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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2584

India terms border clashes serious, rules out revision of N-doctrine

From Malladi Rama Rao
New Delhi, 31August (Asiantribune.com):

A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Islamabad had made a “spectacle” of the planned Foreign Secretary level talks by meeting with Srinagar based Hurriyat leaders, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley has termed the ceasefire violations and firing across the border and LoC as provocative and serious, and said these violations are hindering bilateral ties.

“These incidents are creating an environment which is not very conducive for the relationship between the two countries,” Jaitley told reporters here as reports came in that a soldier died in the Line of Control area.

Last Sunday witnessed a gun battle between the militants and the security forces in which five militants and three soldiers were killed.

For about two weeks by now the International Border and LoC have been witnessing “unusually heavy artillery fire” and nightly mortar attacks”, which are not unusual this time of the year since such fire is a cover aimed at facilitating infiltration of armed militants into the India side.

India last week called off Foreign Secretary level talks with Pakistan, scheduled to take place in Islamabad, after Pakistan High Commissioner met Hurriyat leaders even after South Block had advised him not to do.

In an interaction with the Japanese media on the eve of his departure for Tokyo, Prime Minister Narendra Modi criticised that Pakistan made a “spectacle” of India's efforts to pursue warmer relations. But he said he would pursue efforts to improve the ties.

“Modi Rebukes Pakistan After Cancellation of Talks”, read the heading of the dispatch in the New York Times on Indian Premier’s first public comment after Delhi called off the FS level talks.

Modi faced lot of flak inside and outside India for the cancellation.

Responding to questions from Japanese journalists on India-Pak ties, Modi said his first meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif n May had been “very good.”

“We, therefore, were disappointed that Pakistan sought to make a spectacle of these efforts and went ahead with talks with secessionist elements from Jammu and Kashmir in New Delhi just prior to the meeting of the foreign secretaries,” Mr. Modi said.

He went on to say that “any meaningful bilateral dialogue necessarily requires an environment that is free from terrorism and violence.”

The Premier used the interaction to clarify his government’s position on India’s nuclear doctrine. He stated categorically that there are were no plans to revise it, and thus put at rest speculation that the BJP led government would revise the nuclear doctrine in line with its poll promise to “study in detail India’s nuclear doctrine, and revise and update it, to make it relevant to challenges of current times.”

“While every government naturally takes into account the latest assessment of strategic scenarios and makes adjustments as necessary, there is a tradition of national consensus and continuity on such issues,” Mr. Modi said, according to a transcript posted on the website of the Ministry of External Affairs. “I can tell you that currently, we are not taking any initiative for a review of our nuclear doctrine.”

Modi, who landed in Japan Saturday, is expected to push for a civilian nuclear trade deal similar to the one India signed with the United States in 2008.

Excerpts From Modi Interaction With Japanese Media

Question: During your forthcoming visit to Japan, what further progress do you expect in diplomatic, economic and security relations with Japan, particularly in terms of three major pending negotiations namely the civil nuclear pact, US-2 amphibious aircraft, and the high speed rail "Shinkansen”?

Prime Minister: I see the choice of Japan as my first destination for a bilateral visit outside India's immediate neighbourhood as recognition of Japan's importance in India's foreign policy and economic development and her place at the heart of India's Look East Policy. Our two countries enjoy consensus on the importance and potential of our Strategic and Global Partnership across the political spectrum, the business community and people in all walks of life in the two countries. This is a partnership that is sustained by the convergence of our values and interests.

In the economic field, I see a lot of complementarity and synergy between the goals of Abenomics and what I am trying to achieve in India. Japan will always remain our preferred economic partner. Japan has supported India's infrastructure development over the years through generous ODA loans.

In the field of defence and security, I feel time has come for us to upgrade our relations. I see in the recent changes in Japan's defence export policies and regulations a possibility to engage in a new era of cooperation in high-end defence technology and equipment.

There has been significant progress in our negotiations on the civil nuclear agreement; on the US-2 amphibian aircraft; and in the field of high speed railway. It is my hope that my visit this time will pave the way for concrete cooperation on these fields.

Question: We have heard that you have planned to visit Hiroshima. Could you please confirm that you would visit Hiroshima as Prime Minister of India in the near future?

Prime Minister: I have visited Hiroshima in April 2007 during my visit to Japan as the Chief Minister of Gujarat. In future also, if presented with an opportunity, I would like to visit there again.

Question:Japan recently changed its defence policy to be more proactive and expanding the interpretation of the right of collective self-defence to have deeper commitment to regional security issues. While Japan seeks deepening defence cooperation with India, "Malabar 2014" India-US-Japan Naval drill marked a success last month. What is your opinion about Will India continue to hold trilateral or multilateral defence exercises that include Japan after next year? Do you plan to have India-Japan 2+2 Foreign and Defence Ministerial Consultations?

Prime Minister: Defence relations constitute a strong underpinning of our Strategic and Global Partnership. We have a shared interest in working together with Japan and with other countries, to foster peace and stability in Asia and beyond. We are committed to strengthen defence exchanges and cooperation between Japan and India. The two sides will strengthen defence exchanges at all levels and continue to hold naval exercises with regular frequency. I am glad that Japan took part in the Malabar exercise this year.

Question: I would like to ask about relationship with SAARC countries. Prime Minister chose Bhutan and Nepal which were located between India and China as the first countries for the bilateral visits. What is the aim of that?

Prime Minister: My visits to Bhutan and Nepal reflect the high priority and focus on our immediate neighbourhood in our foreign policy priorities and my conviction that India and the SAARC countries must reinforce economic growth in the SAARC region by promoting synergy. India's relations with Nepal and Bhutan are above all relationship forged by our people through the ages. We have open borders with both countries in more than one sense of the term. My discussion in both countries covered the entire gamut of bilateral cooperation including in trade and economy, developmental assistance, hydropower cooperation, defence and security, education and culture. My visits there imparted a fresh impetus to our close relationships with our two Northern neighbours.

Question: India cancelled the foreign secretary meeting between India and Pakistan. What is the reason of that? How will the prime minister improve the deteriorated relationship?

Prime Minister: India desires peaceful, friendly and cooperative ties with Pakistan. I had a very good meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in May 2014, when he attended the swearing-in ceremony of my Government. We together decided that the Foreign Secretaries should meet and explore how to take relations forward. India has no hesitation to discuss any outstanding issue with Pakistan within the bilateral framework that has been established under the Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration. We, therefore, were disappointed that Pakistan sought to make a spectacle of these efforts and went ahead with talks with secessionist elements from Jammu and Kashmir in New Delhi just prior to the meeting of the Foreign Secretaries. We will continue to make efforts to build peaceful, friendly and cooperative ties with Pakistan, but I might add that any meaningful bilateral dialogue necessarily requires an environment that is free from terrorism and violence.

Question: In Afghanistan International Security Aid Force (ISAF) will leave by the end of this year, and the new president will be sworn in. How will the prime minister construct better relationship with new Afghanistan and contribute its peace and stability?

Prime Minister: As the ISAF has been drawing down its presence, the Afghan National Security Forces and their valiant personnel have been showing themselves more than capable of taking on greater responsibilities for Afghanistan’s security. However, peace and stability in Afghanistan continues to face a serious threat from terrorism and extremism coming from across its borders. India has a strategic partnership with Afghanistan and we remain committed to helping Afghans build a strong, independent and prosperous country.

Question: According to the Manifesto of BJP, your government will revise and update the nuclear doctrine to make it relevant to challenges of current times. Could you please elaborate what the new doctrine would be like?

Prime Minister: India's nuclear doctrine was adopted during the previous NDA government and has in general governed our nuclear weapons posture since then. While every government naturally takes into account the latest assessment of strategic scenarios and makes adjustments as necessary, there is a tradition of national consensus and continuity on such issues. I can tell you that currently, we are not taking any initiative for a review of our nuclear doctrine.

Question: Also, I wonder if there are any possibilities that India accede NPT or CTBT sometime in the future. If any, what conditions would be required by India to consider signing NPT or CTBT?

Prime Minister:India’s position on the NPT and the CTBT is well-known and needs no reiteration. There is no contradiction in our mind between being a nuclear weapon state and contributing actively to global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. India remains strongly committed to universal, non-discriminatory, global nuclear disarmament. Our track record of non-proliferation is impeccable. We will continue to contribute to the strengthening of the global non-proliferation efforts. India’s membership of the four international export control regimes will be conducive to this. As to the CTBT, we are committed to maintaining a unilateral and voluntary moratorium on nuclear explosive testing.

Question: I would like to ask about China. What is China for you? What are your views on China's "expansionism"? What becomes the main topic at the summit meeting with PRC President Xi Jinping in September?

Prime Minister: China is India’s largest neighbour and a high priority in India’s foreign policy. It is my government’s resolve to utilize the full potential of our Strategic and Cooperative Partnership with China. I am keen to work closely with the Chinese leadership to push the relationship forward and to deal with all issues in our bilateral relations by proceeding from the strategic perspective of our developmental goals and long-term benefits to our peoples. I had a good first meeting with President Xi in July and I am looking forward to welcoming him in India. India, Japan and China, as major countries in Asia, have many common interests and we need to build on them to convert ours into an Asian Century by working together.

Question: How do you look at the concept of establishing Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) raised by China? Do you have an intention to support it and how do you find it different from the already established ADB and WB?

Prime Minister: India desires that global savings be channelled towards infrastructure development in developing economies. Parts of the Asian continent face enormous infrastructure deficits. Hence, in principle, any initiative which seeks to address these deficits in infrastructure and connectivity is welcome. China has invited India to join the proposed AIIB as founding member; India is considering the invitation. India would like any new multilateral development bank to incorporate the reforms that we advocate for the existing international financial institutions.

Question: "Obama administration has sent ministers one after another to India and invited you to visit Washington next month. What kind of relation with the US would like to build and what needs to be done in order for India and the US to enhance strategic partnership?”

Prime Minister: India’s strategic partnership with the United States is an important pillar of India’s foreign policy. This partnership is not only relevant for the attainment of India's national, regional and global aspirations, it is also an important contributor to peace, stability and prosperity in Asia and the world. As I have said in the recent past to visiting American dignitaries, we should not look at the relationship merely in terms of what India and the US can do for each other, but more importantly, what India and the US can do together, for the world. As the largest and oldest democracies in the world, there is also a convergence of values, which also means that it is natural for India and the US to want to partner more closely with traditional friends who share such values, such as Japan. Both sides recognize that there is value in building further substance in this partnership for the benefit of our people, the region and the world. We should challenge ourselves to realise the true potential of this relationship. It is in this spirit that I approach my meeting with President Obama in September.

Question:How do you plan to expand the influx of foreign direct investment (FDI)? The government has proposed to increase the FDI limits in defence and insurance sectors from 26% to 49%. In what other areas do you plan to ease FDI limits? Also, it is expected that the implementation of GST will remove certain barriers for foreign companies to do business in India. Are you confident that your government will be able to roll out GST before the end of 2014? Could you please tell me the roadmap for the much delayed indirect tax reform?

Prime Minister: FDI regime in India is free with minimal conditionalities. I feel that with the right signal of policy stability and genuineness of intent by the Government, FDI influx will happen on its own, as India is an excellent investment destination. We are open to dialogue and will strive to remove all roadblocks to inviting FDI. There are not many sectors left where FDI has restrictions. Review of FDI policy is a continuous exercise. We have recently opened up the railway sector to 100% FDI and 49% in defence. We have also deregulated a number of items in defence list which do not require licensing now.

The introduction of GST is likely to reduce cost for industry, trade and consumers. Further, it would lead to widening of tax base and a significant improvement in tax compliance. We are discussing with States and holding dialogues for assuaging their apprehensions about possible revenue loss, and I am confident that sooner rather than later the States will come on board. Even if it takes a little more time to convince them, in a Federal democracy the way forward is to convince the States and arrive at a consensus.

-Asian Tribune -

Defence MinisterArun Jaitley
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