SHRI TARLOCHAN SINGH (CONTD.): Till today, nothing has been done as a remedial measure to help those people. Sir, lot of Indians are applying for the renewal of passports. But they are never given a new passport. There are hundreds and hundreds of applications of Indians who seek renewal of passport. But they are still coming to the embassies and not getting their renewal. Sir, I am sorry to report again here that the Ministry of External Affairs is maintaining a 'black' list. It is a very shabby word. This is a list of those belonging to Sikh community who in 1984 shouted slogans outside the embassy and they noted their names and they are not being given visas till today. From 1984 to 2006, still that list is maintained. People want to come for pilgrimage to Amritsar. People want to come to their family, but the visa is denied because they were part of the demonstration. Sir, now, Punjab is fully part of India. Punjab is progressing. The Government of Punjab every day is inviting the NRIs. Our Chief Minister went abroad and told them. But why the Ministry is not removing the list? I propose that if you have some fear of them, at least, allow them a seven-day visa so that they can come and go back and when they go back, they will be happy with the conditions available locally. I just quote one case. Deedar Singh Bains was known as a non-Khalistani. He was president of the Khalistan Movement. He was allowed visa four years back and today, he is the biggest supporter of the country because when he visited Punjab, he went so happily. I moved a case of one Jaswant Singh Thekedar living in London. His son was getting married in Ludhiana. I requested Kunwar Natwar Singhji. He also wrote a letter but the visa was not issued even for two days. So, there are certain cases where we should help them. Sir, I want to propose here that Wagah border is one of the most popular border of India. But the conditions there are so bad for two reasons. One, because you have not approached Pakistan Government to open a visa office in Amritsar. The Canada Government has a visa office in Chandigarh. The UK Government has a visa office in Jalandhar. Then, why should not Pakistan also be approached? Now, we have friendship. Maximum number of people go from this border. Why can't we have a visa office there? Secondly, because the trade movement has started, now, when people go there, the trading people have to wait for two days. The trucks cannot go. Government should now try to open the Firozepur border, second border, and that can become trade border. (Time-bell) Both borders can be opened simultaneously because this problem is there. In addition to this, a train comes every day from Lahore to Attari. And a bus goes from Delhi to Lahore and Lahore to Delhi. But people of Punjab are deprived of that. Why? Anybody coming in that train to Attari, he is not allowed to enter Punjab. He must come to Delhi and if he wants to go to Punjab, he can go from Delhi. Now, Punjab is no more a disturbed area State and even in the case of Malair Kotla, which is the home of Muslims, those Muslims who want to go to Malair Kotla, they can't go from Amritsar. They have to go to Delhi. So, why this anomaly is still existing? Anybody who lands in Attari, he is free to go by train to Amritsar, by bus to Delhi or anywhere because he has a valid visa to come here. But this problem is still there. Even if there are seats available in the bus, you cannot board anybody from Amritsar. The bus is only from Delhi to Lahore. In between you can't do it. We are thankful to the Government for allowing a new bus to Nankana Sahib. But restrictions are so tight that I don't think it will be successful. You want a 15-day earlier check. Then, to get a visa to come to Delhi takes one month. Then, how will people go to pilgrimage? There should be some new methods for the pilgrims who are going by this bus. Give them a permit. You are giving permit from Kashmir to Kashmir and unpermitted people are going. If the bus is only for fifty pilgrims from Amritsar to Nankana Sahib, give them a permit so that they can go to Amritsar and come back by that bus.
MR. DEPUTY CHAIRMAN: Please conclude.
SHRI TARLOCHAN SINGH: Sir, just two minutes more. Sir, lakhs and lakhs of people are settled in Middle-East. We are very happy with our relations with Middle-East. But those countries are not allowing our Indians to perform their religious duties. Those countries are still raising objections for our religious shrine. Except Iran, perhaps no other country is allowing them. (Contd. by RSS/3o)
SHRI TARLOCHAN SINGH (CONTD.): Even there is a restriction on the cremation of dead bodies of the Indians in certain countries, and the people are required to bring the dead bodies to India. So, if we are so friendly with them, and when we say that all religions are equal, why are these restrictions still being imposed in the Middle East? The Ministry should try to help them. There has been a long case of France. They do not allow Sikh boys to wear turbans. But, one more new condition has been imposed. If a Sikh boy goes to get a driving licence, he has to go bare-headed. Unless you are bare-headed, you cannot get your photograph on the licence. Now, this type of restriction these days is a very shameful act, and the Government of India should see to this aspect of the matter. Sir, during the regime of Taliban in Afghanistan, all the Hindu Sikh shrines were destroyed. I will request the Government that now that you have got so good Government in Afghanistan, and Pakistan is also very allergic to that, the Ministry of External Affairs should help in restoration of those shrines. Those shrines were historical, and even connected with the visit of Guru Nanak Dev into Afghanistan. So, that help should be given.
In the end, while praising the effort of the Government of India, I would like to make one submission. The NRIs, who have given so much help in this success, they should also be looked after properly. I only want one minute. The President Bush had a meeting with our religious representatives. Eight people were invited by him, and it was on their own effort, and I must praise that all the eight people, all belonging to our community, jointly told him that India is a country, where there is a tradition that we love each other, we respect each other, and for the first time, these religious people could change the perception of the American Government that here, there is no issue of minority and majority. So, the Government of India should take advantage of such meetings with other foreign Heads of State because, a lot of propaganda goes abroad that the minorities are being executed. But, how we live in India, we should send this message also, through such talks. Thank you. (Ends)
THE MINISTER OF STATE IN THE MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS (SHRI E. AHAMMED): Mr. Deputy Chairman, Sir, I do not want to take much of the valuable time of this House because the hon. Prime Minister will have to give reply to many of the points that the hon. Members have raised here. I just would like to confine myself to some of the specific issues that the hon. Members have raised here, and I think, the Government is duty-bound to refer to what they have mentioned. Some of the hon. Members, like Shri Shahid Siddiqui, Prof. P.J. Kurian and others have raised some of the problems...(Interruptions)...
SHRI SHARAD ANANTRAO JOSHI: Mr. Deputy Chairman, is the Minister replying? I have given my name.
MR. DEPUTY CHAIRMAN: He is not replying. It is just an intervention.
SHRI SHARAD ANANTRAO JOSHI: Two interventions!
MR. DEPUTY CHAIRMAN: There may be more interventions.
SHRI V. NARAYANASAMY: Mr. Joshi, you are always in a hurry.
SHRI E. AHAMMED: The U.P.A. Government will be following the policy, especially, towards the West Asia, on the basis of the Policy Statement made in the Common Minimum Programme, and the UPA Government has confirmed the policy towards West Asia that the Government will have a new thrust in its relationships with the West Asian countries. In pursuance of this policy, the Government has been trying and striving very hard to strengthen the bilateral relationship with the countries in the West Asia, and the land mark visit of the King of Saudi Arabia, His Majesty, Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz, is worth mentioning in this context. His visit took place after 51 years, and during his visit also, there were several Memoranda of Understanding signed between the two countries. That will again further strengthen our relationship, and also our position among the Islamic world. This year also, for example, with the Saudi Arabia's help, we could send, 1,47,000 Hajis. They were permitted to go for their Haj pilgrim. This was the second largest contingent after Indonesia during the Haj, and the Government of India, in consultation with, and in cooperation with the Central Haj Committee, and the Saudi Government authorities, have made an elaborate arrangements for the Haj pilgrimage. There may be some shortcomings here and there, and the Government will take steps to rectify them, and make the Haj hassle-free as far as possible, and comfortable also. (contd. by 3p)
SHRI E. AHAMMED (CONTD.): Unfortunately, this year, there was a stampede as a result of which 62 Indians lost their lives. Out of these 62 Indians, 46 were sent through the Central Haj Committee, ten were sent through the registered private tourist operators and six were living in Saudi Arabia. They came from the neighbouring countries. These 46 Hajis, sent through the Central Haj Committee, will be given compensation, under the Haj committee's Group Action Compensation Scheme, to the tune of one lakh to three lakhs. But, unfortunately, the other ten people, sent through the private operators, and the other six people, living there, have not been given compensation. When the matter was brought to our notice, the Prime Minister took steps to consider the matter. Now, it is under the consideration of the Government to provide compensation to these 60 Hajis on humanitarian grounds. The Prime Minister and the Government will issue orders, after taking a decision about the quantum of compensation, in this respect.
Sir, I would like to mention here also that Shri Shahid Siddiqui mentioned about India's relationship with Palestine. He also mentioned that India formed an alliance with Israel, and also with the United States. I do not know from where he has got this information. So far as the Government is concerned, there is nothing like that, and India is continuing its traditional unwavering policy of supporting the Palestine cause and helping the Palestine people to have their homeland, and also to live in peace with neighbouring people. For the hon. Member's information, Sir, India has extended all humanitarian help to the people of Palestine. And I myself had carried medicines worth two crores of rupees and 15 vehicles as soon as this Government resumed office. I think, it was on 17th September, 2004, when Yasser Arafat was alive, that Yasser Arafat himself told the international media: "I express my grateful thanks to the Prime Minister, the people of India and the political party for having sent their representatives on a goodwill visit and all that." That was the nature of relationship between India and Pakistan. Therefore, I do not know why there is any doubt about our continuing relationship with Palestine. Of course, India has a dramatic relationship with Israel. With Israel also, India is having exchange of business, trade, everything, but it has nothing to do with our relationship with Palestine. India will take care of it that there is no negative impact on the traditional relationship between India and Palestine only because India is having some relationship with Israel.
Sir, I would like to mention one thing more, and our Special Envoy of the Prime Minister has already undertaken a message to Palestine and Israel, especially to establish a contact with Hamas who have been elected and who are the choice of the people of Palestine. So, after his visit also, he will take some more steps, if necessary, in this matter. Sir, the MEA is taking steps to tackle some of the issues raised by my esteemed colleague, Prof. Kurien, about the Indian Embassy there. It is true, Sir, that there are 400 million Indians living only in the Gulf countries, out of which 1.5 million Indians are in Saudi Arabia. It is in this context, Sir, I have mentioned about the visit of the King of Saudi Arabia, and we have been taking steps to find the Malayalam-knowing people as far as possible. Only their availability is the most important thing. Of course, we are very much conscious of some of the problems of our Indian nationals living in these areas. This Government has taken some very, very practical and helpful steps for tackling the problems of the people living in these areas. (Contd. by 3Q)
SHRI E. AHAMMED (CONTD.): In Saudi Arabia, we have established on-line arrangement and any Indian in Saudi Arabia can contact our Embassy in Riyadh at any time--24 hours, 7 days. That is going on very well. Apart from that we have asked all the Embassies in the region to have an open-house meeting with the Indian community even without prior intimation. That is also going very well.
Sir, my friend, Mr. Tarlochan Singh, has referred to some difficulties in other European Embassies also. If there are any such things, of course, the Government will only be happy to consider them and see whether they can also be sorted out by arranging such open-house meeting with the Indian community.
Sir, I would just like to mention here another important thing. Prof. Kurian has mentioned about providing voting rights to the NRIs. That is, of course, under the consideration of the Parliament.
Sir, another thing which I would like to mention is Indo-Arab relationship. It is growing from strength to strength. As an indication of it, it was for the first time that India had been invited to attend the Arab Summit, as an observer, last year, in 2005, when it was held in Algeria. I would like to inform the House that this year also India has been invited to attend the Second Arab Summit to be held in Khartoum.
Sir, I don't want to take the time of the House since other Members want to participate in the discussion. I would like to mention only one thing. Mr.Tarlochan Singh has raised some issues here. These problems happen mainly because of the objections raised by the Home Ministry. The Ministry of External Affairs will have to consult the Home Ministry. Only after doing that, we will be able to take the necessary steps in such matters. I have noted all the points that he has raised. I will take them into account and discuss with him the problems that he has mentioned and wherever possible we will take steps.
Sir, I would like to emphasise one thing. The Ministry or the Government will not take any action against anybody on the basis of his religion. There is absolutely so such thing. No complaint has been received from anybody that an applicant who has applied for a passport or renewal of a passport has been harassed only because of his religion. This Government will not allow any such thing. The Government will take action against any officer who indulges in such things. Thank you.
SHRI SHARAD ANANTRAO JOSHI (MAHARASHTRA): Thank you very much, Mr. Deputy Chairman. I should also thank Sardar Tarlochan Singh for having made a speech which is relevant to the discussion today, the Discussion on the Working of the Ministry of External Affairs, while everybody else talked about the Foreign Policy matters. That is how the Leader of the Opposition kick-started the debate and everybody followed suit, including the two Ministers of State. The Foreign Policy discussion was concentrated largely on the United States and Pakistan, which is understandable. Before independence, the Foreign Policy really meant only the United Kingdom. Now, after independence, the Foreign Policy really means relationship with the United States and Pakistan.
Sir, I am very modestly going to talk about our relationship with two neighbours only, Nepal and Myanmar or Burma. I think, the difference in the treatment that we have given to these countries brings out a lot of contradictions between what Shri Sitaram Yechury called realism and pulpit evangelism. The Report does a good thing by bringing out very clearly that in Nepal the break up of the democracy was not on the initiative of the King. It is only because the seven parties, the so-called democratic alliance, had a 12-point agreement with the Maoists that the King thought it necessary, in order to defeat and uproot the Maoists, to have his own rule established in Nepal. After that, we have cut off most of the relations. We have not supplied arms. With the result, the only Kingdom in the neighbourhood, which has certain cultural and denominational affinities with us, is now finding the arm-twist in Pakistan and China. (Contd. by 3R/VK)
SHRI SHARAD ANANTRAO JOSHI (CONTD): Compare the treatment we have given to Nepal with what we are doing to Myanmar. More than 30 years ago, the Army Junta took over in Burma and incarcerated Aung Sang Su Kyi the daughter of Aung Sang, who is now a Noble Laureate and a recognised leader the world over as wearing the mantle of Mahtama Gandhi. If there is one person in the world today who represents the great spirit of Indian philosophy that Nehru promoted, one must recognise, it is Aung Sang Su Kyi. Now what happens? We have had successive visits of various External Affairs Ministers to Burma. They shook hands with the military Generals and military Ministers. Recently, Sir, even the President of India went to Burma and not only did he meet all the Generals but actually signed three agreements. One agreement, I can understand because India has some interest in petroleum. But granting them technology in remote sensing is something that is certainly a matter of strategic importance and that could certainly help consolidate the position of the armed dictatorship there. Sir, the President of India could certainly have met Aung Sang Su Kyi by going to the jail. If the military rulers did not permit it, he should have refused to go to Burma. Even Bush comes here and sees Advaniji and sees other leaders of the Opposition. He met some of the groups of the Sikh community also. There was absolutely no reason why we should have overlooked Aung Sang Su Kyi. The difference in the treatment of two comes from the fact that possibly, let me use the term, Nepal is a Hindu Kingdom and India has a Hindu majority. I have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of that because it is a Hindu majority country where we have a Muslim as President, a Sikh as Prime Minister and we have the Chief of the Ruling Party, who is a Catholic Christian. This can happen only in a Hindu majority country. It cannot happen anywhere else. So the plurality of India comes essentially from the fact that it is a Hindu majority country and nobody can be more secular than that. Do we have anything against the Monarchy in Nepal? The Head of the Commonwealth is a Monarch and in India if throning by dissent is an indication of monarchy, then we ourselves are, a little, tending to be a monarchy. What is it that made us to take a very bellicose attitude towards Nepal? What it is that makes us to show such a benign and loving attitude towards Nepal? I think there is a great departure from the great, lofty ideals that Nehru propounded in his days. I had an occasion to congratulate the Prime Minister when I had the good fortune of meeting him for the historic performance in signing the agreement with the United States. I have absolutely no doubt about it. I can say one thing. While the United States might have committed any number of sins in Iraq or anywhere else, or in Guantanamo Bay, it is an open society. Presidents may go wrong there but their system is such that those Presidents are brought down. Bush may have gone wrong, but in the United States itself, as Siddiquiji pointed out, they are trying to bring him down. There are processes which will permit the American people to bring down those who go wrong. So, I congratulated the Prime Minister for the historic shake hands with the United States. But, I think, nearby in our relationship, in the neighbourhood, what we are doing to Nepal is wrong and what we are doing in Burma is also wrong and that is something for which I would like to have an explanation. Thank you. (Ends)
SHRI ARJUN KUMAR SENGUPTA (WEST BENGAL): Mr. Deputy Chairman, Sir, I am glad that I have got this occasion because, at least, I shall be heard, for a few minutes, when the Prime Minister is here. But I wanted to stress one major thing that comes out from the discussion. The point of foreign policy is not just what we are conveying to the foreigners, it is also what we are conveying to our people. It is very important that our people support the changes in foreign policy, if they are taking place, or if the changes of the stance of foreign policy that is taking place today. (Contd. by 3S)
SHRI ARJUN KUMAR SENGUPTA (CONTD.): Whatever you might say, I think this historic agreement with the United States has changed our foreign policy stance. We are now in a different mould of foreign policy. This has given our Prime Minister an opportunity to chart new ways of looking at international relations. In a sense, after Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru's foreign policy, this is probably the first time a new Prime Minister has come to give a new orientation to our foreign policy. It will evolve. I am not saying that foreign policy is a static thing. It will evolve. But it is necessary for the Prime Minister to take the country along with him. We must also realise that this is one issue on which we find Shri Jaswant Singh, the Leader of Opposition, and Shri Sitaram Yechury, are on almost the same wavelength. There is no point in saying that what Shri Jaswant Singh was saying earlier is different. Today, both of them are taking the same position. Shri Jaswant Singh was categorical that people would think that you are now in the yard of the United States. Shri Sita Ram Yechury is saying that in the name of the so-called `enlightened national interest', we are moving away from our esteemed principles of idealism and he thinks that is the aim of foreign policy. But that was, maybe, the rhetoric. The idea is that -- it may be a misapprehension; but -- there is an apprehension in the minds of our people in the country. And I beg to submit to the hon. Prime Minister and the other members of this Government that they must recognise this uneasiness among the people of our country. President Bush is not a very popular figure in the world. He is not a popular figure even in the United States. He is not a popular figure in the developing countries, among the Islamic countries, for the many things that have happened to those countries during his regime. That does not mean that when he comes here, we shall not be polite. We have to be polite and we have to treat him with the courtesy that he deserves. But we must realise what is going on in the minds of our people. The mind of the people comes back to the same question; are we moving to the yard of the United States; are we giving up our foreign policy stance, on which there is a national consensus, which has been built for ages, after Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. This question has to be answered categorically. The Prime Minister has actually answered them. He has mentioned this in several ways. But I think it is important to be categorical about reiterating those principles; what are those principles; and let me just point it out. I hope somebody will be able to relay to the Prime Minister. It is important to reiterate that our foreign policy is based on non-alignment, not in the sense of the earlier Cold War days, non-alignment in the sense that our foreign policy is not decided by alignment to any particular country or any particular power. This is based on the much more significant issue -- in fact, that has been mentioned in the foreign policy book -- of Panchseel, the Five Principles, and these five principles categorically state that we recognise the sovereignty of all the countries. This reiteration itself would deny any misunderstanding about our siding with any regime-change. This is not a part of our foreign policy. Whatever may be the view-point of the other country, the other President, this is not the Indian position. This is, of course, what the Prime Minister has said. But I think it should be categorically reiterated, not so much for President Bush or for Americans -- I will come to that in a minute -- but for our population. There are millions and millions of Muslims in our country. I will not be surprised if they are worried to hear from our soil this question of Iran being a country ruled by a group of Islamic clerics; they do not know what democracy is and therefore, there is a question of regime-change. (Contd. by 3T/TDB)
SHRI ARJUN KUMAR SENGUPTA (CONTD.): We do not have to contradict President Bush. But, we must realise that millions of our Muslim population, not only the Muslim population, even the secular population must be worried to see such a statement has been made. Therefore, I would consider it important that we reiterate that this is not a part of our Foreign Policy. Our friendship with Iraq, Iran or Palestine remains as they are. I am very happy to hear that on Palestine, our Special Envoy -- just now the Minister of State said -- is having a discussion with the Hamas. This is a very remarkable position. This should be categorically stated because the Hamas is taken in the United States as the principal terrorist element which is against Israel. In fact, the Israelis have refused to negotiate with the Palestine, even if the Hamas has been elected with an overwhelming majority. I am so happy to hear that our people, our Special Envoy is discussing with Hamas. And this is exactly what we should do. The Russians are doing this thing. And, this particular news should be broadcast, should be known to all our people, all our Muslim population, all our Islamic friends that we are not changing our position. It is very important to reiterate the fact that our Prime Minister categorically stated that we are not supporting or we shall never support what happened in Iraq. I was also happy to know that the question of the pipeline with Iran has also been opened up. I think these stories should be advertised to tell our people that there is no change in our basic Foreign Policy. We are not against Cuba; we are not against Venezuela; we are friends of all these countries in the world because we believe in a Foreign Policy based on relationship with all the countries, particularly the other developing countries.
Mr. Deputy Chairman, Sir, these points should be reiterated together with another point, which Mr. Sitaram Yechury talked about, this is about the question of multi-polarity. It is true that we do not believe in a bi-polar world. But, that is not enough. It is time that we should declare that we are one of the poles in that multi-polar world. And, this particular new agreement will give us a chance to become one of the poles in the multi-polar world. This particular point needs reiteration because in the United States, whatever may be the other things that are going on, there is, definitely, a feeling that India can be a friend of the United States in this multi-polar world, in a way, that would help the American's bipolarism. We should completely disillusion them, that we shall play a role of a polar power in that multi-polar world, in a way, a non-aligned country, an independent country can play. As a matte of fact, if we do that, this would help the United States also because we can play the role of an intermediary power. And, this particular new role we should play quite categorically. Why I am saying all this, the Minister has entered the Chamber, I feel that we have to talk to our people here that this Foreign Policy is a Foreign Policy which has been built up through decades of national consensus, and we are not giving them up. Therefore, highlight the great achievements of the Nuclear Agreement. There is absolutely no doubt that this particular Nuclear Agreement has been a major progress in the whole international policy. Please do not mix it up with other areas of CEO meeting, technological progress, etc. These are quite all right. We can discuss that; we can debate that. But, the pure Nuclear Agreement is something that will take us out from a different kind of an international order to a new international order. Ms. Codoleezza Rice has written an article on this subject. Everybody should read today's morning paper. The question was raised by Mr. Jaswant Singh as to what is their interest, American interest in that. He should read that particular article, where Condoleezza Rice categorically points out what is the American interest in supporting India on this. So, I have absolutely no doubt of the American position.
(Contd. by 3u)
SHRI ARJUN KUMAR SENGUPTA (contd.): But I do feel that having listened to all the discussion here, there is a possibility of our people being misled--I am using the word very deliberately 'being misled'--by different type of propaganda that we are moving away from a policy that we have followed for so many years. And that is what I think, our leadership should categorically state that this is not the game that we are playing. Thank you very much, Sir. (Ends)
THE PRIME MINISTER AND ALSO IN-CHARGE OF THE MINISTRY OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS (DR. MANMOHAN SINGH): Mr. Deputy Chairman, Sir, I am very grateful to the hon. Members who have participated in the discussion on this very important subject. We have, of late, several opportunities in Parliament to discuss specific issues on our Foreign Policy. And I welcome this opportunity for a more wide ranging discussion on the subject in the context of the working of the Ministry of External Affairs.
Sir, Shri Sitaram Yechury asked about the objectives that we are pursuing through our foreign policy. I had on an earlier occasion stated that our foreign policy is rooted in our civilisational heritage and also for the pursuit of enlightened national interest. Right from the times of Jawaharlal Nehru, India has pursued an independent foreign policy shaped by these two twin pillars that I have mentioned. As Panditji himself used to say, "We live in a dynamic world and that with the changing needs of time, our attitudes, our policies, our strategies, our programmes, must evolve. We cannot be a blind prisoner of the past."
(Contd. by 3w)
DR. MANMOHAN SINGH (CONTD): I respectfully submit to this august House that this precisely is the emphasis of the Foreign Policy changes that have been made since our Government came to power. Earlier also I said that the fundamental objective of overall policy of our country must be to grapple with the problems of poverty, ignorance and disease which afflict millions and millions of people in our country. We can take pride in our achievements in tackling these problems since Independence. But who can deny that we have still a long mileage to go? And that, of course, requires basic changes in the way we think, the way we act, the way we shape our domestic policies, but it is also necessary that our Foreign Policy should also promote the realisation of these basic objectives. That means that we must create an external environment, which is conducive to the removal of poverty in the shortest possible time. To do that we need an international environment which is supportive of India's economic objectives and I said on an earlier occasion also that our economy now is growing at a rate of seven to eight per cent. We need to step it up by about ten per cent per annum. That is feasible with marginal efforts; with marginal improvements in international environment and that it is the duty of every Government which takes the problems of development seriously to pursue a path which would facilitate the realisation of these objectives. We are today investing about 31 per cent of our GDP. Our domestic savings rate is about 29 per cent. With another two or three per cent of GDP coming from abroad by way of foreign capital, we can step up our growth rate by at least one to two per cent per annum. We need the import of modern technologies to upgrade our technologies in various activities, agricultural activities, and industrial activities. And if we are trying to create space for larger imports of capital, larger imports of technology, if we are trying to create space, which is conducive to rapid growth of our exports, where do we look at? We have essentially to look at the possibilities that exist from countries, which are exporters of capital, we have to look essentially to countries, which can export relevant technology to us, we have to look at countries which are willing to absorb our exports. And that is why our emphasis on improving our relations with countries like the United States, countries of the European Union, countries like Japan, countries like Russia, countries like China. In doing so, we are promoting our enlightened interest. It is not a surrender of autonomy in decision-making processes. It is not kowtowing to the United States for the fun of it. As I said on an earlier occasion, whether we like it or not, the United States is the prominent market economy in the world. It is an important source for the export of capital, for the export of technology, and, therefore, it is in our national interest to engage with the United States to see wherever space exists that we can take advantage of engagement with the United States to promote our national interest. The United States, of course, is a superpower. It thinks globally, it acts globally and its interests do not have to be coincided all the time with us, and where we do not agree with them, we state our position clearly, unambiguously. When I went to Washington in July, I was asked at the National Press Club about our attitude to Iraq and I unambiguously stated, "In my view the invasion of Iraq was a great mistake." We have never been shying of stating our positions even though it cannot be to the liking of Big Powers. But that does not mean that wherever opportunities exist, whenver opportunities arise to engage with a country like the United States, the European Union, Russia, China that we should not utilise those opportunities. If those opportunities give us options, widen our options for our development, for our growth; it is our duty as the Government of this vast country to take full advantage of those opportunities. That is what precisely what we have done. As Jaswant Singhji pointed out, the Nuclear Agreement with the United States is rooted in our conviction that economic security of India cannot become a firm reality unless we have energy security and that energy security in turn can be facilitated if we have greater access to nuclear technologies, if the restrictions that the Nuclear Supplier Group and the United States have imposed on trading with us nuclear material, nuclear technologies, if these are done away with, that will give us greater elbowroom in ensuring energy security for our country. This matter has been discussed earlier in the House and, therefore, I do not wish to deal with it at any great length.
(Contd by 3X)
DR. MANMOHAN SINGH (CONTD.): But, I do wish to emphasise, once again, that in engaging with the U.S. we are not surrendering our autonomy in decision-making processes. We are not becoming an ally of any country. We are not part of any allying system. But, the fact that the U.S. is a democracy, we are a democracy; the fact that both our countries respect the rule of law, respect fundamental human freedoms, I think, this does bring about a certain amount of convergence and this cannot be helped. If we emphasise that, I don't think there is any disadvantage. The fact that we are a democracy, the fact that we would like others also to be democracies, does not mean that we are interfering in the affairs of other countries. The fact that we are contributing to the UN democracy fund to build capacities in countries which are trying to emerge as democracy is not something which is wrong. We have invested about 600 million dollars in the last four or five years in revitalisation of the economy of Afghanistan so that Afghanistan emerges from its medieval past into a functioning democracy. I recognise with Jaswant Singhji that the establishment of a democracy in a country is not a mechanical overnight operation on its dealing with human emotions, human feelings, human sentiments and these cannot be predicted in any unambiguous manner. Even then, I think, if we help nascent democracies like Afghanistan to stand on their own feet, there is nothing wrong with that. We are a contributor to UN democracy fund but that does not mean that we are going to be partners of any attempt to change regimes. We are not part of any such attempt to change regimes. As I said, democracy is a value system, which we cherish. We would like other countries also to be functioning democracy but I don't think we can impose our views or that even if we wanted to we can bring instantaneous results overnight. Certainly, we are not part and parcel of any attempt to change regimes. In matters relating to foreign policy, while there has been substantial improvement in our relations with the United States -- the President's visit is one indication of that -- that does not mean that we have surrendered our autonomy in decision-making processes. During the last two years that this Government has been in office our relations with Russia has improved a great deal, our relations with China has improved a great deal. Last year, when Premier Wen came here in April, we signed a landmark agreement, which lays down political parameters and guiding principles for the solution of the border issues. Our special representatives have been meeting since then. They had a meeting two days ago and I hope that out of these meetings will emerge some solution to the difficult problem of the borders. In the meanwhile, our economic relations with China are improving year-by-year. China has now emerged as a major trading partner of India. We look at France. When our Government came to office there was a sudden element of coldness in the relations between India and France. That coldness is a thing of the past. President of France was here and even before the United States agreed to this nuclear deal, the French President was the first one to say that India needs a new deal from the nuclear community in the world. (Contd. by NBR/3Y)
DR. MANMOHAN SINGH (CONTD.): We have excellent relations with the European Union. In September, 2004, we entered into a strategic partnership with the European Union in The Hague. Last year, the Prime Minister of the UK came here as President of the European Union and we agreed upon a concrete action programme to give meaning and content to the strategic partnerships.
We look Eastwards. Our relations with the ASEAN countries have improved considerably. We are now a part of the East-Asian community.
On the West-Asia side, we have the privilege of welcoming His Majesty the King of Saudi Arabia only a few weeks ago as the Chief Guest of our Republic Day. The Emir of Qatar has been here. The Queen of Jordan has been here. The First Lady of Qatar has been here. Our interactions with the West-Asian countries have improved and have increased very substantially in the last two years. Therefore, I respectfully submit to this august House that they should judge us from the totality of the results achieved by us and not concentrate merely on the changes that have come about in our relations with the USA. I don't apologise for any of these changes that have come about. They, I think, create new space for us. They give us greater elbowroom to accelerate the pace of social and economic development. They are to be welcomed. But, any notion that any deal that we have done with the USA amounts to surrender to an independent thinking, I respectfully submit, is totally misplaced.
Sir, I now come to deal with our relations with the neighbouring countries. Our relations with our neighbours are, naturally, a source of great interest to hon. Members in particular and to our nation in general. Our Government has given priority to engaging pro-actively with our neighbours. We participated actively in the Thirteenth SAARC Summit in Dhaka last November. Therein, we announced several measures, including transit facilities on reciprocal basis for the faster economic development of our region.
As I have publicly stated many times, we are committed to a resolution of all outstanding issues with Pakistan, including the issue of J & K through dialogue and consultations. I have emphasized to President Musharraf that Pakistan must adhere to and fully implement the commitments given by him on January 6, 2004. We have made it clear that the cessation of terror and the dismantling of the infrastructure of terror on territory controlled by Pakistan are essential for the process to succeed. Both sides are committed to the success of the comprehensive dialogue process which has been moving forward steadily. The gains in terms of building confidence and trust, which we were up-keeping, estranged for decades, are now visible. The continued provocation by terrorists will not weaken our resolve to build normal relationship with this important neighbour or our resolve to decisively deal with those who wage war against innocents and attack the secular fabric of our State.
I have already mentioned our relations with China. They are also developing very satisfactorily. My colleague Prof. P.J. Kurian welcomed these developments. And, I am sure, there is wide consensus in this regard. (COND. BY USY "3Z")
DR. MANMOHAN SINGH (CONTD.): On the long-standing issue of our boundary question during Premier Wen's visit last year, we reached a landmark agreement on the guiding principles and political parameters for a framework to delineate the boundary. Our special representatives have met recently, and the process is moving forward steadily. We hope to welcome President Hu Jintao to India later this year. At the same time, our trade and economic ties are expanding rapidly. China is now one of our largest trading partners. We believe the consolidation of this vital relationship will have great significance of the regional architecture of peace and stability in the region, in Asia, and in the world, as a whole.
Sir, several colleagues raised issues regarding our relations with other countries in our neighbourhood. I should state that our Government is moving forward in our relationship with our neighbours on the basis of a vision of a prosperous, interconnected South Asia at peace with itself, and engaged with the world. For too long, we have wasted the undeniable potential of our people through short-sightedness. The example provided by our relation with Sri Lanka shows that there is no reason why despite dissimilarities of size, both parties cannot benefit from closer cooperative relations. Our relations with Bhutan have also similarly been benefitive. We seek to develop the closest cooperative ties, addressing each others' vital concern with all nations of our region. Our President visited Myanmar recently. We have consistently supported the process of dialogue national reconciliation and political reform in that country. I should make it quite clear that we would like democratic forces to have their full play in Myanmar. Whenever we have had an opportunity to discuss this matter with the authorities in Myanmar, we had made known our views without any fear or without mixing mataphors. But that does not mean that we should not engage with Myanmar. Myanmar is our neighbour. Several insurgent groups, operating in our North-East, use Myanmar's territory. Therefore, it becomes necessary for us to have a relationship with that country, which might help to control the activities of these insurgent groups in our neighbourhood. That's the logic why we have been engaged with Myanmar authorities. That's why our hon. President was in Myanmar recently. But that does not mean that we support the repressive measures that may have been taken by the authorities in Myanmar. We have great sympathy for Su Qui. I sincerely hope that Su Qui will soon be free out of prison.
Sir, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh will be visiting India later this month, during which period, we will discuss all the bilateral issues in a candid manner as befitting close neighbours.
We also hope to welcome President Karzai of Afghanistan to India in the near future. As we have said before, we support the establishment of a sovereign, stable, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan. And, we will do what we can to help in this process.
Sir, mention was made about the situation in Nepal by Shri Jaswant Singh and Dr. Chandan Mitra, among others. They spoke of reports that meetings had been organized with Maoist leaders in the vicinity of Delhi. I would like to state that there is no question of Government of India organising such meetings on our territory.
(Contd. by 4a)