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.

Combating Maoists and Terrorists

 By H.K. Dua

H K Dua (Nominated): Mr Deputy Chairman, Sir, I thank you for restoring order in the House and now we can resume the debate.

Last week the Home Ministry was being discussed in the House. The Department of Disaster Management is a part of the functions of the Home Ministry and as such the House was discussing natural calamities.  I think, there was a general consensus that most of the natural calamities are man-made.  Indeed, we have to be careful about environment.. (interruptions).. But today I would like to focus attention equally, possibly on a more serious situation which is on the agenda of the Home Ministry that is about the internal situation, and issues like our preparedness to fight threat from terrorism.  They are also man-made and equally daunting challenges. The internal security situation and our preparation for fighting terrorism, both call for serious consideration, and also our preparations to meet unforeseen challenges.  As we find over the years, terrorism has really been troubling us, and retarding our orderly progress. The most sophisticated weapon the terrorists have is: Surprise. Against most of the attacks by terrorists, we have been found wanting.  The terrorist groups have always surprised us.  They strike at the places of their choice. They strike at the time of their choosing. And often we do not know what is going to happen.

Let us see what happened in November 2008.  The terrorists came by rubber boats. Nobody could have thought, they would have come by rubber boats, land at Badhwr Park and then fan out and create havoc in Mumbai.  I do not want to go into the grisly details of that day.  But as a nation we were just not prepared for it. The responses, at that time by different agencies were ad hoc.  There was a Coast Guard failure.  There was a local police failure.  There was not even a beat constable at Badhwar Park who could have asked the people who were coming out of the rubber boats: “Where have you come from? What are you going to do there?” That is a fishermen’s village, not very far from Colaba, main arterial road of Mumbai. Then, response by various agencies was initially somewhat improvised and inadequate. The local police, the Naval authorities, Coast Guard authorities, the National Security Guard, at that time, I am just giving an example, were off guard.  The National Security Guard was to be flown in from outside. The planes were in Chandigarh.  The National Security Guard campus was at Manesar near Gurgaon. The planes had to come and the people who came from Manesar were flown to Mumbai. We lost a lot of time. But they fought brave battles; There is no doubt about it. There was lack of coordination however, between different authorities. Every day five or six news briefings were given to newsmen and the media which again was creating confusion.  Often conflicting versions were given. We lost over 160 people in the  26/11 terrorist attack. One can cite instances when everyone was surprised. The lack of vigil has cost us a great deal during the last few years.

So far as the internal security situation is concerned, it continues to be very bad.  I particularly refer to what is happening in Central India. They are questioning the very idea of the State – the very idea of India they are questioning. They want to have a State of their own.

H.K. Dua (contd): They want to  have a State of their own. While China has given up Mao, the Maoists in our country want to follow the Maoist philosophy and establish the so-called liberated zones.  We have not found, over the years, as a nation, answer to this serious problem.  Broadly, two strategies have been followed, and basically they are correct.  The question is of implementation.  One,  the socio-economic development of tribal areas and, two, the law and order problem where the Centre and the States have got to cooperate.  The Central Government cannot fight and the State Governments also cannot fight either terrorism or the Maoist threat in central India alone. The Centre and the States have to work together. Tribal development has not been taking place at a speed at which it should have taken place.  On the contrary, alienation of Tribals is the root cause of the problem, is becoming more serious by the day, and there is no real progress happening on this front.  One reason is, the law and order situation is bad, development authorities cannot work there and no progress can be achieved.  There is another problem about Tribal welfare.  In each State where Tribals are there, they are supposed to have a StateTribal Council.  There has to be a National Tribal Council also. It was decided in 2010 that the Prime Minister should preside over the National Tribal Council. State Tribal Councils have to be presided over by the Governor, under the Constitution.  Under the Constitution, the Governor  has been given a special responsibility to preside over the State Tribal Council every year and monitor what is being done or not done on the ground for the Tribal welfare and tribal area’s development. I am sorry to report to this House that over the years, all the Governors have abdicated that authority and the State Chief Ministers presided overstate Tribal Councils. Once you give it to the State Chief Minister, the function of presiding over the Tribal Development Council, (a) it is against the section 5 of the Constitution, and (b) it gets subjected to various lobbies who have interest in tribal land and the development of Tribal areas on different lines. The Tribals have no say in the development of the tribal areas in most States because the Governors have given up their authority and responsibility. I would suggest that the Home Minister should particularly look into this aspect that the Governors should exercise their powers under Section 5 of the Constitution, which the Governors have been given for tribal development areas.

On both — fighting Maoists as well as terrorism — you need to have more intensive coordination and consultation between the Centre and the States. The Central Government wanted to set up a National Centre for Combating Terrorism (NCTC). Some States refused to cooperate with the Centre and they invoked their right that they alone have the authority for law and order.  Sir, law and order is certainly a State subject. But when terrorists strike any part of the country it is no longer necessarily the State subject. No State can fight terrorism on its own. To expect Maharashtra alone to fight a terrorist threat like the 26/11 in 2008, frankly speaking, is too much. It would be a very inadequate response. The Centre has a primary duty, the States also have a primary duty and both have to function together.  So a well-meaning suggestion was made to set up a National Centre for Combating Terrorism. That centre has still not come up, nor has a substitute body been created because the States are obstructing. Will the Home Minister, I would like to have a categorical answer on this question, call a meeting of the State Chief Ministers again and set up a Central authority like NCTC? If you require modifications in the old scheme, by all means, it should be improved, if there are some areas where States have to be accommodated. Please do it. But there has to be cooperation between the Centre and the States on fighting the Maoist threat as well as the terrorism threat by setting up this centre or a substitute body…. (Time Bell).. Sir I will take four to five minutes more.

Mr Deputy Chairman:  Just two minutes more. There is one more speaker and I will have to be fair to him as well.

H K Dua:  I will try to wind up. Sir, there are steps to be taken by the Home Minister. Maybe, Chief Ministers have to be called here and there has to be a more intensive consultation. The conflict between the rights of States and the duties of the Centre has to be resolved to tackle threat to the nation – both the Maoist threat and the terrorist threat.

Sir, one area which I would like to emphasise is Police Reforms. The Dharam Vira Commission was appointed way back in 1970, and the Report was submitted in eight volumes. It is one of the world’s most exhaustive inquiry into police system of a large country. But, I am sorry to say, Sir, even after nearly 45 years, this Report has not been implemented.  There have been so many committees and Sub Committees appointed to examine the Report of the Dharam Vra Commission, but the States are reluctant to implement crucial reforms of the Report of the Dharam Vira Commission.

Mr Deputy Chairman: Please conclude now. There is another speaker.

H K Dua: The former Chief of the BSF, Mr Prakash Singh, went to the Supreme Court with a PIL to demand its implementation. The Supreme Court appointed the Soli Sorabjee Committee to examine why States are reluctant to  do this. They gave their recommendations. There are two or three points – I will be very brief. Why the matters are stuck and why some States are not implementing it or are refusing to implement it. One is , Sir, There is a nexus between Chief Ministers and the Directors General of Police of that State.  The moment a new Chief Minister comes, he changes the Director General of Police. There is no fixed  tenure for the Director General of Police. The Director General of Police want to oblige the new Chief Minister, and they in turn would like to have a convenient Police Chief so that he can do their bidding. So, a fixed tenure for the Director General of Police  was suggested. But that is not being accepted. Another key issue is who is to appoint the Director General of Police? A Special Establishment Board was supposed to be set up for this purpose. There are other instances also where police was being given some autonomy…(Time bell).. But it seems I don’t have time to go into that.

The point which I am making is that unless the Home portfolio is handled well, this task will get more complicated; I don’t envy his task. Then, there is social cohesion which is badly needed where the Home Ministry has to keep vigil. Every communal riot, every social tension, will complicate his tasks further and the idea, of an independent and a strong India and its progress, will get slowed down.

(Transcript of Mr H K Dua’s speech during the debate on the working of the Ministry of Home Affairs on August 11, 2014 in the Rajya Sabha.)