded positively and as an asset be these countries. We have succeeded to a large measure generating this confidence. We will continue down this road. With our large neighbour China, whose president visited us recently, we seek relations of stability and mutual benefit, exploiting potential for favourable growth where if exists and not allowing areas of difference to cast a shadow on the entire relationship, while addressing them squarely. This was the tenor during the recently concluded visit to Chinese president. In the proximate neighborhood, we have established mission in all Central Asian states and have reached a high level of productive dialogue with them. We have been deeply concerned about developments in Afghanistan and have clearly stated that they run counter to the principles we espouse. We have succeeded in having our traditional role of a fried and well-wisher of Afghanistan recognised through the invitations extended to us to participate in the conferences on Afghanistan in Tehran and the United Nations. With ASEAN, the growth of friendly and mutually beneficial interaction, whether in economic or political and security related areas, has been striking. I had the pleasure of sensing the growing climate of collaboration and trust when I attended the first Post-Ministerial Conference of ASEAN in Jakarta with India as a Full Dialogue Partner and of the ASEAN Regional Forum. There is now a recognition of India as key factor of stability and economic dyanmism in the Asian region.
In the wider world, our interaction with the major political and economic centres, whether the US, Russia, European Union and its members, or Japan, is constructive and amicable, with the advancement of economic ties being a principal feature. Where our world-views are not compatible or where we have to make clear our national interest against the pressure t conformity, we do it with firmness, clarity and maturity, which is recognised. Our foreign policy has throughout been characterised by goodwill towards all. The stature which India enjoys in the world derives form this, as well as the principles we espouse.
The outside world, of course, includes representatives of the Indian diaspora. Indians are prominent and present in large numbers in many parts of the world and many of them retain links with India. what happens to them cannot be a matter of indifference to us. From the days of Gandhi’s struggle in South Africa, we have been sensitive to injustice or discrimination against them, while encouraging them to integrate in the societies where they have their home, and with whom they should also identify themselves. Indians abroad are also capable of being bridges, both cultural and economic, between India and these societies and we welcome this role. Our investment policies make special and pluralism at home and abroad and, therefore, are concerned at stirrings of xenophobia wherever they occur in the world.
We are aware that the Ministry of External Affairs, as an arm of the government which must translate our external policies in the ground, must be strengthened and keep up with the times in its workings. This is a continuing preoccupation with us, and I am paying attention to this.
In conclusion, I should emphasis that a cardinal factor in our foreign policy is the element of domestic consensus on important issues, which lends the element of stability, continuity and solidity to four foreign policy. All governments have valued this. It is no small thing for a nation of close t billion people to have held such a steady and steadfast course for nearly half a century. The unity of the people and parties in what matters is our real strength in the world, against which attempts to slow division will not be allowed to prevail. In the deepest sense, this solidarity is the real sinew of Indian foreign Policy, which looks to the future with hope and determination.
[17th Bhimsen Sachar Memorial Lecture, New Delhi, Ist December 1996]
Any discussion on India’s foreign policy has to begin with the contribution of Mahatma Gandhi, who introduced an element of moral, value based politics in our lives. It was not simply tactical in nature but a code of behaviour for the conduct of international relations by successive Indian governments. It is, therefore, no surprise that our external relations have been characterized by the basic tenets of Panchsheel. Peace, disarmament, self reliance, non-alignment and development are the bedrock of India’s relations with other nations, and determine its reactions to external developments. Another bedrock of Indian foreign policy is the party affiliations, and including political parties, diplomats, academics and opinion-makers alike.
While there is an undercurrent of continuity in India’s foreign policy, its terms of reference have been undergoing a continuous change against the background of far-reaching, and sometimes, volatile changes in the global scenario. Some of the predicaments facing India are the challenges to the concept of the nation-state from linguistic, ethnic and religious groups, on-going changes in the external equations and in the nature of global developmental and economic policies, trade and financial regimes, and the scourges of terrorism, often exported from other countries, as well as the menace of drugs and arms-trafficking and their links with terrorist and criminal outfits. Environmental conservation, protection and promotion of human rights, and disarmament have rightly assumed great importance in the world. While on some of these issues, India may have tread a somewhat lonely path for sometime, gradually others are veering around to our approach. The vision of a world free from inequities, inequalities, violence, and devoted to economic and social uplift of humanity, so eloquently captured by the World Summit on Social Development, has to be realized. We are willing to cooperate with all in this endeavour, but will never tag ourselves in advance to others, or to a particular world-view. We retain the independent stance of our foreign policy, examining each issue on its merits, while being guided by our vital national interests and concerns.
A process of introspection is currently underway in our societal, economic and political structures, which will redefine a vibrant, dynamic and open India, at ease in its interactions with the world at large. India’ foreign policy has assumed a positive outward orientation with new policy intiatives aimed at consolidating traditional relationships, developing new relationships with countries and regions where we have vital strategic interest, a greater emphasis on economic dimensions in foreign policy, on the need to revitalize the Non-aligned Movement and to reform and restructure the UN to better reflect the aspirations of the developing countries.
India attaches the highest importance to developing cordial and friendly relations with here neighbours with a view to promoting peace, stability, mutual confidence in the region, and for developing stronger economic and commercial relations for all-round prosperity. I have myself visited several countries of our region, soon after our government assumed charge. We wish Pakistan all the best and have suggested the resumption of foreign secretary-level dialogue to address all issues of mutual concern. The Simla Agreement provides the basis for constructive dialogue. As Chairman of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) it would be our endeavour to promote multi-faceted cooperation in all spheres with our neighbours.
China remains of great importance to our economic and security interest. Both of us decided to delink the settlement of the boundary question from the development of cooperation and exchanges in other fields. A number of confidence building measures have been put in place along the Line of Actual Control.
India’s relations with the Central Asian peoples are centuries old, with considerable social, cultural, intellectual and commercial interaction. Their emergence as independent countries, boasting of secular, pluralistic, modern societies, engaged in a revolutionary reforms programme is a matter of profound historical significance. Similar ideals and experiences lie behind the covergence of our perspectives on developments in the region and on international issues that have come to the fore after the end of the Cold War. The large number of high-level exchanges in both direction, and conclusion of agreements and institutional arrangements in diverse fields, provide the impetus for the growth of our relations in modern times.
India had never believed in the Cold War ethos. We were resolutely opposed to those forces that sought to align the world into competing and adversorial camps. The end of the Cold War and dramatic developments, changing the relationship between the Russian Federation and the United States, changes of governments and the systems of governance in Eastern Europe and the positive interaction between Russia and China, have opened up new vistas for Indian foreign policy. We have restructured our policies to encompass these changes, without losing continuity and balance, while firmly safeguarding our interests.
Indo-US relations have expanded remarkably over the last few years. It is but natural, given our commonalities as pluralistic democracies. Economic reforms in India have provided a further fillip to this process. Trade and investment are now a cornerstone of this revitalized Indo-US relationship. Last year, Indo-US trade demonstrated an increase of over 19%, the total turnover exceeding US$ 9 billion. US companies account for over one third (38%) of the total foreign investment commitments in India, and almost 20% of the actual direct investment flows. The figure would be higher still if indirect portfolio investments were taken into our occasional differences - such as over the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty recently - which become the focus of attention by our media and political opinion in both countries. But given goodwill and mutual respect, there is no reason why we should not be able to overcome any ephemeral differences.
India’s relations with the Russian Federation are characterised by friendship and cooperation, based on trust and confidence. Our effort is directed towards retaining the positive elements of the relationship while making adjustments as necessary, in a dynamic and forward-looking manner to the changed situation in both countries and the world at large. The evolution of Russia, and indeed other countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States, towards democracy and political pluralism on the one hand, and towards market-oriented structures giving freer play to private enterprise and initiative on the other, are evocative of the similar choices which we had earlier made in India, since our independence. This has reinforced the similarities in our outlook and brought us closer together in terms of basic values and orientations. The dissolution of the Soviet Union had occasioned some temporary dislocation in our bilateral relations with Russia and the other emerging newly independent states. This phenomenon was, of course, not unique to India but affected Russia’s relations with other countries as well. It is, however, worth nothing that there was no diminution, on either side, of the desire and commitment to strengthening the bilateral relationship. Indeed, this was, and remains a matter of priority and national consensus in both India and Russia. Today, our relations are firmly back on the right track and have resumed their growth path.
The growing political and economic integration of Europe has also been adequately addressed. India has concluded a third generation agreement with the European Union and looks forward to continued development of commercial and economic relations with it. Bilateral relations with European countries also demonstrate a positive increase in both quality and range.
Geography predetermines India having close and cooperative relations with the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Central Asia and the Asia-Pacific region. We have succeeded in expanding stable, friendly, cooperative and diversified relations with them. The steady growth in India’s interaction with ASEAN is a matter of great satisfaction. In recent years we have moved progressively closer to ASEAN with the commencement of our Sectoral Dialogue Partnership in 1992 to our Full Dialogue Partnership with them and participation in the ASEAN Regional Forum. Further development of the Indian Ocean Rim Initiative will also reinforce these relationships.
Regional groupings are gradually becoming the motive forces of economic growth and prosperity of their areas. India has moved forward to crystallize and strengthen existing bongs, while forging new ties. Africa and India have a special and abiding relationship. We have, in the past, struggled together to overcome the evil legacy of colonialism, racial discrimination and economic exploitation. We stand together today to face the demanding agenda before the developing world. A high level ministerial delegation was therefore sent by the prime minister to the Organization of African Unite (OAU) Summit held in July 1986, in Yaounde, Cameroon. India is also engaged in building up of relations of partnership and cooperation with other African regional organisations like the South African Development Community; the Economic Community of West African States; COMESA; UNECA and the African Development Bank.
The development of relations between India and Latin America and the Caribbean countries and their regional organizations is a matter of considerable priority for us. A special envoy of the Indian prime minister participated at the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Summit in Barbados in July this year. We have institutional arrangements with the Rio Group and the MERCOSUR. India also plans to reinvigorate and revitalize its links with the Organisation of American States.
Fundamental changes in international relations following the end of bloc-confrontation have contributed to an increased focus on international organisations and particularly the United Nations. It is accepted by all that the United Nations should be restructured, reformed, revitalized and strengthened to enable it to respond better to the aspirations of its membership. We desire to reinforce the role of the UN in development and development cooperation, coupled with a genuine democratization of the world organization. It is imperative also to ensure that in the process of reforms, existing mechanisms that have proved beneficial to the developing countries are not sacrificed on the altar of financial efficiency or crippled with a lack of resources. The representative and democratic character of the UN as the sole universal organ, needs to be enhanced. The representation of developing countries in the Security Council, both as permanent and non-permanent members has to be substantially augmented. Convinced of the support of others, we have expressed our readiness to serve as a permanent member of the expanded UN Security Council. On any objective criteria some countries would qualify for being permanent members of the Security Council. It is our belief that India would be among them.
Effective global security today demands a universal approach. True peace also requires disarmament. We have concluded treaties for eliminating chemical and biological weapons; it is now necessary to deal similarly with nuclear weapons, the last remaining category of weapons of mass destruction. We visualised the Comprehensive Test Bank Treaty as part of a step-by-step process of global nuclear disarmament, leading to the complete elimination of all nuclear weapons within a reasonable time horizon and to meet the objective of ending the qualitative development of nuclear weapons. While it was not possible for India to subscribe to a treaty which did not meet these objectives, we will not waver in the pursuit of our goals.
Lastly, before I conclude, I would like to refer to an area that has assumed the greatest importance in India’s foreign policy. This is the need to revitalize our foreign policy’s economic dimension. India has embarked on a process of economic reforms and liberalisation. We seek partnership for technology, finance and markets. The Indian government proposes to attract around US$ 10 billion of foreign direct investment in the coming year. We are committed to transparency and facilitation of foreign investment in crucial sectors. A new Foreign Investment Promotion Council has been established and the Foreign Investment Promotion Board reconstituted. We are cognizant of the need to tap markets for our goods, and to assure inflows of capital, technology, information and other resources to further enable the developmental process of India. I trust that cooperation of our foreign partners would be forthcoming in this venture.
[Council for Foreign Relations, New York, USA, 3rd October 1996]
The United Service Institution of India has played an important role in developing a tradition of serious debate and discussion on the issues of national security and defence. I is a source of satisfaction that on this occasion of its completing 125 years it is organising a joint seminar with the Royal United Services Institute of he United Kingdom. This tradition of cooperation is important as we face the challenges of the coming century.
The decade of the 1990s has seen a profound transformation in the international security environment. The seeds of the Cold War had already been sown when India became independent 50 years ago. In the following decades, the Cold War became the predominant motif as countries sought to pursue their national security through competing military alliances. India, which had achieved independence through a non-violent struggle that is unique in history, was determined to protect its independence in thought and action. This search for independence led us, in a logical manner, to the concept of non-alignment. Yet, there is no doubt that with the major powers engaged in an ideological conflict, the Cold War cast a shadow on international trends and developments. Multilateral institutions set up after the Second World War to help create a democratic and equitable world order, based on collective security, were often paralysed by the rivalry between USA and former USSR.
Today the Cold War has ended. We are no longer faced with two opposing military alliances with their gigantic nuclear arsenals in a state of high alert. The threat perceptions of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and Warsaw Pact forces as implacable adversaries, seen though an ideological prism, are a thing of the past. As profound changes have occurred between two former adversaries, there is hope that multilateral institutions like the UN would be revitalised to assume the mantel of collective security. New regional organisations, such as the OSCE and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum have emerged. Existing organisations like NATO are also seeking to redefine their role in trying to tackle exiting and future challenges. This, we hope, is reflective of a new and cooperative spirit.
It is natural that India’s neighbourhood should be a major priority in India’s security considerations. A peaceful and constructive environment in our neighbourhood is vital for all of us if we are to achieve accelerated development for ourselves and for the region as a whole. The South Asian region accounts for roughly one fourth of all humanity. If this region is to establish its rightful place in the community of nations, cooperation and mutual goodwill have to be firmly established as the basis of intra-South Asian relations. Given India’s size and situation, it is natural for us to take the initiative in building up confidence and establishing cooperation in all facets of our relationships.
The security of a home lies not in the bricks and mortar used in its construction but, in the ultimate analysis, depends upon the goodwill and amity of its inhabitants. India’s foreign policy, specially in the neighbourhood context, reflects this simple reality.
The "Gujral Doctrine", as it has come to be termed, is based on five simple principles. First, with its neighbours like Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, India not ask for reciprocity, but gives and accommodates what it can in good faith and trust. Second, e believe that no South Asian country should allow its territory to be used against the interests of another country of he 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. These few simple ideas, if implemented, will result in a positive impact on the security situation in our region and a fundamental recasting of South Asia’s regional relationships and our role in the world.
India has already established that it is ready to go the extra mile to inspire confidence and generate momentum towards a new partnership in South Asia and it is apparent that we have already achieved substantial success with this approach.
We have recently discussed and implemented new and significant initiatives with Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh which are steering our relations to higher levels of cooperation. The treaty on sharing of 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. It is a matter of pride that this treaty has been welcomes, not only in India and Bangladesh, but the world over, and is a clear demonstration of what can be achieved with sincerity and a sense of purpose. In time, we expect that the entire eastern regions of the subcontinent, including Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and India would se a surge of development through cooperation in the areas of transport, energy development, water management, etc.
Likewise with Sri Lanka, from where I have just returned, we have expressed our desire to assist, without being intrusive, in an early settlement of the conflict in that country. Such an outcome would have beneficial results for India and the entire region. We would like the Palk Straits to become a gateway for peaceful commerce and communication among our people. We should dream of once again making the maritime frontier, which India and Sri Lanka shares, an area of peace, and hen 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 intertwined. Together with the Maldives, our partner in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (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.
With regard to Pakistan, you would be aware 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 the occasional hostile rhetoric from across the border.
Beyond the immediate South Asian SAARC neighbourhood lies what I call an extended, even proximate neighbourhood, which is of great significance to India. Central Asia, for example, is one such area. This region straddles some of the world’s richest known deposits of hydrocarbon resources. We have responded to the need to build enduring partnerships with the countries of this region by setting up missions in all these countries to promote political, economic and technical cooperation. The inadequacy of direct surface access to this region is, of course, a problem but we are addressing this through a trilateral understanding with Iran and Turkmenistan.
Developments on the security front in Central Asia, too, are a concern for us. We are watching the developments in Afghanistan, and our earnest desire is for an end to external interference in that country, followed by a return to peace.
Many of you would also be aware of the expanding relations between India and the ASEAN countries. Our Sectoral Dialogue Partnership was upgraded last year to Full Dialogue Partner status.
India also became a member of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) on this occasion. The ARF is a post-Cold War institution where countries with different political and economic structures, varying size and military strengths, are present. This group does not reflect a military alliance but is motivated by the idea that despite the diversity, measures should be pursued collectively which will enhance the security of each one of its members, and the region as a whole. I myself had the pleasure of sensing the growing climate of collaboration and trust when I visited Jakarta in July’96 for the Post-Ministerial Conference. I was happy to see that there was a recognition of India as a key factor of stability and economic dynamism in the Asian region.
By virtue of its geographical position, India has a natural interest in maintaining the Indian Ocean as a region free from military rivalries. The Indian Ocean Rim Initiative with which we have been associated since its inception, aims at bringing together countries with a shared objective. The first meeting of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation is slated to take place in Mauritius in March this year and we hope to discuss all issues of mutual concern, especially the potential for greater economic and commercial cooperation. At present, diversity makes it difficult to consider tackling military threats to security. However, a beginning has been made by instituting dialogue and consultation, and this will give greater content to relations among the India Rim countries.
In this period of significant change, where we are trying to transform the politico-economic face of our region, the concept of security has to be viewed afresh. Security can no longer be visualised in narrow military terms. Today, it calls for interdependence among all countries in the world, to tackle non-conventional and non-military threats arising out of international terrorism, narcotics, ethnic conflicts, fundamentalism, environmental pollution, natural disasters, etc. all of which impinge upon the overall security of nations. A redefinition of old concepts requires new thinking and fresh approaches, if we are to successfully deal with the challanges posed by an uncertain future. More so, there is a growing realisation that what is needed is a collective approach, based upon cooperation rather than competition and confrontation.
Nowhere is this more valid than in the area of nuclear disarmament. We are told that the US and the Russian Federation no longer target their missiles at each other. Yet, there is a reluctance to accept the notion that elimination of nuclear weapons is the only practical and lasting way to deal with the scourge of nuclear proliferation, as well as to enhance global security. The acceptance of the philosophy of interdependence and collective security has been successful in dealing with biological weapons, and we see no reason why it cannot be used to rid the world of the nuclear shadow.
Last year, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) was concluded after tow and a half years of intensive negotiations. It is a source of great disappointment to us that India, which had made the first call for ending nuclear testing in 1954, was unable to subscribe to the treaty because of its fundamental shortcomings. The CTBT, as it has emerged, is no longer linked to the process of nuclear disarmament. Further, it only prohibits nuclear explosion testing and therefore, cannot be described as a comprehensive treaty that would ban all kinds of nuclear testing whether based on explosions or other techniques.
We are not simplistic enough to call for nuclear disarmament to be achieved overnight. Yet, we are also realistic enough to believe that the end of the Cold War offers us a unique opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to the goal of a nuclear weapon-free world. This commitment should be translated by commencing negotiations on a Nuclear Weapons Convention that would prohibit the development, deployment, production, stockpiling and transfer of nuclear weapons as also provide for their elimination within an agreed time frame. It is heartening to note that there is a growing interest in discussing these issues, particularly, the technical aspects relating to verification. These deliberations, presently being undertaken by non-governmental organisations, are welcome.
Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) are another important aspect of international security and need to be strengthened in order to reduce mistrust and allay apprehensions. These measures can take different forms. To begin with, political declarations are important but in the long run, these are not enough. Means of communication and dialogue have to be established in order to substantiate the political declarations. This implies a degree of transparency. Participation in global efforts like the UN Arms Register and regional initiatives about military information sharing, cooperation in region specific issues such as maritime security are potential areas for consideration. Once the channels of communication are established and confidence has been built up, discussions on regional defence issues become feasible.
The process that I have identified are not new. We have seen that confidence building measures have been introduced and practised in Europe during the last two decades. However, there is one fundamental difference. In the post-Cold War world, these confidence building measures have to be negotiated not among two alliances but among sovereign nations in a cooperative spirit. Every country will being its own legitimate concerns to the negotiating table which will need to be addressed adequately. Unlike during the Cold War when such measures were seen in a bipolar context, today, confidence building has to be seen as an exercise in creating a pluralistic security order.
You would no doubt be aware that India has done a lot of work on instituting CBMs with both Pakistan and China. In fact, this was carried significantly forward in the case of China when their President visited us recently. I am sure that we can do more to build on the current achievements.
Such developments at a regional level do not diminish the emphasis on globalism which has been a cornerstone of India’s foreign policy. It serves to complement the global approach in a manner that has become feasible with the end of the Cold War. Security concerns or threats have not disappeared. But today, we have more instruments and institutions available to us in order to deal with these concerns in a manner consistent with the traditional principles of Indian foreign policy. Perhaps it is easier for India to engage in such a dialogue with its various interlocutors compared to some other countries which have been members of military alliances during the Cold War. For them, a post-Cold War period requires major shifts in thinking. For us, it reflects a new opportunity and continuity.
I am confident that the dialogue which will take place in the next two days between USI and the Royal United Services Institute of UK will contribute to greater understanding and further our efforts in creating a pluralistic security order.
[United Service Institution of India, 23rd January 1997]
|Essential Tenets||Bilateral Dialogue||Regional Cooperation||Contemporary Challenges|
Mr. Inder Kr. Gujral
Mrs. Shiela Gujral
Excerpts from the book "A Foreign Policy for India"