Ladies and Gentlemen
I am happy to be here for the 5th edition of our foreign policy dialogue with the International Institute for Strategic Studies. I have been to this Institute many times in my past avatar as DHC in London and I am happy to see that Asia remains a key priority
of your focus, and that IISS continues to influence international discourse on strategic issues, relating to the rise of Asia.
Today’s one day dialogue will consider three subjects: Afghanistan and its neighbourhood towards 2015 and beyond; emerging Arab developments and implications; and India UK Strategic Relations – Can they be built further? The first two are themes in every discussion
of broader trends in the globle. They are subjects of vital importance to us as they take place in our vicinity if not immediate neighbourhood. The third is also of special relevance to our outlook and our ability to handle the changes taking place at the
Before touching on these I must re-emphasize that India’s approach to planning and articulating its foreign policy remains what it has been; for us foreign policy is an enabler in the transformation of India. India is increasingly plugged in to a globalized
world and events worldwide will affect our future. We need a peaceful periphery; and a global environment which fosters constructive dialogue and cooperation around the world. In areas of tension we support the development of suitable architecture for discussion
and the maintenance of stability. We are aware that almost half our GDP is linked to foreign trade; up from about 20% in the 1990s; foreign investment and technology continue to be significant inputs for our growth. We are a country poorly endowed with natural
resources relative to our share of the world’s population and depend on energy and critical raw materials from abroad. Global communications, models and best practices influence the thinking of our people. How the world grows and develops and how our foreign
policy navigates the shoals ahead and finds the appropriate channels for safe and rapid travel is therefore a matter of vital importance for India.
Since we began our foreign policy dialogue in 2007, the world has come through a major financial crisis which almost turned into an economic crisis. Measures taken through the institutional structure of the G-20, by regional groupings, and by individual countries
have helped us stave off anything like the Great Depression of the 30s. But we continue to function in a difficult environment for growth with uncertainty in markets, worries about the Euro zone, and the overhang of fiscal difficulties in the US. Dealing with
slow down in major economies at a time when there is increasing pre-occupation with domestic policies and priorities has made the task harder. Policy attention continues to focus on national level analyses, even though the processes of globalization and economic
inter-dependence have been pushing in another direction. These processes are also bringing new subjects into the context of foreign policy management. As our Prime Minister remarked in a recent address to Indian Ambassadors
"There are also challenges thrown up by globalization, which has led to entirely new paradigms and discourses on issues ranging from the environment and sustainable development to international terrorism, piracy and crime. Two decades ago, the internet was
regarded as a great enabler. Today, cyberspace is one of the most worrisome sources of threats to our national security.”
We have also seen an increasing polarization over developments in various parts of the world and new elements of discord in a number of sensitive spots around the world. Some of these are in what might be described as our extended neighbourhood – in the Gulf
and in South East Asia. These weigh on us and we have sought to use our influence to support dialogue and reconciliation and negotiations for practical outcomes which meet the concerns of all parties. Actual progress has been slow and fitful. It is therefore
against a somewhat somber background that I will take up the issues before us and which are also at the head of the international agenda.
Afghanistan and its neighbourhood - 2015 and beyond:
Afghanistan is passing through a critical phase as it transitions towards greater responsibility for its own security and governance and as NATO/ISAF forces move from a combat-role to an advise, train and assist role. Success or failure of this transition process
will impact security and stability for many years to come, not just in Afghanistan but also in Afghanistan's immediate neighborhood - particularly in Central Asia and South Asia. For many of us who are Afghanistan's immediate neighbors, we have neither the
luxury of a 'withdrawal' or a 'draw down' from the situation that prevails in that country today.
Against the backdrop of this ongoing transition taking place in Afghanistan, the continued support of the international community for Afghanistan remains vital. We have all announced our 'commitments' of support - at international fora like the Bonn and Tokyo
conferences. and at various quadrilateral, trilateral and bilateral forums that we have been participating in. What is now essential is that we make good on these commitments - that actual technical and financial assistance begins to arrive on the ground in
Afghanistan. We need to move from rhetoric to actual implementation.
For far too long, the tragedy in Afghanistan has been that the international community sees the country as a zone of conflict, competition, or to develop some notion of "strategic depth". These zero-sum games, that have historically bedeviled the situation
in Afghanistan, must come to an end. India's vision is of an Afghanistan that will develop and leverage its resources for a better future; which will play the role of a transport and trading hub linking Central Asia with South Asia and beyond, and through
which will flow trade, investment, energy and people bringing benefits not just to the people of Afghanistan but also to the wider region. This was the idea underlying the Delhi Investment Conference on Afghanistan held in June this year. This is also the
idea underlying most of India's aid programs in Afghanistan that focus on infrastructure and capacity building projects.
The continuing threat of terrorism, the safe havens across the border and the menacing narcotics trade remain the most immediate challenges facing Afghanistan. The role of Afghanistan's neighbors in combating these pernicious evils assumes great importance.
In a number of conferences, but particularly in Istanbul, Bonn and Tokyo, the international community has reaffirmed its commitment to stay the course in Afghanistan and continue its support for the Afghan Government’s stabilization and developmental efforts.
In Chicago in May 2012, the NATO also underlined that in the post 2014 era, Afghanistan would not be left without support.
Peace and stability within Afghanistan affects our entire region and we all have a stake in the success of the Afghan Government and its partners in ISAF. We believe that reintegration must be based on the approach endorsed by the international community in
the international conclaves, which I referred to, namely, that the political process in Afghanistan should be Afghan led, and red lines must be adhered to. We must preserve the gains of the last 10 years. We have to take forward the training and equipping
of the Afghan National Security Forces. Of course, Afghanistan will need to take further steps to reassure its partners about safety and proper management of the security training programme. We are cognizant of the serious stresses caused by the attacks on
foreign security personnel.
India’s assistance programme is now estimated to involve a commitment of US$ 2 billion. It includes a number of large projects like the new Parliament building, Salma Dam etc. There are also medium-sized projects and many programmes of assistance for HRD which
are spread out throughout the country and where we will continue to provide assistance through our Embassy in Kabul and the Consulates in the provinces. Our assistance programme is aimed at development partnership with the strategic objective of helping Afghanistan
emerge as a self-reliant nation, and one which can play its part in the SAARC region and as a link between Central Asia and South Asia. This is why it is formalized in a Strategic Partnership Agreement.
We took the initiative to organize the Delhi Investment Summit for Afghanistan in June 2012 to underline that Afghanistan represents an opportunity for the entire region, and for international partners in the period 2015 and beyond. Afghanistan’s mineral resources
and its potential for hydrocarbons could be a game changer in the way we all look at the prospects of collaboration rather than competition in that country. The work done to take forward the TAPI pipeline provide an opening for all of us in the region to take
a re-look at the scope for intensified regional cooperation. This can be done under any name – whether the New Silk Route or simply Central Asia - South Asia cooperation.
If the vision of an inter-connected region investing in prosperity rather than in futile "Great Games”, is to become a reality, Afghanistan’s neighbours have to be stakeholders. We ourselves are committed to supporting an architecture of regional cooperation,
and to engage on an Afghan policy founded on equal cooperation with all its partners. During academic dialogues there have been references to a policy of positive non-alignment which could provide a support for the kind of framework we have in mind.
Emerging Arab developments and implications
The Arab Spring is historically unprecedented and has already brought in phenomenal changes and has altered the character of regional politics. While some countries have experienced the' Spring' and are in the phase of transition (such as Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen
and Libya,) others such as Syria are experiencing a winter of discord. We are engaging with the new leadership in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt and have conveyed our readiness to enhance our cooperation.
This region, which is part of India's extended neighbourhood, is of vital and strategic importance to us. The wider region is home to more than 6 million Indians, many of whom have been there for generations and contribute more than US$35 billion in remittances.
Our economic and commercial engagement with this region is more than US$150 billion a year. It is a source of more than 65 per cent of our oil and gas requirement and hence critical for our energy security. The region is also a major source of phosphatic and
other fertilizers and hence a significant factor in our food security. Continued peace and stability in the region is therefore of immense interest to India.
Our policy on the Arab Spring and towards countries in the WANA and Gulf regions and our posture in the Security Council have been guided by our long standing ties with the region and our desire not to interfere in the internal affairs of States and being non-prescriptive.
We have, however, called for restraint in the use of coercive measures against people who should be permitted to freely articulate their aspirations. We believe that societies cannot be re-ordered from outside through military force and that people in all
countries have the right to choose their own destiny and decide their own future.
India has, as I said, welcomed democratic transitions in the Arab world and has been willing to share its experience in areas such as electoral management and practice. We are also of the view that sustainable change must take account of diversity and the quest
for freedom, for equality, and identity. An inclusive approach is essential for dealing with the realities of multi-cultural societies and regional specificities. It should also be clear that democracy is for the long term; that change is the only constant
in politics as in other walks of life. Constitutional structures and political practices should therefore take account of the possibility of change; of rulers finding themselves in opposition and vice-versa.
In the last few months, the situation in Syria has required particular salience in international politics. In 2011, India Brazil and South Africa engaged with the Syrian authorities in dialogue on reform and political progress. Regrettably, the situation today
has become fraught, and one in which guns rather than political parties are doing the talking. The continued stalemate must give way to a Syrian led political process to bring about democratic change. The UN Security Council and General Assembly both dealt
with the crises in Syria on a number of occasions during the last few months. We have supported every effort of the United Nations to play a mediating role and to operate a credible monitoring mission. Support for these instrumentalities has been the basis
for our voting. We have been supportive of regional initiatives to calm the situation and provide good offices for advancing internal dialogue in Syria.
India UK Strategic Relations
India and UK are strategic partners since 2004. We greatly value our relations with UK and seek to strengthen and deepen our partnership in all areas. India-UK Strategic Dialogue helps to strengthen our strategic partnership and will have its next round next
week. It will examine various areas of strategic importance to both countries, including counter terrorism, cyber security, defence cooperation, nuclear disarmament, as also issues of regional and global nature. In a globalized and fast changing world, cooperation
in such areas between like-minded countries is of crucial importance. There is mutual interest in strengthening our relationship in these areas and a number of mechanisms have been put in place for taking our strategic relationship forward.
In the world after 9/11 in New York, after July 2005 in London, and after 26/11 in Mumbai, there is greater awareness of the international contours of terrorism. Considerable work is being done on counter terrorism through the Joint Working Group on CT which
was set up in 2000. Much more can be done by our two countries, for instance, by establishing mechanisms for exchange of actionable intelligence in real time.
Cyber security has emerged as a major challenge facing international community in the last few years. It requires close international cooperation to secure cyberspace, which is a borderless domain. India and UK both have a common interest in ensuring a secure
and resilient cyberspace as major players in this field. Both are members of the UN Group of Governmental Experts on International Information Security. There is an active ongoing dialogue between the National Security Councils of the two countries. We are
looking forward to starting a policy dialogue on bilateral cooperation in this field between the Foreign Offices in October this year. There are a large number of Indian IT companies based in UK, which is an additional dimension in our cooperation. India had
participated at Ministerial level in the London Conference on Cyberspace organized by the Government of UK last year, which reflects the importance we attach to this domain for multifaceted human development.
On issues of disarmament India’s record and credentials need to be underlined and we count on the continued support of UK in ensuring India's full membership of the four multilateral export control regimes. Such support would be consistent with our strategic
partnership wherein our robust bilateral relationship reinforces the commonalities in our position on issues of global interest and concern. These commonalities do create space for working together in some critical areas such as space, nuclear energy, and
high technology for defence, sectors in which our collaboration with some other partners has moved ahead in the past decade. I do believe that given the links between our technological institutions and scientific communities the scope for developing synergies
could evolve in the decades to come. UK remains an important defence partner for India and we should look at building more strategic collaboration in defence industry.
It would therefore be appropriate to conclude that our strategic relations can be built further. Going beyond the subjects usually classified as "strategic”, we can already see a very extensive broad based relationship. Our business and industry already have
established a basis of partnership on equal footing with prospects for growth. Along with our political dialogue, technological exchanges and defence collaborations, this provides us a platform for further strategic ties. There are of course obstacles in the
short term. The policies intended to curb illegal immigration into the UK have led to the perception that there could be collateral damage in the fields of education and people-to- people relationships. Building up understanding of each other’s priorities
necessary for forging new strategic links requires a regular and continuing dialogue, which requires travel facilitation.
It also needs to be said that in India’s approach we take due regard of the UK’s regional context and the state of its relations with other countries in this part of the world and do not find this limiting the scope for taking forwarde common interests.
There is a larger sense, however, in which our strategic relations could be made to grow. India is in many ways a part of the democratic world, an English speaking part of the world; we also share many of Europe’s civilizational values, a respect for scientific
attitudes, and an understanding of the importance of a secular approach to issues in the domain of politics. That is to say, we share much in common in our vision for the world of tomorrow. If in addition to our common interests, we can build on this vision,
Indo-UK strategic relations could have a beneficial impact well beyond our bilateral sphere.
October 4, 2012