The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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- The Congress will form a foreign policy based on informed national consensus

The Congress coalition has come to power at the Centre after a gap of eight years. Foreign and security issues were not as important when the country was in an election mode as issues related to governance, economic development and internal, national and regional concerns. Nevertheless, it is pertinent to bring back to public attention the Congress’s agenda on foreign policy and national security issues subject to consultation with its allies and supporters. Safeguarding India’s territorial integrity and unity against overt or covert external aggression is the supreme responsibility of the government. Fashioning clear defence policies with precise consensus in priorities is required for the purpose.

The Congress will specially implement the recommendations made by the reforms and reconstructing of defence organizations and the armed forces of the country. The Congress will integrate the defence ministry with the headquarters of the three services (army, navy and the air force) with uniformed officers being given a participatory role in the formulation of defence policies and the higher management of national security.

The Congress will allocate necessary financial resources for the defence of the country, including special allocations for research and development and modernization of defence technology for the country. The functioning of the Defence Research and Development Organization will be reviewed so as to impart a new element of dynamism. The Congress will take necessary steps to fine-tune the higher command for India’s nuclear and missile capacities. The Congress will safeguard and maintain these capacities at the appropriate level in the context of the changing security environment, particularly in the Asian region.

The Congress will improve the terms of service and serving conditions of the armed forces personnel. The Congress will also give special attention to the resettlement and welfare of retired personnel from the armed forces of the country and their families. A separate department of ex-servicemen’s welfare will be established in the ministry of defence. The Congress will attend to organization problems, which have for long affected the armed forces, and will take purposive action to resolve these problems in terms of recruitment, ensuring appropriate levels in the armed forces establishments. The Congress will rationalize the salary and pension payments to the armed forces with the objective of maximum benefits to armed forces personnel.

The Congress perceives national security not within the narrow prism of the purely military context. It has political economic, social and developmental dimensions. The Congress will implement a comprehensive multi-dimensional national security policy, which will cover vital aspects of energy security, food security, good governance and countering centrifugal trends affecting the country.

The institutional arrangements made by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government have been cosmetic. In substance, national security is not underpinned by structured and systematic institutional arrangements. The national security council which was established since 1999, has not functioned with institutional cohesion. Important national security decisions have been taken in an ad hoc manner involving just a few individuals without utilizing the cabinet committee on security, the security policy group, (comprising key secretaries, service chiefs and heads of intelligence agencies) and officials of the National Security Advisory Board.

The Congress will institutionalize regular meetings of the cabinet committee on security. It will ensure systematic and institutional interactions between the national security advisor, the strategic policy group and the NSAB. The Congress will ensure necessary connectivity between the intelligence agencies of the government of India and the NSAB as well as between the intelligence agencies and the ministry of defence and external affairs.

The Congress will undertake periodic functional audit and reforms of various institutions responsible for national security. In particular, it will undertake a restructuring of the intelligence agencies of the government of India to improve its human resource base with multi-dimensional expertise. It will ensure modernization of functional capabilities of the intelligence agencies with appropriate modern technological equipment and facilities. The recommendations made by the experts group to reform the intelligence agencies after the Kargil war, and which have been hanging fire for the last four years, will be speedily implemented. The Congress will ensure the efficiency and accountability of the intelligence agencies.

Terrorism and insurgency have emerged as serious security concerns in several parts of the country. The activities of extremist groups in the North-east and in the tribal regions of central India pose a serious challenge. The Congress will implement a comprehensive multi-faceted strategy to cope effectively with the twin challenges of terrorism and insurgency. The national security network will be modernized and streamlined, paying particular attention to intelligence- gathering, respect for fundamental rights and sustainable social and economic development which reinforce successful security operations.

The most important task of the Congress would be to retain for India freedom of options in conducting its foreign relations in response to India’s national interests in a world, which is in transition and ferment. This is the essence of India’s foreign policy on which Jawaharlal Nehru built a national consensus, a consensus that has been eroded during the tenure of the BJP-led NDA government.

The Congress will fashion a foreign policy rooted in the abiding principles of equality among states, commitment to peace, attention to economic well-being and to the defence of the country. The Congress will infuse Indian foreign policy with political realism and calibration making it responsive to the change in the international situation and global power equations. The Congress will attach the highest importance to fashioning equations between India and the major powers of the world, for mutual benefit, for tempering trends of unilateralism, and for creating a world order for maintaining equilibrium in international relations. The Congress will attach high importance to India’s relations with the United States of America, the European Union, the Russian Federation, China, Japan and the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The Congress will strengthen and expand the activities of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation to make it an effective regional organization, serving the objectives of peace, stability and well-being of the people of the south Asian region. It will work towards the establishment of a south Asian parliament. It will take up major regional projects in water management, energy and other vital areas. The Congress will improve and expand strategic relations between India, on the one hand, and the US, European Union, Russia, Japan and the ASEAN region on the other.

The Congress will give particular attention to fashioning a stable, working cooperative relationship with Pakistan under the framework of the historic Shimla Agreement of 1972 and subsequent agreements and confidence-building measures initiated by later Congress governments well upto 1996, while remaining alert to India’s defence requirements, and being firm in responding to any threats emanating from Pakistan. Keeping in mind the special relevance of central Asia, west Asia and the Gulf, the Congress will work for enhanced cooperation in the political, economic and technological spheres with countries of these regions. The Congress will continue the process of normalizing, strengthening and expanding India’s relations with China, which is the most important factor affecting Asian security and stability.

The Congress will continue and increase the momentum of the initiative that the Congress government took between 1988 and 1996 to ensure a stable and mutually cooperative and beneficial relationship with China. The Congress will move forward purposively to resolving the boundary issue with China in a practical manner by systematic and continuous negotiations.

The Congress is deeply committed to the United Nations and its ideals and objectives. The Congress considers reforming the UN system, restoring its central role in the maintenance of international peace and security and in making organs of the UN more representative in conformity with its enhanced membership on matters of high importance and priority. The Congress will forge purposeful consultations for this purpose with other member countries of the UN to meet these objectives.

The Congress will give the policy of non-alignment a new dimension, keeping in view political and economic changes that are taking place in our region and elsewhere. Management of India’s relations with other nuclear weapons powers is an important task, given India’s nuclear weapons and missile capacities. Special attention would be given to enhance India’s credibility as a responsible nuclear weap- ons power and for forging equations with other such powers to stabilize the international security environment. The Congress will take the initiative to have credible, transparent and verifiable confidence-building measures in treaty-form to minimize the risk of nuclear and missile conflict with Pakistan and China. While doing this, the Congress remains committed to an agreement on a time-bound, non-discriminatory international agreement on elimination of weapons of mass destruction. The Congress will participate in consultations and negotiations to put in place effective international agreements for this purpose.

The Congress considers international terrorism a phenomenon of high and critical concern. The Congress will support all efforts at international action to counter this menace in any form. The Congress will be firm and decisive and prompt in responding to terrorist violence structured against India. The Congress will give special attention to cultivating relations with countries in Africa, South America and Latin America. Equal attention would be given to nurturing relations with countries of the Asia Pacific region, like Australia and New Zealand.

The Congress will revive purposeful efforts to strengthen India’s relations with other regional groups like ASEAN and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. The Congress will strive to create an international economic order in which the process of globalization under the World Trade Organization’s arrangements will be devoid of aberrations that have characterized the process over the last decade. The effort would be to ensure that the orientations of the globalization process are also responsive to the requirements of development and distributive justice amongst the developing countries of the world.

The fundamental objective of India’s foreign policy would be to safeguard India’s security and vital strategic interests. The endeavour would be to form a national foreign policy based on informed national consensus, particularly on important issues of development, defence, nuclear issues and the requirements of a stable and secure international order.

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