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External Affairs Minister Mr. S. M. Krishna inaugurates Indian HOMs Conference in New Delhi

New Delhi
August 24, 2009

The second Conference of Heads of Indian Missions abroad began today morning at Vigyan Bhawan, in New Delhi. 

The conference was formally inaugurated by External Affairs Minister Hon’ble S. M. Krishna. In his address EAM said that ‘Development, inclusive economic growth and alleviation of poverty have to be our foremost strategic goals. The main purpose of our foreign policy is to assist in the fulfillment of these goals by providing an enabling external environment which ensures our security, promotes trade, nurtures our key bilateral relationships, safeguards our national interest and enhances our influence in the world. We should never forget that the aspirations of India’s people are the bedrock of India’s foreign policy’. 

EAM noted that the ‘challenges before us are many and we have to find ways to manage, contain and eliminate them. There is the challenge of terrorism, and of ensuring that our neighbourhood is stable and peaceful and that our surrounding environment is conducive to the pursuit of our national goal of comprehensive socio-economic development’. 

Salient excerpts from EAM’s address were: 

‘On our immediate neighbourhood’ - India is committed to close and good neighbourly relations with all the countries in the Indian subcontinent. We share a special affinity and common destiny with our neighbours. Bhutan is the first country I visited on assuming charge as Foreign Minister and for good reason. India has strongly supported Nepal’s transition to a democratic polity. We recognize that the new government faces serious challenges in achieving stability and have been encouraging all political parties to cooperate with the new government in working towards early conclusion of the peace process on the basis of widest possible consensus. The conclusion of the military operations culminating in the defeat of LTTE in Sri Lanka provides it an opportunity for a future free from terrorism and conflict. We have been providing humanitarian assistance to Sri Lanka and hope that the IDPs would be rehabilitated soon. We look forward to the Sri Lankan Government bringing about a lasting political settlement that meets the political aspirations of all communities through effective devolution of power. An encouraging development in our neighbourhood has been the return of Bangladesh to multiparty democratic politics. 

‘On Afghanistan’ - Last week we had Presidential elections in Afghanistan against the backdrop of an attempt by the Taliban to raise levels of violence. We have stood firm behind the Government of Afghanistan’s efforts to stabilise the country. This is natural given our age old ties, our responsibility to a friendly country in our region and given our national security interest in a stable, independent and peaceful Afghanistan which will remain a priority. 

‘On Pakistan’ - With Pakistan we have maintained that a stable Pakistan at peace with itself and the region is a desirable goal. We wish to address our differences with Pakistan through dialogue. On several occasions we have conveyed to the Pakistani leadership our desire to engage in meaningful discussions and to develop our bilateral relations in a positive manner. At the same time, we made it clear that a meaningful dialogue will only be possible following the fulfillment by Pakistan of its commitment not to allow its territory to be used for terrorist activities against India. Pakistan must honour the pledges made in this regard. Following the Mumbai attacks of 26 November 2008, Pakistan has taken some steps under the pressure of evidence presented to them. However, we are still to see Pakistan take effective steps to end infiltration and dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism. 

‘On China’ - There is space for both of us to grow and meet our aspirations. China is now India’s largest trading partner and there is congruence in our views on many global issues but there are outstanding bilateral issues that should be resolved peacefully through dialogue. 

‘On ASEAN and East Asia’ - With ASEAN we have signed a Free Trade Agreement. It is another milestone in our Look East policy. Our relationship with Japan has entered a new phase in the last few years. We are adding significant elements of political, economic and security cooperation to our relationship. A new South-South partnership is being built in the IBSA framework with South Africa and Brazil. 

‘On Russia and the United States’ - Our relations with Russia are time tested and we are giving them a contemporary definition in areas such as nuclear energy, space and defence. With the United States, we are going to build on the positive momentum of the last few years. Our new dialogue architecture would reflect the increasingly global character of our bilateral dialogue. India’s established capabilities in high technology and our unimpeachable record of using these technologies in a responsible and transparent manner are creating opportunities for upgrading our access to high technology from the major powers. 

‘On the Doha Round of negotiations’ - I would like to stress that timely and successful conclusion of the Doha Round on the basis of its development mandate is even more important today particularly in the backdrop of the global economic and financial crisis to restore confidence in the global economy and markets, as also to guard against emerging protectionist tendencies and to protect the livelihoods of the poor and marginalized, particularly in our rural sectors. 

EAM stressed that ‘economic work of our Missions abroad is increasing in importance as India’s engagement with the world has deepened and our global trade has grown substantially in recent years. In fact with many countries bilateral, economic and commercial relations have become the driving force for more intensive engagement and for many other relationships, are providing anchor for more stable relations. Our “soft power” is a tremendous asset to promote India’s visibility and influence in the global arena today. This is manifest in the outreach afforded to us across the world by our culture, cinema, technology, diaspora and other important elements of our soft power. We need to develop our capabilities to utilize this asset to the fullest extent’. 

Earlier, welcoming the 112 Heads of Mission who have gathered in New Delhi for the Conference, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao in her opening remarks spoke of the role, the agenda and the challenges confronting Indian diplomats, particularly the Heads of Mission, today. She said that the Indian diplomat today needed to introspect on how his or her practice of the art of diplomacy and the tools used for it, must adapt, or change, in response to the challenges in the world and the decentralization of the international landscape. She said that the context in which our diplomats work today was defined not only by the external dimensions of India’s foreign policy but the country’s domestic needs and aspirations. She stressed the need for future oriented strategies when it comes to addressing such issues as personnel strength and interaction with academic and research institutions as part of a ‘retooling’ process. 

She referred to a note recorded by India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru in 1953, on our administrative system within government,-- ‘Today we are faced with a dynamic situation which requires a rapid pace of development and continuous adaptation to changing conditions. We have thus to bring our administrative structure in line with these, or, we fail”. Most importantly, Prime Minister Nehru had advocated the need to “always have a sense of the organic unity of the whole, whether this is the world or India, or the Government of India or a particular Ministry”. And this Foreign Secretary emphasized, particularly applied to the Ministry of External Affairs. 

She dwelt on key and diverse aspects like training, capacity building, greater use of technology, inter-agency cooperation, security, media relations, effective communications, Indian community, consular matters etc. 

During the interactive session that followed HOMs made a number of suggestions on strengthening communication and exchanges between the Missions and the Ministry.