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India is a core state for Asian security: Pranab Mukherjee

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ENLIGHTENING THE PRESS: U.S. Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld and Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee speaking to reporters after a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Shangri-la dialogue in Singapore on Saturday. Photo: AP
ENLIGHTENING THE PRESS: U.S. Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld and Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee speaking to reporters after a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Shangri-la dialogue in Singapore on Saturday. Photo: AP

P.S. Suryanarayana

The country is enhancing its defence preparedness, says Minister

SINGAPORE: Portraying India as "a core state" in the emerging global order, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee said here on Saturday that New Delhi's "role is crucial for ensuring and maintaining long-term peace, stable balance of power, economic growth, and security in Asia."

Mr. Mukherjee was addressing a plenary session at the Asia Security Summit, which was formally inaugurated here on Friday night, under the auspices of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies. The session theme was "India: A rising global player." Reformulating the theme, the Defence Minister spoke about "Growing India and its impact on regional and world matters."

Recalling that China's late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping had told Rajiv Gandhi that "there could be no Asia-Pacific century or Asian century without India and China forming crucial elements of such an architecture," Mr. Mukherjee said "India is one of the important legs of the Asian juggernaut along with China, Japan, and Indonesia." On the wider Asia-Pacific scene, New Delhi was now beginning to play a role "commensurate" with its "growing ties with the United States" and others in that hemisphere.

India, while playing its part to meet the current phenomenon of a worldwide "security deficit," was enhancing its "defence preparedness" through several means including "a nuclear doctrine of minimum deterrence." However, India's defence expenditure, currently at a modest 2.5 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product, was not eroding developmental priorities, he maintained.

Alluding to the new India-U.S. framework of military-related cooperation as an aspect of India's defence diplomacy, Mr. Mukherjee illustrated New Delhi's efforts by citing its current move to join the Container Security Initiative. Nava Sheva port had been identified for this purpose.

Later, responding to questions, the Defence Minister disfavoured India's participation in another of the U.S.-led projects, the Proliferation Security Intiative (PSI). He traced India's reservations to the PSI's discrimination between those who had signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the others, like India, who would not.

On maritime security along the Straits of Malacca, yet another U.S.-initiated move, he said, during the question-answer session, that India "will be able to cooperate in exactly the same way as the littoral states and [other] states concerned desire India to participate."

Spelling out India's current equation with China, as a pivotal aspect of the Asian scene, Mr. Mukherjee said the Chinese leaders had agreed with him, during his talks with them a few days ago, that "there is enough space for developing together, growing together, not at the expense of the other but independent of each other." India and China were engaged in "a constructive dialogue."

Asked about India's apparent lack of activism in relation to the Sri Lankan question, he said India fully supported the peace process there. India did not wish to "complicate" the issue by intervening there. As for the criticism that India was not encouraging the democratic movement in Myanmar, he said, "We do not believe in exporting ideologies."


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