Washington, Sept. 30: Finance minister Jaswant Singh added his voice to the controversial international debate over the Bush doctrine of “pre-emption” when he said at a news conference here that the UN Charter gave every country the right to act to prevent injury to itself.
The Bush administration had stirred a hornet’s nest in major world capitals a few days ago when it unveiled its new national security strategy of pre-emptive attacks to neutralise threats posed to the US either by terrorists or by governments with weapons of mass destruction.
Critics of the strategy have cited India and Israel as countries likely to follow the Bush example. If the US could launch a pre-emptive attack on Iraq, then India could do the same against Pakistan, they have argued in their criticism.
Singh said he had discussed the strategy at his meeting with US secretary of state Colin Powell and argued at his news conference that the Bush administration had not outlined anything “revolutionary” in its new security prescription.
He said pre-emption or threat prevention is inherent in deterrence. The sheet anchor of the BJP-led government’s arguments in favour of the 1998 nuclear tests has been deterrence.
Singh said the principles outlined in Article 51 of the Charter applied to all states and was not the prerogative of just one country.
Article 51 of the Charter says: “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations...”
Singh said he had detailed talks with Powell and Richard Hass, the state department’s director for policy planning, on the “evolving” situation in Iraq, but declined to go into details.
But other sources said Singh forcefully expressed India’s concerns about growing tensions in the Gulf and told the Americans that India had vital security and other interests there.
In a written statement distributed at his news conference, Singh referred to West Asia’s tensions and pointed out that “global energy prices are once again volatile and that could prove detrimental to global growth and welfare.” The minister expressed confidence that India would be able to withstand the economic impact of its current standoff with Pakistan.
“The fundamentals of the Indian economy are sound. India’s current account deficit is less than 1 per cent. Even the impact of a drought would be marginal,” he said.
Stressing that India and China were the fastest growing economies in the world, Singh said: “In a global climate of uncertainty, India and China stand out as islands of stability and islands of growth.”
Referring to charges that India was going slow on its programmes of disinvestment, he said: “A three-month deferment to review disinvestment issues is nothing.”
On the sidelines of the annual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, Singh met his US counterpart Paul O’Neill.
He also met the finance ministers from Canada, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Mauritius.
Referring to the World Bank meetings and protests which they have drawn over insensitivity to global poverty, the minister said: “We have to recognise that 85 per cent of humanity has access to only 15 per cent of the world’s resources.”
He acknowledged that although participants in the meetings here during the weekend have been eloquent about what needs to be done, there is a gap between that and what actually gets done.