“We are committed to universal, non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament”
External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna on Wednesday asserted that there would be no revision of India's no-first-use nuclear doctrine and said minimum credible deterrence would be maintained in view of threats and challenges.
In his hour-long reply to a debate on the Demands for Grants of his Ministry in the Lok Sabha, he said the government was working to improve relations with neighbours, including Pakistan and China, and countries such as the U.S. and Russia.
His reply covered various aspects of India's foreign policy. The Minister dismissed the notion that India was getting isolated or was a “by-stander” in world affairs, including the evolving situation in West Asia. The demands were later passed by a voice vote.
Responding to the points raised by senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader and former External Affairs Minister, Jaswant Singh, Mr. Krishna said the government remained committed to strengthening India's defence capabilities and maintaining credible minimum nuclear deterrence. His obvious reference was aimed at addressing the concern raised by some members over Pakistan's growing nuclear arsenal.
“On the nuclear doctrine, I would only like to say that there is no change in our policy. We are committed to universal, non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament and we remain firm on the commitment,” Mr. Krishna said.
On ties with Pakistan, he said India was pursuing the path of dialogue to reduce the trust deficit and resolve all outstanding issues in a spirit of openness. He hoped that “we can build a better future for the peoples of both countries.”
At the same time, he added, India has “never abandoned” its concern and the need to eliminate cross-border terrorism and to put an end to activities of terrorists and terror groups which have “negative and destructive agendas for our nation and which is not in the best interests of our relations.”
In an oblique reference to Pakistan, Mr. Krishna said that those countries which provided space for terrorism to grow and space for terror camps to be set up were regretting what they had done as “there are explosions every day.”
Referring to China, the Minister said India had conveyed its concerns over its practice of issuing stapled visas to people from Jammu and Kashmir and had got an assurance that Beijing would solve the problem to “our satisfaction.”
Mr. Krishna said the government had accorded high priority to infrastructure development, including roads, on the India-China border as a “matter of strategic interest.” He informed that the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) was constructing 61 roads with a total length of 3,429 km, covering States such as Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.
In regard to the U.S, Mr. Krishna said India's relations were improving as part of the multi-sectoral strategic dialogue. The next round of Strategic Dialogue, to be held here next month, was postponed by two months because of certain “difficulties” on both sides.
He also dwelt on concerns over the fate of some Indian students duped by the Tri-Valley University in the United States. He said that India had asked the U.S. to ensure that such incidents were avoided in future.
Rejecting the contention that India was acting as an “opportunist” when it came to ties with Russia, Mr. Krishna asserted that relations with the time-tested friend continued to improve.
He also rejected the contention by some members that India was isolated in the global arena and in this context cited the support of 187 countries out of 190 for election to the U.N. Security Council as a non-permanent member last October.
Turning to the situation in West Asia, Mr. Krishna said that India had not been a “by-stander” as argued by some Opposition members. The situation in the region was fluid and India was making a careful assessment through consultations with its envoys there.
On Sri Lanka, Mr. Krishna said India favoured a united country, where legitimate aspirations of ethnic Tamils were taken care of. Referring to the incidents of some Tamil fishermen being killed in Sri Lankan waters, he said it had indeed caused concern.
This had been conveyed to Colombo with a message that such incidents need to be prevented, Mr. Krishna said. India also wanted Sri Lanka to provide ample security to the Indians visiting Katchathivu for annual pilgrimage, he said.