It is essential to sustain recent economic successes: senior official
The greatest challenge for the nation is to create a facilitating environment for India's ongoing transformation, Jayant Prasad, special secretary (Public Diplomacy), has said.
Speaking at the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry's (FICCI) Conclave on India's Strategic Foreign Policy, Mr. Prasad said that for this, tasks such as securing access to markets, managing and regulating internal movements of people, coping with water and food emergencies were important. It was also essential to sustain the recent economic successes, overcoming past failures to invest in human capital, primary health and education and social security; and mitigate the inequities and dislocation caused by rapid growth.
It is a time of unprecedented global change and India itself is in a state of flux, Mr. Prasad explained.
While post-Independence the nation was trying to preserve its fledgling democracy, integrate, and reorganise the State, now the primary challenge was more of uneven growth and rising expectations. India continued to be very much a developing country with the attendant constraints.
Pointing out the significance of its geo-strategic contiguity, Mr. Prasad said India was located in a difficult neighbourhood, with vast sources of nuclear proliferation, the epicentre of global terror, the home of the Al-Qaeda leadership and host of other terrorist organisations. All this result naturally in establishing a staging post for terrorist attacks in India and worldwide.
Mr. Prasad, who has also served as India's ambassador to Afghanistan, said what was needed in the foreign policy imperative was also what was needed in Afghanistan: “patience, perseverance and long term engagement - not necessarily military.”
The challenge will also be how the nation manages the complex process of change, as it integrates with the global economy. Even as it does so, India will follow policies in its own interests that will be congruent with a rule-based and democratic international order.
The nation will also have greater opportunities to deal with rising humanitarian challenges in the Indian Ocean region; assisting countries in the regions when required, integrating further in the region, and contributing to the creation of a pan-Asian economic area.
P. Murari, advisor to FICCI president, said the foreign policy of the nation has never been static, but always pulsating and dynamic, dependent on what happened outside and inside the country. There has also been a sea change in the way other countries were looking at India; by the end of 2010 at least five heads of State had visited the country, going back home with their ‘baskets full.' The day, he said, would come soon when India would be made a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.
Rajiv Kumar, director general, FICCI said the seminar was a process that began with the Ministry of External Affairs setting in motion a move to make foreign policy broad-based. The whole process was interactive and iterative and a book emerged, as a result of the dialogue. The MEA also wanted a road show to catalyse a further discussion on India's foreign policy. Four other seminars would be held in the region, he added.
Commodore S. Shekhar, regional director, National Maritime Foundation, examined the role of think tanks in influencing public and foreign policy, their access to funding and centres of power and the means of assessing their work.
Rafeeque Ahmed, chairman, FICCI Tamil Nadu State Council, said foreign policy should also consider trade, imports, businesses, and the welfare of Non-Resident Indians too.