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May 11, 1999


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The Rediff Interview/ Jaswant Singh

'India is not marginalised, India cannot be marginalised'

China blames India for the breakdown in Sino-Indian relations and Beijing also expects India to sign the CTBT and not aspire to be a nuclear power. Will this stance harm Sino-Indian ties?

Arun Shouri

The position of the People's Republic of China is clear. It is based on certain resolutions of the UN Security Council, passed at a debate in which India had not participated. We are unable to reconcile ourselves to the Chinese assertions in this regard but we are also committed to resolving all outstanding issues with the People's Republic of China. It is an ancient civilisation, it is our largest neighbour and our concerns can only be addressed through dialogue.

Indo-Pakistan relations reached a nadir when both nations conducted nuclear tests and later reached a peak of goodwill following the Bus Diplomacy. How would you describe the past year of Indo-Pak relations and where do you see it going?

I would describe Indo-Pak relations as inherent in Shakti. I do not see either a contradiction or a paradox in it. We have always stated that a prosperous, democratic, stable Pakistan is not only good for Pakistan but is good for India, Indo-Pak relations and for the region. Therefore if Pakistan chose to follow a certain path of making explicit that which had always been implicit for the past some decades, I don't see how this transforms the fundamentals.

These fundamentals are that India and Pakistan must bilaterally resolve their issues and begin to live in peace and amity. That is the wish of the peoples of the two countries. We wish the sovereign country of Pakistan all the good and we have no ill intention towards them. We cannot reduce India's size. But how can we, when we both are about to enter a new millennia, continue to repeat the mistakes of the past 50 years really beggars description.

Nevertheless, there are certain issues that remain unresolved which cannot be wished away.

Whatever the issue, one or the other, we have in the past 50 years gone down a certain process. That process has not resulted in any resolution. Are we to persist with the path of yesterday, or through statesmanship and, more importantly, courage chart out a new path? Obviously the answer is that in this day and age, we must choose the latter road.

The nuclear and Agni tests have put security issues centrestage like never before, perhaps never again to be sidelined as before. Would you rank this as being the BJP government's greatest achievement?

I am always a bit chary of hyperbole. But that notwithstanding, if you were to assert that the government of the BJP and alliance partners, led by Shri A B Vajpayee, has placed in the forefront security issues as never before in the past 50 years, then I would be disinclined to disagree! We did this as a conscious choice and we believe we have done it in a manner that places the issue squarely where it belongs, of prime importance.

What are the weaknesses that you perceive in India's foreign policy?

I think the biggest weakness in Indian foreign policy is that institutionalising of decision-making began to suffer because governance became personalised. When you personalise or individualise governance, this is inevitable. It has been my endeavour to re-impart to the institution of foreign policy establishment the strength, vitality, and dynamism that it ought to have. I cannot assert that I have succeeded totally but it is an endeavour in which I am still engaged.

India continues to remain marginal on the world stage. What needs to be done to give India back the leading image of yore?

First of all, I would not like my countrymen and others who subscribe to your Web service to not be seized by this kind of inferiority complex! India is not marginalised, India cannot be marginalised. A country of the greatness of India simply cannot be wished away from the globe. I have just said in another interview, India is neither in the first, second or third world, India is a world in its own right, of its own kind. And let us not suffer from this kind of inferiority complex, which in Hindi is called heen bhavna. I think this is a residue of many centuries of colonial rule and one of the endeavours we have in the ministry of external affairs is to change this kind of view.

We are not self-aggrandising, we are not chauvinistic and we're also not a touch-me-not. India is an equal partner in the comity of nations and its voice is the voice of India, which is unique.

What about economic diplomacy? Indian foreign policy has still to play a greater role on this front?

Since I have taken on this responsibility, we have emphasised two aspects, which I believe, merit greater attention. These are foreign economic policy and energy as a tool and instrument of foreign policy. There is much greater emphasis on these two now.

As a de facto nuclear power, even if not recognised as a de jure nuclear power, what are India's responsibilities?

India is a nuclear weapons power. That is a fact and facts cannot be disinvented. This confers upon India a much greater responsibility and India is mindful of the same. Our civilisation remains committed to total global disarmament. India is not set out on the path of disturbing the Non-Proliferation Treaty nor has it deviated from the goal of complete global disarmament.

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