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How Pranab took on the Opposition surge

July 31, 2009 23:31 IST

It rarely happens when a finance minister is asked to speak on foreign affairs in Lok Sabha. The Congress party cautiously lent support to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over the controversy over the India-Pakistan Joint Statement, the end-use agreement with America and the proposed ban by G-8 countries on transfer of ENR technology to non-signatories of the non-proliferation treaty. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, spoke at length in LokSabha over the contentious issues of India's policy with Pakistan.

Here are few excerpts from the July 30 debate:

Pranab's response on the joint statement:

'The Prime Minister has already clarified in detail the three major issues, which were raised in the course of the discussion -- firstly, whether we have diluted our position in respect of our resolve to fight against terrorism and our concept of zero tolerance for terrorism; secondly, whether in any way by using a particular phrase we have indirectly or implicitly involved ourselves in a matter which was not earlier the part of the bilateral discussions; and thirdly, certain other issues raised in connection with the visit, which have been amply clarified by the prime minister in his observations while responding to the debate yesterday.'

'I am little pained when a visit is being used by the principal Opposition Party even to march to the Rashtrapati Bhavan and submit a memorandum where they say: 'The Government has altered the fundamental foundations of India's foreign policy and strategic interest.' That is the memorandum, which they submitted; it is a part of the concluding paragraph. At the beginning of the memorandum they suggested that within weeks of returning to power, the UPA government headed by Dr Manmohan Singh will completely reverse India's strategic and foreign policy positions much to the detriment of the nation. I have serious objections to these formulations and postulations.'

'Surely, the initiator of the discussion, the former Foreign Minister and the former Finance Minister, Yashwant Sinhaji was well aware of that. It was a part of the Pakistan Policy, after getting successive defeats to inflict 1000 scars so that India dies bleeding.  That was propagated by one of the military rulers of Pakistan. It is well known. It has been practised through the cross-border terrorism. But neither have we succumbed to that terrorism, neither we have succumbed to that policy nor did we stop talking. This is the bare fact.'

'You did it; India did it; UPA did it; and this is the process through which the world diplomacy moves. Everybody knew that -- before the Second World War when Chamberlain entered into the Munich Pact -- it is not going to succeed, it is not going to keep Adolph Hitler happy, but at the same time, it was considered necessary to have that, because they thought that the last effort should be made to save the world from the impending Second World War.'

'As a humble student of history, this is the lesson of diplomacy, which we should not forget. We cannot erase Pakistan. Pakistan is going to exist; and it is not new that our relationship with Pakistan has not been cordial from the very beginning.'

'Many of you may remember that after signing the Nehru-Liyaqat Pact in 1950, in 1951 while participating in a debate on the floor of this very House, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru reminded through a story that sometimes the condition of Pakistan is like this, that it is like an errand boy, who killed both his parents -- father and mother -- and thereafter, when he was prosecuted, he was pleading mercy saying: 'Me Lord, pardon me because I am an orphan.' He himself killed his father and he himself killed his mother, but he pleaded that he was an orphan. Therefore, that has happened. But that is a reality. That does not mean that we should stop talking. Nowhere.'

'Talking does not mean a full-fledged dialogue. Keeping the communication channel open does not mean it is conceding or surrendering on any particular point.'  

'What is foreign policy? Foreign policy is the extension of the national interest in the context of the external situation and atmosphere. Therefore, I shall have to enhance my national interest. I shall have to advance my national interest in the context of the external atmosphere. The world is changing, and simply we cannot keep our positions straitjacketed, a perception which refuses to acknowledge or admit the elements of change. War-mongerism is no way.'

'Even when I was making the statement as the then Minister of External Affairs, I had expressed my strong resentment. Somebody suggested from the other side, why do you not attack Pakistan? My instant response, standing from here itself, was that that is not the solution to the problem. War is no solution.'

'Therefore, we shall have to pursue our policies of zero tolerance. I would not like to repeat. Events have clearly established that we are not succumbing to the pressure of anybody. Madam Speaker, more often than not, myself and Advaniji are two old Members of that House and this House. Of course, he has spent more time in this House compared to me but I have spent more time in that House. Umpteen number of times, I have heard that our sovereignty is compromised.'

'While entering into a broadcasting agreement in the early 60s, known as VoAA, Voice of America Agreement, I heard them saying that our sovereignty had been compromised. While borrowing some money from International Monetary Fund, it was said that our economic sovereignty had been mortgaged. While signing the WTO Agreement in the early mid 90s, they said, "Oh, our sovereignty has collapsed." While entering into Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, they have said we have compromised our national sovereignty.' 

'Questions have been raised. G-8 countries are saying that they are not in favour of supplying ENR technology to those countries, which are not signatories to the NPT. Is it for the first time G-8 countries are saying so? Is it not a fact that since the days of formulation of NPT in the 70s, G-8 countries continued to pressurise the entire world? They have their own logic. We have our own logic. We have made it quite clear that we consider that it is a discriminatory treaty. We consider that it creates nuclear haves and have-nots. That is why, we did not sign and we have no intention of signing it.'

'Yashwant Sinhaji reflected on my observations. What did I say? In the other House, I said, yes, I have noted the observations of the G-8. But G-8 is not the appropriate forum to decide about the Civil Nuclear Technology Agreement. The two appropriate forums are IAEA and NSG. In NSG, we got clean waiver. As many as eight times, this issue has been debated in this House and in that House.'

Reaction to CPI-M leader Basudeb Acharia's comments:

I would like to submit that do not treat the sovereignty of 112 to 115 crore people as so cheap that it can be mortgaged, that it can be bartered in any way. I would not have minded if some casual remarks would have been made.'

'Where is the fundamental change of the foreign policy? I would like to know. Have we deviated from the principles of building up brotherly relationship, close friendship with our neighbours? Is it not our stated policy that we will come to the aid of each and every neighbour? Is it not our stated policy we do not believe in exporting our ideology, we do not believe in exporting our sphere of influence and we do not believe in the interference of the internal matters of any other country? Therefore, this aspect is to be kept in view.'

'Yes, there will be divergence of opinion. But if we point out that basic fundamentals are changed, I am afraid, the basic fundamentals are not changed in that simple manner.'

'We have nothing to hide in Balochistan. Who does not know the problems of Balochistan? It was created from May, 1947 itself when the understanding between Quaid-E-Azam Jinnah and Khan of Kalat of Balochistan a few days before the creation of Pakistan, perhaps, 11th August, 1947 and subsequently the accession of Balochistan to Pakistan in 1948.'

'From 1950s onwards there are problems. Problems are continuing. It is their internal matter. We have nothing to hide. We have not done anything there. We have no intention of doing anything there. We are the victims of the terrorism. We have no intention of exporting terrorism to any country. It is against our principles.'

'I am grateful to the NDA government, which has established four Consulates there. It is because we want to help our friends in Afghanistan. They are good people. We have historic and traditional relations. Because of certain developments since the late 1940s, our traditional and historic ties have been snapped. Land route is not available. But that does not mean the centuries old cultural and historical relationship with that country can be snapped. Therefore, we wanted to help them. In order to help them, these Consulates were established there.'

'It was a good decision of yours. We welcome it. But it is not meant for carrying on any subversive activity. If we made this position quite clear to them, I do not think heaven is going to fall on you.'

At this point, BJP's Yashwant Sinha interrupted Mukherjee:

'Will you please yield for a minute? My simple question is this. We know their position and we know our position. Why was this sentiment not reflected in the Joint Statement when the Pakistani Prime Minister raised it? We included this sentence, why did we not include one more sentence to state our position? This is our point.

Pranab's response:

'You yourself have replied to that question in the National Democratic Alliance's memorandum, which you have submitted to the President, saying that 'this is unilateral'. Your point is that we could have put our viewpoint also, but when you describe the statement as unilateral, you admit that we are not a party to it.'

At this point L.K.Advani, leader of Opposition, intervenes:

'Our objection is why Balochistan is mentioned here which is a Joint India-Pakistan Statement and for the first time in all these years. They have been making this allegation earlier also, and I am sure that when the Prime Minister talked to Shri Gilani, he must have told him that we have nothing to do with it, which has been said by you today and also by the Prime Minister. But why, when this was mentioned in the India-Pakistan Statement, could we not have added our viewpoint also?'

'I am not quoting exactly, but I have with me what he mentioned about Balochistan. But this is true that for the first time, Balochistan has been mentioned in a Joint India-Pakistan Statement agreed by the Prime Ministers. Therefore, my colleague was right when he said yesterday that 'I caution you that this Balochistan will be coming again and again whenever we talk about terrorism and this will be their proof against us that we are also indulging in terrorism, which is absurd, which is bunkum and therefore, never before has Balochistan ever occurred in talks with them.' That is our objection.'

Pranab's response:

'You may have your objection. You are entitled to have your objection, but what I am trying to point out is that this is a unilateral reference. The perception of Pakistan is not shared by us. You are entitled to have your own view. You are not going to change your views by listening to me. So, why are you worried?'

Foreign Minister SM Krishna spoke after Pranab. But, he spoke more about importance of non-alignment movement and Sri Lanka. BJP's Sushma Swaraj intervened and sought to know from him why government agreed on insertion of Balochistan in Joint Statement.

Krishna said, 'With reference to Balochistan, I think there was a clarification, which was made. When the two Prime Ministers met, the question of Balochistan came and we readily agreed.'

Swaraj asked, again, "Why?"

Krishna said, "It is because we had nothing to hide."

Advani could not control himself. He said, "This is a strange answer. If we had nothing to hide then we should have objected to the inclusion of this word there. For the first time, this has been included. They may have tried earlier also. Furthermore, if it was to be included then we should have said there that India has nothing to do with what is happening in Balochistan. This should also have been said."
Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi