Debate on the President’s Address

Transcript of a speech made by H K Dua in the Rajya Sabha on February 23, 2011 in the debate on the President’s Address to the joint session of Parliament.

National consensus on vital issues needed

SHRI H.K.DUA (NOMIATED):   Thank you, Mr Vice-Chairman, for giving me time. I have heard the debate, during the last two days, on the President’s Address.  Members of all shades of opinions have expressed their opinions on the President’s Address and the various issues confronting the country.  In a nation of one billion people, there are bound to be differences of opinion, but I do find that despite the acrimony witnessed during the last several months in the country, despite the different views expressed in the House and outside, there is no difference of opinion among the leadership of various parties and the people that this country should emerge as a major economic, political and military power of the 21st century.  There is no difference of opinion on this central aim which has emerged after 64 years of freedom.  This is not an armchair  dream of any one political party, but this is the national aim.  Everybody, whether on the Treasury benches, or on the Opposition benches, realizes that the country has achieved the potential of becoming a major power of the 21 century.

The world is also acknowledging, possibly; the world is acknowledging this, more liberally, than we are doing ourselves, considering a sort of cynicism and cynical mood that has developed over the last few months or over the last few years.

But are we, as a nation, doing all what needs to be done to emerge as a major power of the 21st century? And if we examine this question, in detail, the answer will be, “NO.” All that is sought to be done, all that needs to be done, we are not doing.  If we have to build this country into a big military, political and economic power, befitting a nation of a billion people, then we need to do much more.

And one of the things which we need to develop is, to evolve a national consensus on some essential issues. This kind of attempt — although feeble — has been made, often during the last few years to evolve a national consensus on some issues, but these efforts have not succeeded. The time has come now, fairly in the beginning of the 21st century, to evolve a consensus over some issues on which the parties should sink their differences and evolve a consensus and approach which facilitate achieving that potential aim which we can possibly achieve.

What are those issues? Considering the time, at my disposal, I will be brief, Mr Vice-Chairman.  Issues of national security, for instance, deserve  national consensus. I do not find anybody, in this House, who will place any obstacles in evolving a national consensus on security issues, both internal and external. There are formidable challenges to national security  Terrorism is one; nobody can differ on the need to combat terrorism. In the last few months there has been no real big terror strike. But that does not mean that the threat of terrorism has disappeared from the country.

SHRI H.K. DUA (CONTD): One weapon which the terrorists have, which we can’t anticipate, is the weapon of surprise. They can strike anywhere they like, at any time they want, unless there is a danger to them on a crucial occasion. The vigilance which the President’s Address speaks about fairly in the beginning of the Address is necessary. But that should have the backing of all shades of opinion and a national consensus which is necessary.

Another is the Maoists’ threat. It is not, in a sense, a threat that cannot be tackled.  Over all, there are 160, or 180, districts affected by Maoists threat. Out of them, 60 districts have been identified as very sensitive. Even 60 is not a small number.  Essentially, the Maoists threat to the State is very serious and can’t brook a partisan approach. It has to be met with a national approach.

Not only the parties have to cooperate with each other, but  also the Central and the State Governments, irrespective of the denomination which governs there, have to cooperate to find a way to tackle this national menace.  The Maoists also strike a surprise. Dantewada was one where 76 people of the CRPF were killed one night. Now they have the temerity to kidnap a District Collector in Orissa and keep him in custody. He is a public-spirited officer, which is a very rare breed these days. He is popular among the people and that popularity itself is nagging the Maoists.  They captured him and wanted some of their  people to be released. I am glad that he has been freed and some praise should go from this House for the brave officer like him.

But the essential message which comes out clearly is that the Maoists are not relenting in their efforts to disturb peace in the country and they want to strike wherever they want. They do spring surprise, some time in Chhattisgarh, another time in Jharkhand and the third time in Orissa, and tomorrow they can do it at another place.

Sir, I will keep it brief. There is a need for national consensus also on…

THE VICE-CHAIRMAN (PROF P.J. KURIAN): Your time is going to be over. What can I do? There is so much of time constraint.

SHRI H.K. DUA: I WILL CUT IT SHORT. Mr. Vice-Chairman. I am sure, you will give me marks for patience.


SHRI H K DUA; There is a need for consensus on Kashmir. I am afraid, this has been lacking and even if some consensus was evolved a few years ago,  I find  it is disappearing. There is no political consensus on it now.  The fact is that we have been promising autonomy to Kashmir over the years. Successive Prime Ministers have promised autonomy. Mr Narasimha Rao had promised autonomy to Kashmir; Mr Vajpayee had promised autonomy to Kashmir; and the present Prime Minister Dr Manmohan singh has promised autonomy to Kashmir.  I don’t think that we should relax on that aim. How the consensus can work in Kashmir is evident from the President’s Address acknowledgement of the mission of All-Party Delegation which visited Kashmir a few months ago and came back with the impression that it was possible to evolve a solution of Kashmir. The message will go much deeper if all the parties agree on Kashmir.


SHRI H.K. DUA: I will cut it short. I will take just two minutes.

THE VICE-CHAIRMAN; I am unwillingly saying. I am also helpless.

SHRI H K DUA:  Just a couples of minutes more and I will be done with this.

On foreign Policy issue, we require a different Foreign Policy for the 21st century from the earlier one. It is no longer a bipolar world. It is a multi-polar world. I think that a consensus on foreign Policy will help the Government to deal with the rest of the world better.

But one other thing certainly needs to be done and I would like to lay emphasis on it in my concluding remarks. We need to have a consensus on how to run this Parliament; how to bring about  judicial reforms which are very badly needed and how to bring administrative reforms because they are  key to the governance of the country.

I am sorry to say this – I am a new Member comparatively – that the way  Parliament has conducted itself for some time does not enjoy the support of the people. The judiciary is also losing support of the people when  cases are not decided for twenty years, or thirty years and some times after a person is no more.

SHRI H K DUA (CONTD): At the district level, at High Courts level, prestige of the courts has suffered, and somehow, the Supreme Court lately is also hitting the headlines for wrong reasons which I don’t  have the time to elaborate. On the judicial reforms which have been promised in the President’s Address, I hope, the political parties will support.

Thank you, Mr. Vice-Chairman.

THE VICE-CHAIRMAN (PROF. P.J. KURIEN): Duaji, in fact, an erudite person like you should be given more time, but I am helpless. There are three speakers and the time allotted is 17 minutes.

Now’s the time to talk about autonomy for Kashmir

While the much-awaited India-Pakistan dialogue has got stalled even before it could take off, the latest reports from across the Banihal do not promise early restoration of normality in the Kashmir valley either. The situation in Kashmir is tricky, and calls for an early initiative by the Manmohan Singh government to begin a dialogue with various political parties and other opinion-makers in the state.

Any delay in taking such an initiative can only help those in Pakistan who are in the business of whipping up trouble in Jammu & Kashmir. A few influential people at the Centre have often tended to believe that the route to a solution of the Kashmir question lies only through talks with Pakistan. Such thinking has time and again been proved erroneous and frustrating.

Pakistan is no longer seen as an attractive proposition by the silent majority in the valley. Talibanisation of Pakistan and daily reports of violence in the country cannot make separatists popular with the general public in the valley.

Ignoring the internal dimension of the Kashmir question has, over the years, led to the present mess, leaving hardly any scope for complacency or delay in taking fresh initiatives. Successive regimes at the Centre can be blamed for not following through the promises made for a new political settlement with the people of J&K.

The essence of these promises has been the Centre’s readiness to discuss greater autonomy for J&K than it enjoys under article 370 of the Constitution. Autonomy for J&K is not a new idea. Past explorations apart, in the 1990s, when militancy was at its worst,PV Narasimha Rao said (in a substantive interview with me) that the “sky is the limit” for autonomy for J&K. He later repeated the offer, of all the places in Burkhina Faso, far away in Africa.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee, while in office, said he was ready for talks with various people of Kashmir within “a humanitarian framework”. This was in reply to a question whether the talks he was proposing would be within the framework of the Constitution, or otherwise.

Prime minister Manmohan Singh, on his part, has more than once expressed keenness for talks with anyone who gives up the path of violence. However, for some reason or the other, no serious talks have taken place.

The exercise of holding roundtables and working groups has led nowhere, while the valley has been going through recurring bouts of extremist violence encouraged from Pakistan. Manmohan Singh, in his first term, appointed NN Vohra as an interlocutor for preparing the ground for substantive talks with various parties and groups in the state. Following his appointment as governor of the state, no one has been appointed to pick up the threads where he had left off.

There is an urgent need now to appoint an interlocutor who could talk to various political parties, opinion leaders and even those who are critical of the Centre. There are several eminent personalities in the country who can take up the assignment for restoring the confidence of the people in the Centre’s intentions for a dialogue on the quantum of autonomy the state should have under a new relationship between the Centre and the state.

The fear that the BJP may make political capital out of any initiative by the Centre may be exaggerated. Wider consensus among all the parties can be evolved if the prime minister and the Congress president make a move for it.

A similar effort would need to be made in Kashmir even if the eeting convened by chief minister Omar Abdullah was boycotted by Mehbooba Mufti earlier this month. The PDP cannot be left out of the exercise.

It should not be difficult for the new interlocutor to ensure that both

Mufti Sayeed and his daughter become part of a larger political consensus in the valley. They would also know by now that supping with the separatists can give them mileage on TV channels, but the enterprise carries with it the risk of their becoming politically irrelevant.

A political consensus at the Centre — and also within the state — has to be accompanied by reaching out to various sections of the Hurriyat and the civil society for evolving a new dispensation which guarantees a greater degree of autonomy to Jammu & Kashmir.

To believe that no new political settlement with the people of J&K is possible is short-sighted and self-defeating. So is the notion that only security forces can resolve the Kashmir question. The security forces can tackle a law and order situation; they cannot find a solution to a chronic problem.

– DNA, July 30th, 2010