Mr. Deputy-Speaker, Sir, I thank you for giving me this opportunity to respond on the occasion of the Debate on the Demands for Grants of the Ministry of External Affairs.
Before entering into the substance, may I also associate myself with the concerns expressed, at the beginning of the intervention, by the hon. Member, our distinguished former Foreign Minister, particularly about the tragedy in Japan, where, I am sure, all of us in this House share his concerns and lament the terrible catastrophe unfolding in that country as well as his reference to the loss of life suffered by two of our distinguished Ambassadors Shri Arif Mohammad Khan in Rome and Shri Raminder Jassal in Turkey. I knew them well. They were contemporaries of mine in Delhi University. I remember debating extensively with Shri Jassal. This is a great loss to our nation, of two fine diplomats and public servants. So I do want to associate, I think on behalf of those on this side of the House, with the concerns that Shri Jaswant Singh expressed. They are our concerns as well.
I would now like to turn to the substance of the issue before us. If I may say so, it is not a un-reconstructed internationalist that I would like to address this matter but rather as a Member of Parliament from Tiruvananthapuram, my constituency; which despite being the Capital of Kerala is still two-thirds a rural constituency, and as a Member of Parliament, like everyone else in this House, facing the domestic realities of our country. If I may say so, when Shri Jaswant Singh speaks of the conceptual challenges facing the Ministry, I think, the first conceptual challenge that we might all need to address is the answer to the very simple question: Why do we have a foreign policy?
(Shri P.C. Chacko in the Chair) Clearly, it is there to promote the security and well-being of the Indian people. But, in most specific terms, we must have a policy that facilitates the domestic transformation of India at tts extraordinary time when we are attempting our development in this globalised and inter-dependent world. We are facing the extra-ordinary challenge of pulling our people out of poverty and growing our economy, growing India to be the kind of the country that I think all of us in this House would wish to see. We must do this through our engagement with the world. We clearly need our Government, our leaders, to create a global environment that is supportive of our domestic needs. This is why, it seems to me that we have had a long-standing concern in the Ministry of External Affairs with the strategic autonomy of the Government of Indi, the right to make its own decisions. When world leaders say: “Are you with us or against us”, we simply tell them “Yes. We are with you when we agree with you, we are against you when we disagree with you.” That strategic autonomy is fundamental to our conduct of world affairs because we are interested principally in what benefits us and our own people.
Our relations with the major powers must reflect this. Indeed, we have to, in this particular economic context facing our country, have good relations with those countries which are important sources of trade and investment into our economy. We must have good relations with countries that are indispensable for our energy security. We must have good relations with countries that could be – if they are already not – important sources of food and water. This is why, it seems to me that we when we are looking at the big countries in the world and the important regions of the world, we can see an immediate domestic connection. When we look at the United States, for example, how can we overlook the importance of the civil- nuclear agreement as an important one to our energy security? When we look at China – I will come back to it in response to what the hon. Member said – how can we overlook the fact that this country, with which we fought a war less than five decades ago, is now our largest single trading partner? When we look at the Gulf and the turmoil in the Arab World – which I shall turn to later - how can we ignore the fact that they are collectively responsible for over 70 per cent of this country’s energy security in oil and gas? When we look at other parts of the world, we have to worry about where our food comes from which our growing middle class in this country demands better nutrition and more food more than we can grow on our soil.
We will have to look at our neighbours for sources of water and ensure that our country conducts skilful diplomacy to ensure that those sources of water are not interrupted.
Our links with the world, Mr. Chairman, it seems to me, are a vital factor in explaining our highest ever growth rates in the last couple of decades. If we did not have a Foreign Policy in the last few years that attended to these concerns, we would not be able to boast today of the kinds of percentages of growth that this House is so rightly proud of.
But even if our purposes are clear, Mr. Chairman, our relations with each of these countries are more complex and they have to go beyond a strictly narrow interpretation of our interests. After all, other coun
Link to the video: