Manmohan favours reset of foreign policy

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NEW DELHI, November 5:  Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday told a conclave of top Indian diplomats that the United Progressive Alliance was seeking a “fundamental reset” in the foreign policy, pursuing what he described as “India’s destiny in world affairs.”

The Prime Minister’s speech, delivered at an annual convention of heads of diplomatic missions, comes amidst a bruising foreign policy battle within the Congress, with some Tamil Nadu leaders calling on him not to attend the coming Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Sri Lanka.

Dr. Singh’s regional foreign policy agenda has also run in to resistance from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who says a proposed river-sharing agreement with Bangladesh will hurt her State’s interests.

Five principles

Dr. Singh said the “single most important objective of Indian foreign policy has to be to create a global environment conducive to the well-being of our great country.”

He argued that the country’s development had to occupy centrestage among its international concerns. He also laid out four other principles: greater integration with the world economy, stable relationships with the great powers, greater regional cooperation, and the propagation of values India stood for.

“India’s experiment of pursuing economic development within the framework of a plural, secular and liberal democracy has inspired people around the world and should continue to do so,’’ he said. The UPA’s foreign policy drew inspiration from freedom struggle-era leaders, who saw the “link between our foreign policy and the economic aspirations of our people.”

Experts’ reaction

Expert reaction to the speech was divided, with some saying it did not address major issues in the foreign policy.

The former diplomat, Rajiv Sikri, told The Hindu that while he appreciated the Prime Minister’s focus on economic issues, he found “no mention of the security aspects.” “I found it odd there was no mention of the situation on our borders,” he said.

Former diplomat and foreign policy commentator Vivek Katju said he was “disappointed that the Prime Minister was silent on the greatest threat to the physical safety of people, terrorism.”

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