The former Foreign Secretary, Muchkund Dubey, has described secularism as one of the unique selling points (USPs) of India’s diplomacy and wondered whether this aspect could be compromised if the BJP came to power after the next general election.

Mr. Dubey was speaking at the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) here on Tuesday following a panel discussion on his book, India’s Foreign Policy-Coping with the Changing World.

He felt India’s USP could get diluted if the BJP came to power. At the same time, this aspect was not affected during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s term as Prime Minister.

The former diplomat, Deb Mukherjee, felt all political parties would earlier — even if out of diffidence — agree on what the Central government was seeking to do on the foreign policy front in larger national interest. Governments used to reach out to the Opposition, but probably this was no longer the case. “Today, the manner in which the government’s foreign policy initiatives are being pilloried is extremely unfortunate. This is portraying the country’s image as uncertain and of the government as being unable to call the shots.”

Journalist Amit Baruah said Mr. Dubey’s vision of a strong India did not preclude good ties with neighbours. This observation was appreciated by other diplomats present at the meet.

The former Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs, Sanjay Singh, pointed to the new challenge of a changing India, which was becoming increasingly affluent and argumentative. “The Indian State is less paternalistic especially with the coming of coalition governments. As this evolution takes place, we will have to mix elements of idealism with reality. India’s foreign policy has to be put in this context,” he suggested. The former diplomats, Jayant Prasad, Nalin Surie, Sheel Kant Sharma, and ICWA Director-General Rajiv Bhatia were present.

Correction

The report,“India’s secularism USP could get diluted under BJP: Dubey” (Nov. 27, 2013), gave the name of the Director-General of the Indian Council of World Affairs as Sudhir Devare. It should have been Rajiv Bhatia.

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