The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Subtle Singh in Nehru nudge
- PM sends a message to US, refers to non-aligned without naming either

New York, Sept. 23: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today took India back to the Nehruvian roots of its foreign policy when the country's first Prime Minister was named for the first time in several years in his address to the UN General Assembly.

It was not just that Nehru was named. The thread of Nehru's thinking permeated much of his speech.

The address marked a return to multilateralism, which the NDA government had not jettisoned: but it was never the sheet anchor of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government's foreign policy, which stressed bilateralism for six years.

Singh told the General Assembly that 'virtually every major issue that we face as nation states, has both a domestic as well as a transnational dimension. It is becoming increasingly apparent that unless we fashion a global response, based on consensus, to these challenges, we would not succeed in creating a world that manifests the ideals of the UN'.

The Prime Minister was careful not to tamper with the facade of the so-called national consensus in the country's external affairs.

But the speech was full of nuances. There was implicit criticism of the US without actually naming the world's remaining super-power.

'International networks of terror appear to cooperate more effectively among themselves than the democratic nations that they target,' he said in a comment that will certainly be noted in Washington.

He also spoke about the double standards on terrorism that the US follows in South Asia, but again without naming any country.

'We speak about cooperation, but seem hesitant to commit ourselves to a global offensive to root out terrorism.' This must change. We do have a global coalition against terrorism. We must now give it substance and credibility, avoiding selective approaches and political expediency.'

Having successfully initiated the second phase of the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP) with the Americans during his meeting with president George W. Bush on Tuesday, Singh said India 'has an impeccable record of non-proliferation' of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

The assertion was aimed at countries obsessed with the slogan of non-proliferation, which have unspoken concerns about the NSSP.

He told the world body a home truth that few other leaders are prepared to say on record. 'Only a global consensus of willing nations' would prove to be effective in controlling the spread of WMD, he said, citing the example of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

'It is through representative institutions rather than exclusive clubs of privileged countries that we can address global threats posed by proliferation of WMD and their means of delivery.'

As expected, Singh referred to Rajiv Gandhi, whose name has been missing from speeches by an Indian Prime Minister to the UN for several years.

He spoke about the late Prime Minister to stress that the central tenets of the 1988 Rajiv Gandhi Action Plan for Complete Nuclear Disarmament still remained valid.

Singh did not mention non-alignment by name. But everything that non-aligned nations stood for during the prime ministerships of Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi was all over his address.

If Singh was a messenger of economic liberalisation at the New York Stock Exchange yesterday, at the UN today it was the vintage Singh, former secretary general of the South Commission, which articulated many aspirations of the Third World in the 1980s.

In this incarnation today, he spoke about global poverty, the negative aspects of globalisation, the need for development and the social aspects of the UN's work: some of these ideas are no longer fashionable after the end of the Cold War and spread of economic reforms.

Having forged an alliance with Japan, Germany and Brazil to pursue their common cause for permanent membership of the UN Security Council, Singh made out a case in his speech for reforming the structure of the council.

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