For India to be strong social cohesion is a must

Transcript of speech by H K Dua during the debate on the President’s Address in the Rajya Sabha on February 26, 2015.

Mr Vice-Chairman, Sir, Thank you for giving me a chance to speak on the President’s Address. I intend to speak on the President’s Address, on the aspects which have been neglected by the House — while there has been emphasis on domestic situation and economy, foreign policy and security areas have been ignored.

Sir, we, as a nation, are given to under-estimating ourselves and some sort of cynicism often develops amongst ourselves because of this in our capability. The fact is, in 67 years, we have emerged as a big powerful nation. The vision of the Founders of the Republic in the initial years and investment in the country’s future – I am talking about investment in foreign policy – we have been having a sort of national consensus on foreign policy. This can’t be changed by any government in power, or any party out of power

Years ago, we were considered a poor country and then we became, for years, a developing country; and now, we are called the emerging economy. That is the change that has happened – the emerging economy to be guided by aspirant classes, and much else. Three economies are going to matter – the U.S., China and India – whatever the order may be. On one question, national consensus has evolved among all parties that India should emerge as a major economic, political and nuclear power of the 21 century. There is no difference on this question among the political parties, irrespective of their persuasion and dispensation. But, what is not understood is what is needed to be a big nation. That is not understood widely. It requires considerable economic strength; it requires considerable military strength. And it also requires considerable national unity and national cohesion. On the last front, particularly, there have been some disturbing trends lately and these need to be checked as urgently as possible.

H K Dua (contd): If there is no national cohesion, there would be no national unity, and whatever strength you may get by economic development, by whatever strategy or whatever the military strength you have by acquiring more weapons or manufacturing more weapons, national unity will be disturbed. We will be wasting much of our energy on sorting out social tensions, which are not being attended to.

We also require a few years of peace around us in the neighbourhood. Look at Chinese. After Deng Xiaoping – not that I am a great follower of other peoples’ example, we have to live by our own judgement and our own situation – they decided not to have too many tensions and concentrate on economic development, concentrate on social development., Whatever the results, it has paid dividends to them. We also need to attend to serious problems like lack of social cohesion at the moment and these are disturbing trends. I think they should be checked immediately, otherwise, they can go out of hands. If you do not have national unity behind economic, political and nuclear strength, you will not achieve the aim of emerging as a major power of the 21st century. And it is time we cannot afford to waste. We should realise that we do not have much time to waste; otherwise, other countries will overtake us.

It was a good idea on the part of Prime Minister to have invited Prime Ministers of neighbouring countries to his swearing-in ceremony. Except for Pakistan, others have not been disturbed nations. Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharif could not deliver because, on one side, he has terrorists, and, on the other, he has the Army. But we should understand their situation. I think the Indian Foreign Secretary’s proposed visit to Pakistan should be supported by considerable political will so that the process of peace around — peace in our neighbourhood — should be given a push. But, I am afraid, with other countries in the rest of the neighbourhood, we have not followed-up the promise of the swearing-in ceremony. The Prime Minister did go to Bhutan; he did go to Nepal; although he could not go second time; the Minister of External Affairs visited Dhaka and China, and foreign visits have taken place. The Japanese came, the Chinese came, Barack Obama came, Putin came, but their visits need to be followed-up. Particularly, in the neighbourhood, I suppose, there is not much follow-up, with Nepal, not much follow-up with Bhutan; possibly, we think, we don’t need to follow-up much there. It may not be so.

With Bangladesh, two issues are pending, which I thought, is our responsibility to sort out. One is the Teesta Waters – “a deal done” but not followed through. That is the latest phrase which we have heard. A deal done, but we have not seen through it because we could not reconcile differences with our own West Bengal Government. I think some attempts need be made to live up to our promise to give Teesta Waters to Bangladesh. There is a friendly government in Bangla Desh – friendly to India. You have to strengthen its hands, and if you don’t give Teesta Waters, and do some other things to cement friendship, I think, we are harming our national interest. On the Land Boundary Agreement, luckily, it is out of the Standing Committee and I think the earlier the BA is ratified by India the better it is. It is a question of a few villages, whether they are on this side of the border or the other side, it does not matter. We are a large country and can afford to be generous. Our wider national interest lies in the Land Boundary Agreement being ratified and its ratification is needed and long overdue. It is not a new agreement that has been arrived at recently.

In Sri Lanka, luckily, there is positive turn of events for India. I hope this is being followed and built upon. . I think foreign office officials must be aware of it. It marks a  positive turn after a very long time.

H K Dua (Contd): The Indian Ocean situation, in general, should be of utmost concern. Look at what is happening at the Maldives? Somewhere, down the line, I am not blaming ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’, ‘D’, the previous Government or this Government that is not my argument. I think, we seem to have lost Indian influence in the Maldives. While the Chinese are more assertive in the Indian Ocean, we need to be careful about it, and evolve a clear-cut Indian Ocean policy. I am not saying that we should come out with sort of a Monroe Doctrine or that kind of a proposition, but we should be careful in evolving our Foreign and security policy, and give considerable attention to the Indian Ocean which is of vital strategic importance to the country.

On West Asia, we don’t have an answer yet, whether those 39 Indians are alive or dead in the Syrian conflict. Two possibilities were thrown up in this House, and the Minister of External Affairs said “that both the versions were there, we don’t know which one to believe”. One gentleman who had escaped from there had given both the versions. But, I thought the Government should make more inquiries to find out what has really happened to those 39 people. Their families in Punjab particularly, or wherever they are, are being kept in agonising suspense over whether they are alive or no more so. The House should be taken into confidence as to what has happened to them.

That is not the only issue in West Asia. We need to have a clear-cut policy on West Asia. India’s neighbourhood does not just begin or end at the Wagha border. Our borders extend from Singapore, the Malacca Strait in the East, and go right up to the Suez in the West. So, we need to have a clear-cut policy, particularly on West Asia, where we have six to seven million Indians working. Most of our oil comes from West Asia – from a Shia power, Iran, and from a Sunni power Saudi Arabia, both in conflict with each other. I think you need to evolve a very active policy so that there can be some peace in a wider arc around India, if we want to be comfortable in pursuing our policies at home and abroad.(Time-bell). Sir, I will just take one minute more. I am conscious of time.

Certainly, we have improved relations with Japan and President Obama’s visit has gone off very well. But we would like to know whether this 49 per cent FDI in defence, which has been promised, will lead to import of critical technology, which we wanted from the Americans and they were denying us. We are not sure of this. The nuclear deal does not say much on this. The Defence Agreement also has not been released so far, although it has been signed by the two countries. I don’t know its status; or its details. These have not been released.

There are some other issues also. There are some questions that there have been two statements by nuclear supplier companies concerned — The Westinghouse as well as Hitachi G.E. They have expressed reservations about the insurance-pool proposal. Most probably, the insurance pool proposal for compensating the victim families in case of a nuclear mishap will be accepted. But the companies, which have to give us the nuclear reactors, have reservations. I don’t know how serious they are. They are making Proforma noises, or are they serious? It needs to be clarified. On the whole, the Obama visit has gone off very well. I don’t know how the Russians and Chinese have taken it. We should be taken into confidence as to what is our feedback from Russia and China on our dealings with the Americans.

Thank you very much, Mr Vice Chairman.


H K Dua, a Member of Parliament, is a former Editor

                          of several leading dailies and an Ambassador.