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Response by External Affairs Minister on direction / achievements of MEA in 100 days

New Delhi
September 2, 2009 

Transcript of questions by a leading daily newspaper and EAM’s responses as under: 

1. What significant direction has the External Affairs Ministry taken in the first 100 days?

Ans: The direction of India’s foreign policy flows directly from the aspirations of our people. Inspired by the vision of our founding fathers, our foreign policy is distinguished by a tradition of continuity and consensus. 

In its first hundred days, the External Affairs Ministry has pursued a multi-dimensional foreign policy of seeking strategic engagement, partnership and dialogue with all major global players, without creating any contradiction or hyphenation between one set of relations and another. Our approach is one marked by maturity and balance in the conduct of international relations. Today, as we get more and more connected with the world, we seek to creatively respond to new challenges and opportunities. 

India’s steady ascendance as an economic power has expanded her circle of interaction and engagement with the rest of the world. One of the main challenges of our foreign policy lies in creating and maintaining a regional and international environment which would enable us to sustain a high rate of economic growth, create more opportunities for Indian entrepreneurship and enable India to realize her vast, latent potential. Under the leadership of the Prime Minister, the pursuit of enhanced trade, investment inflows, technology transfers, energy security and other economic imperatives has become an overarching imperative of our foreign policy. At the same time, my endeavour is to effectively leverage India's established capabilities, particularly in the field of frontier technologies like space, information technology, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, and her growing role in the global knowledge economy. 

Let me outline some of my own efforts in my first hundred days as the External Affairs Minister. I support a policy that ensures a peaceful periphery and a supportive international environment as the fundamental objective of India's foreign policy. In our neighbourhood, I have already visited Bhutan and exchanged views with my counterparts from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal. I participated in the Af-Pak Ministerial meeting in the G8 plus outreach format. Among the major powers, I have personally engaged with my counterparts from USA, Russia, China and Japan, and am currently visiting Brazil. I visited Australia to personally seek the understanding and support of the Australian authorities for stopping the violent attacks against Indian students. 

At the core of the continuity in our foreign policy is autonomy of decision-making and independence of thought and action. Our prominent role in the Non Aligned Movement was recently reaffirmed in the 15th NAM Ministerial, followed by the Summit in Egypt, which I attended. At the recent ASEAN-India and ARF Post-forum Ministerial in Phuket, our Look-East policy received further impetus. ASEAN-India FTA has now been signed. The recent India-EU Ministerial troika in Prague helped us broaden our dialogue and consolidate relations with the EU, our largest trading partner. I will personally ensure that Africa and Latin America becomes a major focus area for us. 

2. What new initiatives is the Government taking to improve relations with neighbours?

Ans: As I have already said, India would like to have a peaceful neighborhood in which all South Asian nations can work in concert, to attain the common objective of growth and development, as well as combat challenges especially the menace of terrrorism. Our destinies are interlinked and together we can usher in a new era of peace and prosperity. We are deepening ties with a number of South Asian countries as also to see democratic traditions taking deeper roots in our neighborhood. Our broad approach with all our neighbours, including China, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka remains one where we are proceeding ahead with all-round cooperation and exchanges in areas of mutual interest, without holding progress hostage to difficult, outstanding issues. Under the SAARC framework, we will move ahead with implementation of projects in many areas, including on trade and economy, culture and education. Another important framework that we seek to strengthen, in order to improve connectivity with our North East, is BIMSTEC. 

3. What is current status of composite dialogue with Pakistan? 

Ans: The Composite Dialogue had been paused after the terrorist attack on Mumbai. We do sincerely believe it is in our vital interest to engage and normalize our relations with Pakistan. At the same time we are very clear that any meaningful dialogue with Pakistan can only be based on fulfillment of its commitment, in letter and spirit, not to allow its territory to be used in any manner for terrorist activities against India. Steps therefore to address the issue of terrorism will be in the interest of the bilateral relationship and also in the interest of Pakistan. 

4. The Opposition has accused govt. of compromising India’s strategic interests with the US, during Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit. What is your argument? 

Ans: India’s foreign relations with all countries including the USA are based on her national interest. We have a strategic relationship with the US, as we have with several other countries. Secretary of State visited India during 17-21 July 2009. During the visit a revised bilateral architecture for enhancement and deepening of India-US bilateral relationship in science technology, education, health, economy and trade, defence and security, energy, environment and Climate Change among other subjects was announced. These are areas of bilateral engagement which compliment our national development goals. 

During the visit, both the countries signed two agreements – one on science and technology and the other on space cooperation. Besides, we also agreed to a standard formulation on ‘End Use Monitoring (EUM)’ which would be included in future Letters of Offer and Acceptance for procurement of defence equipment from the US. This is a standard requirement of the US Government and some 82 countries to whom the US supplies defence equipment have agreed to it. There is nothing in the EUM which compromises our strategic interests. USA has not been given any unilateral right of access to our military sites. I have made a Statement in the Parliament on this account. Besides, we had so far been fulfilling the EUM requirement case by case; the agreement only streamlines an ad hoc system that was being followed till now for defence procurement from the USA.