Parliament Speech – 15th March, 2012

Transcript of the speech by H K Dua, MP, in the Rajya Sabha during the debate on the President’s Address on March 15, 2012

India a union of states, not a federation of states National consensus essential on terrorism

SHRI H.K. DUA (NOMINATED): Thank you Mr. Vice-Chairman,

Sir, I rise to support the Motion of Thanks. For the last two days, we have been discussing the President’s Address and a variety of opinions have been expressed. Some of them are in agreement while others are conveying differences.

I am happy about one thing: Parliament has come back on the rails, whatever may happen to the Railway Budget. Hopefully, in all its glory. This is the only way to sort out important national issues.

Dissent, differences, and a diversity of opinions are natural in a democracy. We

are a nation of over a billion people and there can be a billion issues. Statesmanship and leadership lie in sorting out and bringing about a consensus on  important issues of national concern. We are, by nature, argumentative people. But we should not allow the argument to lead to a confrontationist atmosphere, which often develops in our debates. The discussion in the House, or outside, should not be allowed to become a kind of a zero sum game – your victory is my loss and my victory is your loss. Despite differences,  the country has to evolve effective policies for India of the 21st Century — and that can be done only  by exchanging ideas and  a great deal of thought.

One of the questions, which has cropped up lately, is of the federal powers

and the state powers, of the federal rights and the Centre’s rights. My impression is – whatever I know about Constitution – we are not a federation of States. We are not a unitary State either. Founders of our Constitution had tried to evolve a unitary-cum-federal setup. In many areas, the Centre has got a prominent role; in some areas, the States have got prominent role; and, there is some overlap in a few areas, which are mentioned in the Concurrent List. There is also a provision for the residuary powers of the Centre.

But for a layman: If it is a national question, the solution has also got to be national; even the laws have to be national, which have to be followed across the boundaries of the  states. Terrorism, for instance, is no longer a state question. The entire country is facing threat from terrorism. The terrorists have  surprise as big a weapon. We do not know where the terrorist groups will strike next. 26/11 was a surprise, Delhi bomb blasts were a surprise, other incidents of terrorist violence in Mumbai, in Ajmer, and Hyderabad also were a surprise.

Most States have got to be vigilant. The country has to be vigilant. Now, differences have cropped up on the Centre’s proposal to set up NCTC. I am sure this question will be sorted out by talks between the Centre and the states. But to convert the whole question into the Centre versus the states or the states versus Centre, I think, is unfortunate. What needs to be done is: the Centre and the States together have to fight terrorism in the country. The terrorist threat is still serious. Steps have to be taken by the States and the Centre together to combat terrorism. One strategy should be adopted, whatever may be the outcome of the talks between the Centre and the States on NCTC.

Certainly, law and order is a State subject. But when a State is failing to combat on its own law and order situation, it asks for the assistance of the Army, the  BSF or the CRPF. And such assistance  is always given. The Centre also cannot fight terrorism alone because the State Police is closer to  the ground and  can sense trouble, from wherever it may come. Imagine, if a beat constable had been there at Badhwar Park in Mumbai on 26/11, I am sure the beat constable would have been able to find out where those rubber boats had come from. If a vigilant beat constable had been there, we would have come to know about the terrorist threat which was emerging and which brought about a very grisly event in country’s fight against terrorism. Our country has paid a  heavy price for it. Thus, the Centre and the States  have to fight terrorism together.

However, in tackling the law and order problem, the lead role should be of the state. The Centre should assist the states whenever they need to sort out the law and order situation. However, in  fighting terrorism, the lead role should be of the Central Government and the States should assist. Together, I think, a kind of team spirit needs to be evolved on the NCTC, and on combating terrorism. I am sure, the states and the Centre will have the maturity to find a way out.  I am told that more talks are going to take place very soon, in the near future to sort  out the issue.

But what is needed, essentially, is a national consensus. Democracy cannot work without a consensus on major issues; and terrorism is one of them. Fighting naxalism is another  matter of internal security needing consensus. Also, issues concerning  external security need to be resolved by a consensus. I don’t think it is difficult to evolve a consensus among the leaders of various parties — they are all responsible. On these issues, there should be a national consensus. We will go far ahead —and much faster into the 21st Century — if major issues are kept out of partisan or a state-versus-Centre kind of  controversies.

Sir, the world around India is changing fast.  It is not going to wait for us. The House cannot ignore the kind of a situation that is developing around us. Three major powers are going to have a change in their rulers. Putin  has just taken over as President again in Russia, practically. The USA is going to have presidential elections soon. We don’t know who the winner will be and what the policy of the United States will be. China is going to have new sets of rulers in a few months’ time. I think, by October they will be able to complete the process. But we do not know how these three powers are going to look at the world, particularly, this region, which is of vital importance to our country – and the  South Asia and also West Asia. There is a situation developing in West Asia which should get the attention of the House and the Leaders of all parties –- the Government as well as those sitting on the Opposition Benches. The situation in West Asia can lead to a conflagration any time. It may not be  imminent, tomorrow or the day after, but the situation can go out of hand in the near future.

Most of our oil comes from West Asia.  Even a minor  conflagration in a corner of West Asia can lead to a rise in oil prices. A major conflagration can  lead to blockage of  oil supplies to India. The closure of the Hormuz Straits, which was a threat only a few weeks ago, itself can be a serious development for India. No country has enough oil reserve; you can’t afford to keep oil in reserve for a long time. Secondly, 5.5 million people of India live in the Persian Gulf and other West Asian countries. If there is trouble in West Asia, do we have a plan to pull them out? The immensity of the task itself is forbidding. What we need to do is: play a more effective role in international affairs. We used to do that once upon a time during Jawaharlal Nehru’s days when we were not that strong. Now I think, when we have emerged as a country to reckon with, we can play a diplomatic role in sorting out the problems, particularly in the neighbourhood.

The Americans are going to quit Afghanistan in 2014 —in just two years’ time. They could not continue fighting that war for long. We need to work out a roadmap to safeguard  our interests in Afghanistan as  Afghanistan is important for us for our access to Central Asia. Who will  fill the vacuum once the Americans leave? Are the local people going to fill the vacuum? The tenure of Karzai —with whom we signed a strategic partnership agreement only  last year — is coming to end later this year.

Are the Taliban likely to come back to Kabul? Americans are already talking to the Taliban. They are not even letting Pakistan; and Hamid  Karzai know what is the agenda of the talks. Now if the Taliban come to power in Kabul, what will be its impact on India’s policy on Afghanistan? What about India’s presence in Afghanistan? We have spent over USD 2 billion  on Afghanistan’s development projects, which I am told have been doing  well. And India’s presence in Afghanistan is welcome to the people. But once the Taliban, backed by Pakistan and ISI, come to power in Kabul, it will be a totally different situation for us. Thus, we need to draw a roadmap for whatever happens there after the US pull-out.

Our relations with the neighbours are better. Certainly, with Bangladesh, except for the Teesta  issue – which  I am sure, they will be able to sort it out one day by talks at home and by talks with Bangladesh. With Nepal, our relationship is much better under the  new Prime Minister in Kathmandu.  With Myanmar, our relationship has improved quite a bit and our Parliament has been visited by their delegations and the Head of the Government has been here. There is indeed much more understanding between Myanmar and India.

Sir, recently, in the Maldives, I think, we were taken by surprise by developments. The Maldives  is of crucial importance to us considering our vital interests in the Indian Ocean. Are we, as a nation, bothered about the Indian Ocean? The  Chinese Navy is very active and going to be more and more active in the Indian Ocean, despite its preoccupation in the Pacific. The Chinese are present in the Arabian Sea; they are present in the Bay of Bengal, and, in the Indian Ocean, their growing   interest is well-known. We have a boundary problem with China; we have recurring problems or continuing problems with Pakistan, but we cannot ignore our

interests in the Indian Ocean. And, next time, if something happens in  the Maldives, we should not be feeling surprised about it.

Now, the nexus between Pakistan and China.  I don’ think there is going to be a war between India and China, but I assume the nexus between China and Pakistan is of a very vital concern to us. Pakistan and China  have a relationship in the nuclear programme, and in the missile programme. Together these create  a formidable defence situation for us.

I don’t think India can be complacent about the overall situation in the neighbourhood. What is the way out? The way out is that on the issues of security, internal and external security, plus defence matters, there is a need for having a consensus in the country.  Along with this we have to develop the strength of our economy, plus military power, backed by national support emerging out of a national consensus. This can help us a great deal in meeting our challenges.

Thank you, Mr Vice Chairman.