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‘Present Dimensions of the Indian Foreign Policy’ - Address by Foreign Secretary Mr. Shyam Saran at Shanghai Institute of International Studies, Shanghai

January 11, 2006

President of the Shanghai Institute of International Studies, Prof. Yu Xintian, distinguished scholars, ladies and gentlemen,

I am thankful to Prof. Yu and the Institute for this opportunity to share some thoughts with you on the subject of India’s Foreign Policy. The SIIS is one of the leading think tanks in China. It commands respect among China’s leadership. It has won recognition among scholars of international relations. In India, we value the growing exchanges with you.

As I speak to you, I must also congratulate you as residents of this remarkable city. I am not new to China and feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to see many parts of this great country. Shanghai’s energy to excel and determination to rejuvenate itself throughout history has always been impressive. Its extraordinary transformation into a world-class metropolis is a reflection of its pioneering role in China’s global integration. In many ways, it manifests China’s own amazing accomplishments in achieving economic development and her emergence as a global political and economic power.

The end of the Cold War, the accelerating process of globalization and the emergence of transnational challenges have become the defining features of contemporary international relations. India’s foreign policy has had to adapt to this rapidly changing international environment.

Our foreign policy has also had to contend with remarkable changes within India itself. For more than a decade and a half, India has been engaged in a thoroughgoing reform and liberalization of its economy. Its engagement with the rest of the world has increased dramatically. It has become more than ever important to ensure for India a peaceful and supportive international environment, an environment which contributes to our developmental goals.

While meeting these challenges, India has maintained a remarkable continuity in the fundamental tenets of its policy. The core of this continuity is to ensure autonomy in our decision making. It is to ensure independence of thought and action. This was and remains the essence of our adherence to the principle of Non-Alignment. It is also the basis of our commitment to the Panchsheel, or the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence, which India and China jointly advocated in the early 1950s, and still believe to be relevant in contemporary international relations.

There are other key elements of continuity as well. These include maintenance of friendly relations with all countries, resolution of conflicts through peaceful means and equity in the conduct of international relations. These basic principles are reflected in the Common Minimum Programme of the ruling UPA Government. There is a solemn commitment to pursue an independent foreign policy, promote multi-polarity in world relations and oppose unilateralism.

Ladies and gentlemen, in pursuing her national interests and in seeking an appropriate role in the global political and economic order, India has consciously promoted multipolarity in international relations. The corollary to this approach is to strengthen multilateral institutions and mechanisms. We believe that such an approach is indispensable in addressing global challenges, such as terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, pandemics like HIV/AIDS or avian flu, and drug-trafficking. Such an approach is also helpful in pooling together the scientific and technical achievements and collective wisdom of peoples around the world in overcoming the scourge of poverty, disease and the environmental degradation of our planet. No one country or even a group of countries, however rich and powerful, can hope to tackle these challenges on their own.

This brings me to the need to evolve a new paradigm of cooperation relevant to the emerging multi-polar world in which global threats demand global responses. India has actively pursued the strengthening of multilateral institutions, in particular the United Nations. We are committed to the comprehensive reform of the United Nations, including its Security Council, so that the concerns and aspirations of the majority of the UN membership are adequately reflected and multilateralism becomes an effective tool for addressing global challenges.

It is obvious that in any reform of the United Nations, the restructuring of its Security Council must be a priority. India believes that the Security Council must, in its composition, reflect the contemporary geo-political realities and not those of 1945. Its actions must be representative, legitimate and effective and its methods of work and decision-making processes more democratic, transparent and responsive. We believe that India, with its large population, dynamic economy, long history of contribution to international peacekeeping and other regional and international causes, deserves to be a permanent member of the UN Security Council. At the same time, we also realize that there is resistance to change among several powerful countries. However, this is the first time in many years that a certain momentum has been built up for a comprehensive reform of the UN, which should not be allowed to wither away. Here, I would wish to articulate our expectation that China will respond positively to our quest for Permanent Membership of the UN Security Council, consistent with our strategic partnership.

A basic tenet of India’s foreign policy since Independence has been the pursuit of global nuclear disarmament. We believe that general and complete disarmament, including nuclear disarmament must remain on the international agenda. It must be a key objective of the United Nations. India’s status as a Nuclear Weapon State does not diminish its commitment to the objective of a nuclear weapon free world. Aspiring for a non-violent world order, through global, verifiable and non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament continues to be an important plank of our nuclear policy, which is characterized by restraint, responsibility, transparency, predictability and a defensive orientation. As a responsible nuclear power with impeccable credentials on non-proliferation, we have earned increasing international recognition as a partner against proliferation. We hope to work more closely with our Chinese friends on this front, too.

Ladies and gentlemen, although the subject today deals with India’s Foreign Policy as a whole, I would like to focus particularly on Asia, where the interests of both India and China intersect. It is said that the logic of geography is unrelenting. Proximity is the most difficult and testing among diplomatic challenges a country faces. We have, therefore, committed ourselves to giving the highest priority to closer political, economic and other ties with our neighbours in South Asia. We have a vision of South Asia, unshackled from historical divisions and bound together in collective pursuit of peace and prosperity. We remain convinced that, on the foundations of its ancient civilisational and commercial interlinkages, South Asia can work together to emerge as a major powerhouse of economic creativity and enterprise. For that to happen, it is essential that we unlock the potential of South Asia by dismantling the existing barriers that restrict the movement of people, goods and investment within and across the region. It is with this perspective that we have extended our hand of friendship and co-operation to all our neighbours and proactively addressed whatever differences we may have, including with Pakistan. We look at the SAARC process as a stimulus to strengthen cross-border economic linkages, through initiatives such as South Asian Free Trade Agreement, by drawing upon the complementarities among different parts of our region. We are encouraged by a growing perception among our neighbours in South Asia that a prosperous and economically vibrant India is an asset and opportunity for them. We encourage them to take advantage of India’s strengths and reap both economic and political benefits as a result, since it is our belief that India’s national security interests are better served if our neighbours evolve as viable states with moderate and stable political and social environment and robust economies.

We regard the concept of neighborhood as one of widening concentric circles, around a central axis of historical and cultural commonalties. In this, we see India’s destiny interlinked with that of Asia. From this point of view, developing relations with Asian countries is one of our priorities, while pursuing a cooperative architecture of pan-Asian regionalism is a key area of focus of our foreign policy. Geography imparts a unique position to India in the geo-politics of the Asian continent, with our footprint reaching well beyond South Asia and our interests straddling across different sub-categories of Asia – be it East Asia, West Asia, Central Asia, South Asia or South East Asia. To those who harbour any skepticism about this fact, it would suffice to remind that we share one of the longest land borders in the world with China, that Central Asia verges on our northern frontiers, that we have land and maritime borders with three South East Asian countries, that our Andaman and Nicobar Islands are just over a hundred kilometres from Indonesia, and that our exclusive economic zone spans waters from the Persian Gulf to the Straits of Malacca. It is this geopolitical reality and our conviction that enhanced regional cooperation is mutually advantageous, which sustain our enthusiasm to participate in endeavours for regional integration, ranging from South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation to East Asia Summit and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

We believe that in our march towards economic progress, Asia in general and East Asia in particular, has been a natural partner. A common thread joins us. We stand to share the opportunities thrown open by the region’s increasing economic integration, just as we face the common threats of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, energy shortage, piracy and others. The Tsunami disaster has also brought home the point, in a tragic way, of how much we share our destiny in the region.

It was in this context that more than a decade ago, we launched the "Look East” policy, which is now a vital part of India’s foreign policy. More than an external economic policy or a political slogan, the "Look East” policy was a strategic shift in India’s vision of the world and her place in the evolving global economy. It was also a manifestation of our belief that developments in East Asia are of direct consequence to India’s security and development. We are therefore actively engaged in creating a bond of friendship and cooperation with East Asia that has a strong economic foundation and a cooperative paradigm of positive inter-connectedness of security interests.

Ladies and gentlemen, our relationship with China is a key component of our "Look East” policy. There is a strong consensus in India on improving and developing our relations with China. Together with China, we have taken a number of positive measures to improve the quality of our relations across a wide range of areas, without allowing the existing differences to affect the overall development of our ties. Despite our differences on the boundary issue, peace and tranquility has been maintained in the India-China border areas, which is by no means a minor achievement. We have an active defence exchange programme and an elaborate matrix of confidence building measures that have helped promote greater trust between our two armed forces. We have a range of dialogue mechanisms through which we are increasingly able to understand and appreciate each other’s point of view and address outstanding issues.

There are many who look at India-China relations with the old mindset of "balance of power” or "conflict of interests” and see Asia as a theatre of competition between these two countries. Such theories are outdated in today’s fast-emerging dynamics of Asia's quest for peace and prosperity and its interconnectedness. So are perceptions in some quarters that India and China seek to contain each other. To the protagonists of such theories, I would only like to say that India and China, as two continental-size economies and political entities, are too big to contain each other or be contained by any other country.

Today India and China are engaged in a positive way to expand their commonalities with extensive dealings in bilateral, regional and multilateral forums. Indeed, the determination of our two countries to qualitatively elevate our ties by establishing a "strategic and cooperative partnership for peace and prosperity” reflects our shared conviction that India-China relations have now acquired a long-term, global and strategic character and hence, must be treated as such. Our rapidly growing trade and economic ties are a testimony that we are not just passively bound by our common neighbourhood, but are constantly interacting through a positive and meaningful agenda of collaboration. That from a meager few hundred million dollars in the beginning of nineteen-nineties, our trade was expected to surpass US$18 billion last year should only underline the enormous potential for mutual reward that lies in store if our two countries cooperate. We are determined to take this process further ahead.

The simultaneous emergence of India and China as Asian and global powers in fact makes it imperative for them to be sensitive to each other’s interests and aspirations. The prevailing global paradigm of cooperation among major powers also demands from the two countries that they work together to mutually support their rightful place in the comity of nations. We in India believe that there is enough space and opportunity in Asia and beyond for the two countries to grow.

With regard to the resolution of the boundary question, we are committed to carrying forward the process of exploring a political settlement through the mechanism of Special Representatives. We acknowledge the complexity of this longstanding issue but remain confident that a mutually acceptable solution can be reached if both sides show willingness to take bold and pragmatic decisions, accommodating each other’s vital interests. As we move forward through negotiations, it is important for us to look at the boundary question from the long-term and strategic perspective of India-China relations, rather than as a mere territorial issue. There is a historic opportunity in front of us to settle this outstanding issue that we should not miss.

Ladies and gentlemen, if we are looking at Asia in the coming years, there is no doubt about a major realignment of forces taking place in our continent. Besides the emergence of India and China as two economic powerhouses in this region, there is Japan, the second largest economy in the world, which will retain an influential role in Asia’s political and economic future, and with whom our relations are developing on the foundations of "global partnership” with a strong economic and strategic thrust. With ASEAN as well, our partnership is steadily expanding and deepening. We believe that the ASEAN holds the potential to become the fulcrum of economic integration in our region.

The future of Asia is in reality the sum of the success of each of these components and the strength of their inter-linkages. The key to ensuring long-term security and stable equilibrium in Asia lies in the collective ability of Asian countries to build mutual economic stakes in one another. It is with this conviction that we espouse a vision of an Asian Economic Community. It can be a neighbourhood of peace and shared prosperity in which people, goods, services and ideas can travel with ease across borders. It may perhaps take the form of a dynamic, open and inclusive Pan-Asian Free Trade Area that could offer a third pole of the global economy after the European Union and NAFTA and would, in all certainty, open up new growth avenues for our economies. This will not be easy, but India is willing to associate with other like-minded countries to make it happen. The recently concluded East Asia Summit has laid the foundations for a cooperative architecture in Asia on an unprecedented scale and we hope, will potentially launch the process towards the possible creation of an East Asian Community. We would be happy to work closely with China towards progressive realization of such an East Asian Community and eventually, a larger Asian Economic Community.

Much has been said in recent months about India’s relations with the United States. It is true that this relationship has acquired remarkable maturity and dynamism in recent years. A number of independent developments, some of which I have already noted, have created the climate for this transformation, including the end of the Cold War, India’s emergence as a dynamic economic force and an objective assessment of the strategic implications of a world dominated by knowledge-driven societies. During the visit of Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to the US in July last year, both sides agreed that India-US relations are moving beyond a bilateral partnership towards a global partnership, which is anchored not only on common values but also common interests. The visit served to highlight the strategic dimension of India’s relationship with the US and underlined our common interest in combating terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and enhancing global peace. There has been a convergence of views on strategic and security issues and on opportunities that exist for the India-US cooperation in defence, science and technology, health, trade, space, energy and environment. There is also a growing US recognition of India’s central and enhanced role in international institutions and processes. US’s economic and political stakes in the growth of the Indian economy and its integration with the global market have provided impetus to the India-US cooperation in a way that meaningfully addresses constraints on India’s growth, including the deficits of energy and infrastructure.

India has also embarked on strengthening her multi-faceted relationship with Russia, with whom her traditional strategic partnership has been renewed. Recent high-level visits, including that of President Putin to India and the visits of our President and Prime Minister to Moscow within the last a little over one year, have added great impetus to this process. We are also encouraged by the emerging contours of the trilateral cooperation between China, Russia and India.

We have also moved forward in rejuvenating our relations with the European Union through our new "strategic partnership”. There is a growing recognition of India as an indispensable partner within the EU. Indeed, the EU is as reflective as India is of a multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-cultural society. Our shared values and beliefs in democracy, human rights, pluralism, independent media, and rule of law make India and the EU natural partners as well as factors of stability in the present world order.

Ladies and gentlemen, India remains committed to pursuing an independent foreign policy that best serves her national interests and accords with her expected role in the emerging global political and economic order. This policy seeks to promote multipolarity in international relations and to strengthen forces of multilateralism that help protect the interests of the developing countries and reinforce geo-strategic stability in the region and the world at large. To this end, we have sought to build on our traditional links with Africa and to cultivate stronger bonds with the Latin American countries. We believe that as two largest developing countries, India and China can together lend greater voice to the aspirations of the developing world and help the developing countries harness the positive forces of economic globalization. We should continue to work towards shaping a coalition of the developing world.

Ladies and gentlemen, today India is on the cutting edge of economic, technological and developmental transformation of significant dimensions. She is regarded as a factor of stability, a model of secularism and plurality and as an economic power that is destined to play a greater role in international affairs. In keeping with this changing image of India, we have adopted a foreign policy, which has a clear focus, a sense of maturity and responsibility, and a vision to make India strong and prosperous in the 21st century. As we do so, we remain steadfast to the core ideals of India’s foreign policy, which were laid down by our first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and which have guided us since our Independence. At the same time, we also remain vigilant to the new demands and compulsions imposed upon us by a rapidly transforming world around us. We are confident of our capacity and capability as a nation to respond successfully to these newly emerging challenges and opportunities. We also remain confident that India would continue its journey towards a destiny that was eloquently articulated by Pandit Nehru in 1947, a destiny in which India "attains her rightful place in the world and makes her full and willing contribution to the promotion of world peace and welfare of mankind”.

Thank you.

Question and Answer Session following the Speech

Prof. Yang Jiemian, Vice President of SIIS: Thank you very much Secretary Saran, for your very all round and very stimulating, very thought provoking speech. And now, the floor is open. And please give me a signal so you can be called upon. Before you are asking questions, please keep in mind, keep your comments or questions as short and terse as possible. Now the floor is open.

Prof. Zhang Duijing, European Department, SIIS. My question is you have just had the second China-India Strategic Dialogue with your Chinese counterpart in Beijing and I would like to ask you what is your comment on the outcome of the dialogue. Do you think the dialogue has been institutionalized? And also what role this dialogue can play in our bilateral relations? We, China and India, also have now Special Representatives’ talks on the boundary issue. Putting all of them together, what do you perceive are the prospects of our bilateral relations in the years to come? Thank you.

Foreign Secretary: Thank you very much. The Strategic Dialogue between India and China already is institutionalized. It is to take place on an annual basis. And as you may be aware, the first round of the Strategic Dialogue took place in New Delhi last year, also in January, and this time, in Beijing, was the second round of this dialogue. It has been agreed between our two countries that it has to be an annual feature in terms of our interaction. Now as far as the outcome of the dialogue is concerned, this particular round was very important because it is the first round to take place after India and China declared their intention to establish a strategic and cooperative partnership for peace and prosperity. As you know, this declaration was adopted during the visit of Premier Wen Jiabao to India in April 2005. So one important objective of this dialogue was to explore between our two countries what would be the nature of the strategic partnership between our two countries, what would be the content of that strategic partnership. India and China are the two largest developing countries in the world, the two countries which are developing the fastest, as also two of the most important countries in Asia. Therefore, in that context, we agreed that our strategic partnership takes on a special character because of these reasons. We have agreed that as two of the most important developing countries, there are a number of global issues which cannot be resolved unless India and China participate. For example, if you are talking about environmental degradation, if you are talking about how to tackle global pandemics, like HIV/AIDS, or avian flu, if you are talking about aspects such as non-proliferation, all these are areas where unless India and China, as the two largest developing countries, are also part of the dialogue it is very difficult to see how these problems can be resolved.

Therefore, it was agreed that India and China, should work together in contributing to the solutions of some of the major global challenges of our times. The other aspect that we discussed was the role that India and China can play together in safeguarding, and not only safeguarding, but also in promoting the interests of developing countries as a whole, because developing countries look to India and China as, in a sense, champions of their cause. So if India and China can join hands together perhaps they can do a much better job of safeguarding the interests of developing countries as a whole. For example, this is already happening within the World Trade Organisation - on many trade issues, we have already worked together. So we agreed that we should intensify this. Similarly, if we are talking about India and China being Asian countries, then there is a certain contribution that we can together make to the peace and prosperity of Asia. And in this context, what I said in my speech to you that neither country looks upon the other as a competitor or as a rival. We believe that there is enough space in Asia and the world for both the emergence of India as well as the emergence of China. And that we can together contribute to the further development of Asia. In that context, we agreed that we should work together, for example, in the creation of an East Asian economic community, and perhaps even a larger Asian community. So, as you can see, there is a very rich agenda, as far as our strategic partnership is concerned. This will be what will occupy us in the next several years. You asked what would be the outlook for India-China relations. It is in this context, that we say that India-China relations have acquired a certain maturity and a certain long term character. Thank you.

Prof. Shen Ding Li, Professor in Fudan University & Vice Chairman of China Association of South Asian Studies: I couldn’t agree more on your points. In particular, India and China are working together to build the Asian community. I dream to have an Asian Union in this century for the next 95 years to work out and our two countries deserve to be the co-leader. Then my question is, a strategic partnership is a concept. Unless we could fill the vacuum to substantiate the concept, it would remain a concept and not a substantive cooperation. The strategic cooperation is in working with India on India’s quest for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council. This should define the watershed of the strategic partnership, in my view. My question is do you urge or hope that China would meet India’s expectations to respond positively. The question is has India been satisfied with the current Chinese response? How India would encourage China to respond more positively, to be a true strategic partner? Thank you.

Foreign Secretary: Well, let me begin by saying that both India and China have agreed that United Nations needs comprehensive reforms. There is no difference of opinion on that. Both India and China also agree that there is what we call a democracy deficit in the United Nations. Particularly, as far as the representation of developing countries is concerned. As far as India’s own candidature for the UN Security Council is concerned, I think we are satisfied with the statement made by Premier Wen Jiabao when he was in India, where he assured in a Press Conference that China will never be an obstacle to India becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Now, we greatly value China’s statement of support. But this is a complicated exercise. And it is something which will require a considerable amount of hard work on our part. We are engaged in that very hard work. And we believe that we have currently the support of the majority of the countries of the United Nations. What we are looking at is how do we bring about a mechanism through which the expansion of the Security Council takes place. Our preferred mechanism is that of the G-4 framework resolution. China does not agree with that because perhaps China has some reservations about some of the candidates for permanent membership. Well, that is something that we will have to discuss further and work out. But as far as support for India’s candidature is concerned, I think it would be fair to say that China has displayed a positive attitude.

Prof. Xiao Yiqun, SIIS: Your Excellency, India has been quite active in its diplomatic moves over the years, including its participation in Shanghai Cooperative Organisation as an observer and also a member of East Asia Summit, going much more beyond the sub-continent and Indian Ocean and showing a new aspect of India’s diplomacy. We appreciate very much India’s efforts to join regional integration but I think we hope to know much more about India’s policies, the substance of India’s policy. So just like Prime Minister Singh has described the role of India in Asia-Pacific region as balancing force when he was in Kuala Lumpur, could you please further elaborate to this point. What does he mean by this balance? What does India really want to balance or in what way and does that point to the economic area or what else? Thank you very much.

Foreign Secretary: I think, first of all, before you nurse any suspicions, let me say that India is not trying to balance China. (Laughter). I think what Prime Minister Singh was trying to say, and what we have been saying for some time, is that for India, we have an interest in seeing a more multi-polar world emerge. That is, if there are more centres of economic activity, if there are more centres of political influence, if the world order or the regional order becomes more diversified, we believe, the greater the chances of maintaining peace and stability. And therefore, if in the coming years, India, like China, can make a contribution towards the economic dynamism of Asia, if we can make any contribution towards the political stability of the continent, we believe that this would be a very positive role that India can play. I don’t think one should read anything beyond that in Prime Minister Singh’s statement.

Prof. Pan Guang, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SAAS) and Director, Institute of Eurasia Studies: Thank you Mr. Secretary for your presentation. My short question, as you know, your Minister of Energy arrived in Beijing, maybe today. I just want to ask you to make some introduction or comments on the energy cooperation between China and India and also the very sensitive project, gas project, from Iran to Pakistan to India. Thank you.

Foreign Secretary: Well, you know India and China are the two fastest growing economies. We are now not only important producers of energy, but we have become very large consumers of energy. And if the present trends continue, then it is quite possible that energy will become a constraint on our growth. Not only a constraint on the growth of India and China, but will have a global impact also. Because, energy resources today are finite, and therefore, if there is a very large demand push from India and China, it only stands to reason that prices of energy, globally, will go up. Therefore, I think, it is very important for India and China to be working together, both as producers of energy as well as consumers of energy. Now the good thing that has happened is that in some cases, India and China are already working together and collaborating together in developing some new resources in Africa, for example, and in other places in the world. And I think, this trend is only going to increase. But, it requires that our exploration companies and our oil companies must get to know each other better, they must learn to work with each other more closely, and what has been happening in the past two years is precisely that -that the range of contacts between our petroleum and our gas establishments has increased quite considerably. And it is in this context, that the visit of our Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas to China has acquired a certain importance.

But I will go beyond this and say that currently in India, we are looking at a whole range of energy issues. We are looking at how to develop, for example, nuclear energy as an alternative source of energy. We are looking at developing our hydropower resources. Thermal energy or coal based energy is probably going to remain the main source of energy for India for quite some time, because that is the most plentiful source of energy in India. I think, if I am not mistaken, the same is the case with China. But this has environmental dimensions. So we are very actively engaged in doing research, for example, in clean coal technologies. We have collaboration in this respect with some other countries like the United States of America, and with the European Union. We are also looking at certain non-traditional sources of energy. For example, there is a big movement in India for bio-fuels or plant-based fuels. So, if we want to really look at our energy requirements for the next ten-twenty years, then not only do we need to focus on finding new sources of oil and gas, but we need to also look at many other sources of energy. Now in this, I think, perhaps India and China are lagging a little behind. For example, India has an energy dialogue with United States covering the whole range of energy issues. We have an energy panel with the European Union, and we have again a whole range of issues being discussed. I think, we need something similar also between India and China. One good thing that has happened is that India and China will be also working together in the context of the ITER project, which is the fusion energy project, which has a great promise for the future. And in this respect, we are grateful to China for having supported our membership of the ITER project.

Prof. Dui Hang, SIIS: Mr. Secretary, we have heard your wonderful speech on Indian Foreign Policy and it is encouraging to see fast developing and fully confident India that has been rising rapidly. India’s foreign policy has been expanding. In this regard my question is, in what way you would like to describe the nature of India’s foreign policy? Is non-alignment still its fundamental characteristic or India keeps that as a part but has transformed guideline according to the rapid changing environment? How would you assess the status quo and prospects of Non-Aligned Movement in today’s world? Thank you.

Foreign Secretary: I would begin by clarifying that the Non-Aligned Movement is not the same thing as non-alignment policy. India’s adherence to the policy of non-alignment is something which continues, although unfortunately, the Non-Aligned Movement has lost a great deal of its strength over the last 15-20 years. Now for us, the essence of non-alignment was a policy of independence. That is, judging each case on its own merit, not being influenced by the viewpoint of any other, and in the last analysis, basing our actions on our own national interests. Now these are very fundamental issues and they are not likely to change over a period of time. Does this mean that policy of non-alignment is rigid? Certainly not. Because as the environment around us changes, we have to make adjustments in our policies. And India has made adjustments in her policies. But I think what is a remarkable feature of India’s foreign policy is that despite many of these changes, there is a certain continuity in the way we have interacted with the rest of the world. Those fundamental tenets have not changed. I was telling my friends in Beijing that today we are establishing a new strategic and cooperative partnership between India and China. I drew attention to the fact that when India and China jointly espoused the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence, it was in a sense like a strategic partnership between India and China in the 1950s. So, even at that time, there was a very strong recognition of the need for India and China to work together.

Prof. Hu Zhou, Ph.D. Researcher, Fudan University: It is my great honour to be here to listen to your wonderful speech. My question is concerned with the issue of energy. I read some news and articles about your Government’s consideration to build a gas pipeline starting from Iran passing through Pakistan and reaching New Delhi. But Iran now is considered a rogue State by the US Government. And the US Government hasn’t lifted the sanction against Iran yet. Are you satisfied with your Government’s plan to build such an energy pipeline? I was wondering if India builds such relationship with Iran, what sort of influence this might have on current Indo-US relations? This is my first question. Second is why your government is strengthening relations with US. Is the US planning to provide nuclear energy technology to your country but not provide such sort of technology to China? I think the strength of Indo-US relations is aimed at containing China. This is my question. Thank you.

Foreign Secretary: Well, the first part of your question first. I am sorry somebody had asked me about India-Iran-Pakistan pipeline, but I omitted to comment on that. As far as this pipeline project is concerned, we have said on a number of occasions that our decision to go ahead or not go ahead will be based on the economic viability of this project. If it is an economically viable project, given the energy requirements that India has, we see no reason why we should not go ahead with this project. As far as our relations with Iran are concerned, these relations are very important to India. We have a very long-standing historical and cultural relationship with Iran. This goes back many thousands of years. It is not of recent standing. Iran is one of most important sources of energy for India.

About 30% of our oil comes from Iran. Iran is also a country which is located in the very strategic Gulf area where today about 3.5 million Indian citizens are living and working. So anything which happens in the Gulf directly impacts on the welfare of these Indian citizens. Today Iran is also important to us as a transit country for Central Asia. Since we are not able to transit through Pakistan to Afghanistan or to Central Asia which is a natural route, it is through Iran that much of trade with Central Asia takes place. So, if you look at all these aspects, you will see that there is every reason for us to have very good relations with Iran. As far as the United States’ relationship with Iran is concerned, I think it not necessary for us to follow the compulsions or the view of the United States of America in every relationship that we have.

The other issue about the India-US relations. Well I think you should put this relationship in some perspective. If you look today, at say India-US trade, it is probably 1/10th of China-US trade. We have a very long way to go until we come even to your level. If you are talking about investment, US investment in China is several times more than the US investment in India and if you are looking at high-technology trade, despite the restrictions that you may be talking about, last year, if my figures are correct, India-US high-technology trade was just a little over a hundred-million dollars while it was nearly a billion dollars with regard to China. So for you to feel that somehow there is something very strange happening between India and the US, I don’t think that has any basis.

Prof. Chen Dongxiao, SIIS. Mr. Saran, I enjoyed your presentation very much. I particularly noticed that in your speech you mentioned that India has a vision of South Asia unshackled from historical divisions and bound together in collective pursuit of peace and prosperity. On one hand, as a Chinese scholar we have noticed that some improvement as well as a relaxing development in the regional situation on the sub-continent. But on the other, as we all know that the root cause for all those problems is very difficult to disappear overnight. And so, my question is, in this respect, can you share with us some of your views on the regional situation, say India-Pakistan relationship? What is your view of your interaction with Bangladesh, and what is your view on Nepal’s internal situation? Thank you.

Foreign Secretary: Well, you know, there has been certainly an improvement of relations between India and Pakistan over the past couple of years. If you compare the relationship that existed between India and Pakistan before January 2004 and today, there is a very remarkable change. Just in terms of the number of people who are traveling back and forth across the borders - today the Indian Mission in Islamabad issues something like 11,000 visas per month for Pakistanis traveling to India. Despite the fact that Pakistan has put many restrictions on trade with India, trade between India and Pakistan has been increasing. We have also increased our interactions over a number of other areas. You have seen that we have opened several new bus services across the border, and across the Line of Control.

On February 1, we will have a train link, new train link, between the two countries. So all in all, there is considerable amount of positive development taking place in the relationship. In 2004, President Musharraf made a commitment to our then Prime Minister that no part of the territory under the control of Pakistan would be used for any terrorist activity against India. Now, what has happened is that there have been some ups and downs in level of activity of terrorist groups or jehadi groups from Pakistan operating on the Indian side. But we cannot say that there has been a pattern of decline in this activity. And in the recent past, in fact there has been even an increase in such activity. Our plea to our Pakistani friends has been that our ability, as Indians, to carry forward this dialogue or to carry forward this peace process with Pakistan is dependant upon our ability to carry our people with us. Unless there is public opinion behind such a policy, we may not be able to carry forward this policy. Every time there is a terrorist incident in India, every time innocent women and children die, public opinion starts becoming negative. You might have read that sometime back in a very crowded market place in Delhi, there was bomb blast which killed about 50 people, ordinary shoppers, men, women and children. I would say to you that instead of 50 people, if 500 people had died, I think no government in India could carry forward the peace process. And those who have been implicated in these bomb blasts have their links with terrorist groups which are freely operating in Pakistan. So Pakistan has to make a choice. In today’s world, terrorism has no place.

With regard to Bangladesh, we are facing a similar problem, because there is a rise of religious extremism in Bangladesh. And you might have seen that some time ago these groups tried to display their strength by having bomb blasts in virtually all the districts, different districts of Bangladesh. Now this is where I think the policy that we have tried to adopt towards our neighbours is to convey that terrorism is not just a threat to India, but also a threat to stability of those countries as well. Secondly, we also have tried to convey the view that a prosperous India, an India which is growing can be a great asset to our neighbours. So they should look at India as an opportunity, not as a threat.

Prof. Ma Ying, SIIS: Your Excellency, I enjoyed your presentation which reminded me of the time we visited your country. You mentioned India’s relations with Asia in your speech. And we know that India has adopted a "Look East” policy since the early 1990s and has made much progress over the years, and is especially evident in India’s participation in many activities in South-East Asia and West Pacific. To my understanding, India’s first and foremost goal of this policy aims at economic engagement. In the meantime, I have also noticed that many Indian officials and officers constantly talk about India’s interest in security areas and the regime in this region. In fact, India sent its fleet to South-East Asia and South China Sea and very recently India invited some of the South-East Asian countries to an eight-country joint military exercise held in the Andaman Sea. My question is that, whether India has a security concern in this part of the world. What is the nature of India’s concern, if any? And also what is the real interest India has to defend in this region. Thank you very much.

Foreign Secretary: I think I mentioned in my address that if you look at the geographical location of India, it, in a sense straddles sea-routes both towards the east and towards the west. I also mentioned the fact that if you look at India’s exclusive economic zones, it covers both up to the Persian Gulf and to the Malacca Straits. I also pointed out that the last island in the Indian chain, the Andaman and Nicobar chain is only about 100 km from the first island of Indonesian chain. Now it should stand to reason, given such a large exclusive economic zone that we have certain very important assets in terms of off-shore oil assets, particularly, in the Arabian Sea. We are also currently making explorations in the eastern part, in the Bay of Bengal. If you look at the reliance on the trade routes both east and west, it is only natural that India would be developing a capability in order to be able to safeguard these assets and these routes. This should not be regarded as being directed against this or that country. Secondly, as far as these exercises are concerned, I think these are very friendly exercises, which enables us to have personal contacts with the security officials of a large number of our neighbouring countries. This way you avoid misunderstanding, you avoid any kind of misperception, because, you have that personal association.

You understand what precisely is the nature of the strategy that India is following. And let me also stress in this regard that we have found these exercises extremely useful in terms of developing a very cooperative kind of relationship. It is very good, for example, that we have also been having similar kind of exercises with China. Also as far as this particular part of the world is concerned, as you know in the South China Sea or in the southern part of the Bay of Bengal we have been facing a lot of problem of piracy. The phenomenon of piracy has become more and more difficult to deal with. Recently, we have signed an agreement with a number of Asia-Pacific countries, precisely in order to deal with… cooperatively deal with the problem of piracy. The other aspect is, of course, how to deal with the problem of natural disasters, like the Tsunami. Now I think the fact that India was able to use its naval capabilities in order to assist some of the countries in the region, like Sri Lanka and Maldives, is a positive thing. It should not be looked upon as a negative development. So, as far as India’s strategy is concerned, it is entirely defensive in nature and it is to really safeguard our own vital interests.

Prof. Ren Xiang: Mr. Secretary, my question is related to South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation. Now China has become an observer in SAARC. In what aspects do you think, China might be able to contribute to SAARC and in addition to China’s relations with individual South Asian States? And what role do you think China can play in the multilateral process if there is any in South Asia? Thank you.

Foreign Secretary: Well, we have welcomed China having become an observer with the SAARC and in fact there are a number of areas where China can contribute. The South Asian countries themselves have identified a number of areas. These areas relate to, for example, how to deal with the challenges of environment. We have a number of projects that we are doing in the health sector. We are doing projects in the agricultural sector. We are looking at how to improve the communication network throughout the region. So, there are a number of regional projects which are on the agenda and frankly, it is for China to select which particular area it would like to work together with the Association. Part of the problem that we are facing is that South Asian countries themselves do not have many collaborative projects. The Association has been in existence for the last 20 years and India has pointed out on a number of occasions that in these 20 years we have not done even one single collaborative project. So, there is also the reality that unless South Asian countries themselves decide to work together and come up with collaborative projects, the possibility of very close cooperation with countries outside the region may not be that big.

Prof. Jiang Qun, Department of American Studies, SIIS. Thank you Mr. Secretary. You just mentioned energy issue and India-US relations, but its not enough for me (laughs). So, my question is, US President will visit India soon and possibly this visit is seen as a historic one as far as the India-US relations are concerned. We have also noticed that Prime Minister Singh’s visit to Washington last July resulted in a civil nuclear deal and following that the US raised a request that India separate civil nuclear programme from military one. My question is, in your view, what is the real motive behind the US demand. And what worries US might have for implementing this deal?

Foreign Secretary: Perhaps you could tell me what your worries are. (Laughter). Since you said that you are not satisfied with what I said before. What is it that you were not satisfied with?

Prof. Jiang Qun: (Laughs) I am not an expert, so that is my question for you. (Laughter).

Foreign Secretary: Let me try and put India-US relations in some perspective. You see, over a very long period of time, since the 1950s itself, India refused to be in this or that camp. India said that it would follow a non-alignment policy. At that time, if you remember there was a very famous Secretary of State of United States, Dallas, who said "You know, there is no third way. You either have to be with us or you have to be against us”. Pandit Nehru at that time said, "Well, I do not wish to be a part of this or that alliance. I want to be independent.” Again over a period of time or because of certain international situations, India developed a very close relationship with the then Soviet Union. The Soviet Union contributed a great deal to India’s economic development over a certain period of time. In a sense, India developed a certain strategic relationship with the Soviet Union.

So, over a long period of time, although India was seen as a democracy, like the United States of America, but the United States had always a sense that we were somehow on the wrong side of the fence, not on the American side of the fence. So, despite the many other relations that have developed very closely between India and the US, particularly, people to people relations, or relations amongst our academic communities or relations between our civil societies; as far as the perception of the United States’ administration was concerned, India was not quite seen on the side of western democracy. Since the end of the Cold War, this particular perspective has changed. The United States is no longer looking at the world from the perspective of the Cold War, because the Cold War is over. And therefore, many of the commonalities which exist between India and the US have now come to the surface. I think the United States is seeing that India’s political system is very similar to the States. There is a very vibrant democracy in India. The United States is beginning to appreciate that at least since 1990 there has been a very major change in India’s economic policy. That Indian economy has become much more open. This openness of the Indian economy has created many opportunities for the United States as well. Another very important factor is the emergence of India as a knowledge power because of its IT industry. This more than anything else has perhaps changed the perspective of the United States in looking at India, because India is seen as a country which has a very strong knowledge base, which is very closely connected to the United States, because we also have, as you know, something like 2.5 million Indians who are in the United States and are very highly qualified professionals.

So there are a number of reasons why the US’ view about India has been changing. And let me be very frank, as far as India’s economic growth is concerned, as we move to a higher and higher level of development, our need for higher technology increases. As our economy matures, we will need more investment, we will need more sophisticated technology. And I think China will not disagree that the United States of America remains the premier source, one of the most important sources of high technology. So there is certain logic to the relationship that is emerging between India and the United States. But let me once again say that this should not be seen as a relationship which is developing at somebody else’s expense. As I pointed out earlier, your engagement with the United States of America in all these areas is far greater than that of India. We have a very long way to go to come to the level at which you are with United States. With regard to the civil nuclear energy cooperation agreement, the background to this really is what I had mentioned earlier, the energy challenge which India is facing. If India is to ensure that energy does not become a constraint on our growth, then we have to look for different alternative sources of energy. Now, why is nuclear energy important is because, over the years, India has built up a very complete, comprehensive infrastructure in nuclear industry. We have today, perhaps, one of the most sophisticated nuclear industries in the world. Much of this has been developed indigenously because we have faced a lot of sanctions over a long period of time. But if we are looking at the future, nuclear energy offers a very important source of energy for India’s developmental needs.

Now, the United States of America is saying that we accept that India requires new sources of energy and the policy that has been followed over the last, maybe more than thirty years, is a policy that has not really achieved whatever objectives it had. If the objective of those policies, since 1974 was to somehow or the other restrict India’s nuclear industry or to restrict India’s development in the scientific and technical field, it has not succeeded. So what is the point in having those kinds of policies. On the other hand, if India is going to have access to international cooperation in nuclear energy, the advantage for India is that it will have faster growth. The advantage for the rest of the world is that they would have a certain partnership, a certain stake in India’s development. That is the logic to the civil nuclear energy agreement. The civil nuclear energy agreement has not been concluded. There are many pitfalls before we get to that point. But we are certainly working on it.

Prof. Wang Dehua, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS), Institute of South Asia and Central Asia Studies: As I was coming here, Prof. Tan Chung told me that he is a friend of yours. He sent an email to me, asking me to convey his regards to you. He said that he is writing a book about ‘Himalayan gap and understanding’. My question to you is how to let the Chinese people and the Indian people know each other better and overcome all the gaps? I found that the Indian friends coined new words "Chindia” for China and India. What is your comment on it?

Foreign Secretary: Well, I could not agree more than that. You know, India and China need to get to know each other and particularly the younger generation needs to get to know each other. When Premier Wen Jiabao came to Delhi it was agreed that during this year, which is the India-China Friendship Year, we will have an exchange of youth between the two countries. We will be inviting a few hundred Chinese youths to come to India and vice versa. But the India-China Friendship Year also has a number of other events that are planned in the nature of exchange of cultural troupes, scholars, holding seminars and workshops, promoting scholarship on India in China, etc. So there are a number of activities that we are looking at in this Friendship Year. I think the only way that we can address this deficit in terms of information about each other is by encouraging as many exchanges as we can. And I think in that context, I am very thankful to Madame Yu here for having arranged this interaction. I hope I have been able to create a little more understanding than there has been before about India’s foreign policy. I am told that in 2004, the number of visas issued for visits from China to India was about 26,000 and in 2005 they reached 33,000. So this is a very encouraging trend and we would certainly like to take this forward.

Prof. Lu Gang, SIIS: The first informal meeting of the Foreign Ministers of China, India and Russia was held in Russian Far East last June leading to lots of reports and analysis of prospects of what is known as a new type of China-India-Russia relations. Some have gone very far as to describe the trilateral relations as a sort of a new alignment vis-à-vis unilateralism . My question is, what term would you like to use to describe the nature of the trilateral relations. In what factor do you think the three sides are likely to develop cooperation best? Should the three sides establish a long-term perspective for the future of trilateral relations? If so, what it would be?

Foreign Secretary: Well, I would be very reluctant to describe it as anything other than what it says, which is trilateral cooperation. I see no reason why we should try to read into it something more than it is. We certainly do not see a trilateral cooperation amongst the three countries as directed against any third country. And I think it is not in the interest of either India or China or for that matter Russia to try and suggest that is some kind of a counterbalance to some other country or a group of countries.

There are a number of areas where the three countries can work together and in fact, they have identified those areas. For example, we have identified energy as an extremely important area where the three countries need to cooperate together. We have drawn attention to the fact that despite the three countries enjoying very good political relations -- for example, today China and Russia enjoy very good political relations, Russia and India have all along, in fact, enjoyed very good political relations, and India-China relations have improved dramatically over the past few years -- if we look at the economic relationship between these three countries, it is very far away from the potential. So, currently what we are trying to do is to see how we can focus attention on developing our economic and trade relations. So, in March this year, at the end of March, we are planning the first trilateral business summit of the three countries in New Delhi, in order to bring in the business communities of the three countries closer together. Is there a possibility of our also cooperating on some international issues? I think that is open. For example, we would certainly be very happy to cooperate with our partners in China and Russia on issues like terrorism. That is a very important issue for us and I know that it is a very important issue for Russia. I think that it is also an issue for China. So, if that is an area where we would like to work together, I think the willingness would be there. If we wish to work together on issues such as improving the transport connectivity amongst the three countries, yes, I think there would be a lot we could do together. So, I think the agenda can be a very substantive agenda for cooperation amongst the three countries. But certainly, India would not like this to be seen as some kind of emerging alliance amongst three countries which is directed against somebody else.

Prof. Ye Qing, SIIS: In your speech you mentioned about the unique location of India in Asia and you talked about India’s external relations with South Asia, Japan etc., but what you had neglected is West Asia, I mean Middle East. I have noticed that new change has taken place in India’s Middle East policies. For example, Iran is quite frustrated after India turned against it in IAEA’s voting last year. Could you please give me some clue about the new re-orientation of India’s Middle East policy?

Foreign Secretary: Well, I am sorry that I neglected to touch upon India’s relations with the Gulf. But I think if I started covering every aspect of our relationship, I don’t think Madam Yu would be going home this evening. Certainly our relations with the Gulf are, in fact, of longer standing than perhaps, in a sense, our ‘Look East’ policy. I mean, there was a need for a ‘Look East’ policy but there has not been a need felt for a "Look West” policy, because that policy has always been there. I just mentioned to you that there are 3.5 million Indians who are living and working in the Gulf and that itself is a major aspect of our concern as far as this region is concerned. You may have also seen reports that in 2004 there were three Indian citizens who were taken hostages in Iraq. We spent about a month of very difficult negotiations in trying to get them out. So, there are very close interests with the Gulf and these interests are not only economic because the Gulf is the major source of our energy but also again very long-standing historical and cultural links with each one of these countries in the Gulf.

We attach a great deal of importance to our relationship and there have been some significant development taking place. For example, with the Gulf Cooperation Council, we have already established some kind of an economic framework. There is an economic and industrial cooperation group convened by the apex Chambers of Commerce, at which there is Ministerial level participation, which is to meet every two years. That has been very important. Very soon, we will be receiving in India the new Saudi King and this will be the first time after many years that such a visit is taking place and reflects greater engagement that India is having with the countries of this region. We have appointed a Special Envoy for West Asia, who has considerable amount of experience of this region and he has been paying a number of visits to the countries of the region and that has improved our engagements with these countries. We are using our strengths in the areas, for example, the IT in order to contribute to the economic development of some of the Gulf countries and that has been greatly appreciated. So, there has been an all round upgradation of our relations with virtually all the Gulf countries. And as far as Iran is concerned, whatever may have been Iran’s disappointment with regard to the vote in the IAEA, neither Iran nor India believes that this has in any way diminished the importance that both of us have attached to relations between the two countries.

Prof. Zhang, SASS: I noted in your address that you said India have sought to cultivate stronger bonds with Latin American countries. Would you like to tell us about some activities of India in Latin America and India’s Latin American policy?

Foreign Secretary: There has been a perception in India in the past couple of years that the Indian foreign policy has not paid much attention to our relationship with the Latin American countries. For many years, our relationship was mostly with very key South American countries like Brazil or Argentina, to some extent with Venezuela but as far as much of the rest of Latin America was concerned, we did not really have much of contact with them, partly because of the distance, partly because the communication between the two sides were not very easy. Now, that is what has been changing over the last couple of years. What has led to this is, well, partly economic. Because as India has become more and more of a global economy, as it is looking for trading opportunities, looking for investment opportunities in more and more areas, Latin America is now coming on the radar screen. So, this is more like a natural process that is taking place. The other very important aspect is energy and there for example, we are developing very close relations with Venezuela because Venezuela is a very important oil country.

And we are also looking for exploration possibilities in Southern America. We have also with respect to some of the smaller countries, a very large economic and technical cooperation programme. This technical and economic cooperation goes back to 1964, where we have been sharing our experience in development, in small scale industry, and now for example, in IT or in management which are the areas of strength of India. We have been sharing this with a number of developing countries but not so much with the developing countries in Latin America. Now, for example, in the last couple of years, we have started doing that. We are working together with some of the smaller Latin American countries for developing their IT parks and IT networks. This is emerging as a new area. We are receiving many more Latin American students as well as technical personnel. We are also cooperating with Latin American countries for political reasons as well. For example, for support for our Permanent Membership of the UN Security Council, we have to mobilize as much support as we can and Latin America is a very important constituency. We have been doing a lot of work there as well for that reason.

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