‘India should not punch below its weight'

September 26, 2010 12:00 am | Updated 10:00 am IST - SINGAPORE:

India is too large a country to be encircled, says M.K. Narayanan

Asserting India's credentials for a greater role in global governance, West Bengal Governor M.K. Narayanan on Friday called for “a total revamp” of the United Nations Security Council.

Addressing the inaugural Singapore Global Dialogue organised by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Mr. Narayanan emphasised that “India should not be punching below its weight.”

‘String of pearls'

India “is too large a country to be encircled,” said the former National Security Adviser, discounting the views in some quarters that China was actually doing so now, by weaving “a string of pearls” in the form of bases in the Indian neighbourhood.

No potential for conflict

Alluding to his professional interactions with Chinese officials and leaders in the past several years, Mr. Narayanan saw no potential now for conflict with China in the normal course. Both “are very careful” in their policies towards each other.

Ties constructive

Echoing this assessment, Zhu Chenghu, Dean of the Defence Affairs Institute of the People's Liberation Army, described the current state of China-India ties as “constructive and positive.”

In a nuanced presentation of the same view from Beijing, Tang Jiaxuan, former State Councillor and former Foreign Minister, said in his keynote address, that “none of China's relations with a South or Central Asian country is targeted at a third country.” Implicit in this was an assurance that China's all-weather friendship with Pakistan was not directed against India.

Elusive formula

On the realistic prospects of India being able to become a permanent member of a reformed U.N. Security Council, Shashi Tharoor, former Minister of State for External Affairs, said, “If [the] reform happens, we will certainly be a principal beneficiary. There will not be reform that leaves out India… We need a formula that is, at the same time, acceptable to two-thirds of the countries [in the U.N.] and not unacceptable to the five countries whose powers will be diluted. Such a formula has been very elusive so far.”

On another aspect of India's global credentials as a responsible nuclear-weapon power, an image portrayed by Mr. Narayanan at the conference, the former Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, suggested that the present Julia Gillard government “alter” its position of refusing to sell uranium to New Delhi.

Non-problematic relationship

Commenting on India's ties with Russia, Dmitri Trenin, Director of Carnegie Moscow Centre, said the relationship was non-problematic. However, Russia should seek to address the current “under-performance” by both sides in the domain of their bilateral economic and defence-related engagement, he said.

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