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Home > India > News > Report

India must break through insularity of the past: Ronen Sen

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC | April 23, 2008 08:53 IST

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Ambassador Ronen Sen has said, "a proactive and vigorous pursuit of foreign policy" for India is "not a matter of choice, but an inescapable necessity for securing India's political, security and economic interests."

Delivering the keynote address at the conference on The Future of India's Foreign Policy organised by the Center for the Advanced Study of India of the University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia, Sen said this was particularly imperative in the context of today's world that is "shaped by globalisation, inter-dependence, inter-connectedness and rapid changes."

"The rapid improvement in global connectivity has opened new possibilities to reach out to the world," he said, and acknowledged that "we recognise that this process must begin in our neighborhood."

Sen said, "A peaceful, stable and prosperous periphery is indispensable for us," and spoke of how India was not "breaking through the insularity of the past," and seeking "security and shared prosperity through increased connectivity in the Indian subcontinent."

"We seek to create regional stakes in our economic growth, and to cooperate, whenever asked, in dealing with political transitions and economic development," he said, and declared, "India will obviously gain from the spread of democracy."

But the envoy said, "We will continue to encourage but not seek to engineer or impose transitions to democracy in our region or elsewhere."

In the case of China, India's largest neighbor, Sen said, "We accept and deal with certain complexities in the relationship. We also face some common challenges. We recognise and seek to increasingly benefit from the opportunities for constructive cooperation."

He pointed out that "China will soon become India's largest trading partner," replacing the United States.

Sen also spoke of how India was seeking "to reenergise its engagement in and rebuild its relations and role in West Asia," while engagement with Central Asia would be a growing priority for New Delhi in the coming years, as would "expanding the frontiers of economic and political engagement with South-east and East Asia."

In fact, he noted, "With Japan [Images], our economic ties are expanding into a strategic partnership."

Sen also spoke of the new chapter in relations with African countries, manifested by the recent India-Africa Summit in New Delhi, and Latin America, symbolised by the trip to the region by India's President Pratibha Patil [Images].

Meanwhile, he said, "It is a measure of our engagement with major powers that in a single month of January this year, we had summit meetings with China, France [Images] and the United Kingdom," and that India had had also "a recent summit meeting with our traditional friend, Russia [Images]."

"Having had diplomatic assignments in Moscow [Images] in the 60s, 70s, 80s, and as a long-serving ambassador to Russia in the 90s, I can testify to the great importance of our traditional friendship with that country," Sen said, and added, "as India's envoy to Germany [Images] and the United Kingdom, I am aware of the major significance of our summit level dialogue with the European Union."

Perhaps, saving the best for the last, the ambassador said, "During the last three-and-a-half years of my current assignment, I am glad to witness the irrevocable transformation of our relations with the United States."

"In addition to the rapid growth of two-way trade and investment, cooperation in education and science and technology, the governments in both countries have invested significant political capital in building a strategic partnership based on shared values and common concerns," Sen said.

Sen declared, "India-US relations encompass the most wide-ranging engagement that India has with any country today."

Although he did not elaborate on the status of US-India civilian nuclear deal which continues to be in deep freeze in New Delhi in his speech, Sen recalled, "For too long, India, a proponent and adherent of nuclear non-proliferation, itself was treated as a target of international instruments to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems, notwithstanding the fact that India's system of controls over nuclear material, equipment and technology were perhaps the most effective in the world."

"We are now engaged in a major endeavor, primarily in cooperation with the United States, on correcting this historical anomaly," he said.