‘Foreign policy is based on national interest, not morality’
‘SAARC yet to take off, is almost defunct’
‘We live in an uncertain world of alternative facts’
‘World is retreating from globalization’
‘India needs to forge non-military alliances’
Srinagar: Former Minister of External Affairs Yashwant Sinha on Friday said that India has to settle its disputes with its neighbouring countries if it wants to realize its global aspirations.
Speaking during a seminar on ‘India’s Foreign Policy: Opportunities and Concerns for the next Decade’ organized by the Centre for Policy Research and Development (CRDP) in Srinagar, Sinha called the settlement of issues with neighbours as the biggest challenge of the next decade.
“The most important challenge is settling our disputes in the neighbourhood. We have not enjoyed the best of relationships with our neighbours. There have been ups and downs and I am not only referring to Pakistan and China. Sometimes the relationship is very good and sometimes it is down in the dumps,” Sinha said, who returned to Kashmir to continue his ‘peace and dialogue’ mission.
Sinha, who was also the Finance Minister of India added, “We (India) cannot realize our global aspirations unless we have a peaceful neighbourhood. I must say that we have to be at peace with our neighbours so that we can prosper and they can prosper and together we can play a bigger role.”
He pointed out that in this connection, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), has played no major role and in fact has failed to take off since its inception in 1985.
“In this connection, I would like to refer to SAARC. It was set up in 1985. Today is 2017. In all these years, SAARC has just failed to take off. You can’t identify a single area where the alliance has played a major role in promoting anything in this region,” said the BJP leader.
Pointing towards the uncertainty which the alliance faces, Sinha said, “The summit in Pakistan has been postponed. One doesn’t know when it will take place.”
He went on to call it a ‘defunct organization’.
“It has become almost a defunct organization. I know many other regions of the world which have come together and are playing a very important role collectively because they have sincerely promoted the organization they belong to.”
Sinha while calling the present world ‘uncertain’ and a world of ‘alternative facts’, said that the foreign polices of countries, including India, are informed and guided by national interest and not morality.
“When every country in the world claims that morality is the basis of its foreign policy, we know for a fact that it is pure national interest which drives the foreign policy. So we also learnt it the hard way and realized that preservation and protection of national interest should be the goal of our foreign policy,” said the former Minister.
He pointed out that now, country after country is retreating from globalization and the foreign policy needs to be altered according that trend.
“We notice that there is a retreat from globalization. Country after country is now saying that we have nothing to with globalization. We have nothing to do with others, we are only concerned with ourselves. They have become more insular,” he said.
“The developed countries which were shouting from housetops that globalization was the panacea for all our ills, then realized that this was not the globalization that they had expected, had hoped for,” he added.
Sinha further pointed out, “It depends on our wisdom and alliances to make sure to get what is our due. So in this uncertain and constantly changing world, which is retreating from globalization, foreign policy needs to be adjusted from time to time.”
The senior BJP leader also stressed that India needs to build non-military alliances. He pointed out rather than being a part of big alliances, India needs to forge small alliances for an impact in the global community.
“I am not in favour of building military alliances. Even if we don’t follow the non-alignment policy in a changed world, it’s very important for us to keep away from military alliances. But other alliances are extremely important.”
“Helping other developing countries and building non-military alliances, that too small as big alliances don’t work is very important,” Sinha said.
Listing terrorism as a major challenge for the next decade, Sinha believes that the menace is not going away any time soon.
“Global terrorism is another challenge and I don’t see it going away in the next decade. Only today, we heard about the attack in Spain. Europe has become a favourite target. US has put up systems in such a way that it is not vulnerable to a big terror attack. But wherever the systems are not like the US, we are vulnerable. So it will continue to be a challenge and we must play our part in an effort to control, curb and ultimately eliminate terror,” Sinha explained.
The former minister also maintained that India needs to build its economic strength, as a weak nation cannot have an independent foreign policy.
“Another challenge is enhancing the economic strength of our country. I believe firmly that it the economic strength which will continue to inform our foreign policy, and it must. A weak nation cannot have an independent foreign policy. Only the strong can have that,” Sinha asserted.
He added, “Over the next decade, we must continue to build our economic strength. By strength I do not mean insularity or shutting our doors to the world. We must reach out to the world. We must take whatever strength we can from them to increase our own strength. And therefore the give and take must continue.”
During the open session, Sinha got ‘worked up’ after a student asked why doesn’t ‘your’ India return back to Kashmir it’s power projects.
“I take strong objection to the reference of ‘your’. If you refuse to be an Indian, then why are you dependent on India? You should do it yourself (get back the projects),” said a visibly agitated Sinha.
Sinha didn’t speak much about the current situation in the valley, and as a whole too, as he said that an issue like Kashmir needs a separate session.
“I am ready to come back and talk about Kashmir. I don’t want to talk about it in this session as the topic is different. I will speak less, as there is not enough time for either of our satisfactions,” he said.