NEW DELHI: Leaders of different political parties of India including two former foreign ministers on April 27 advocated that the country’s foreign policy required a new orientation in tune with the “epochal” geo-strategic changes that had overtaken the world in recent months but failed to find a common platform on the thrust the policy should take.

Participating in the first “Hindustan Times” annual debate on “India’s foreign policy in the changing world” speakers from the major political parties found scant grounds for agreement except that it was imperative that the country’s foreign policy be responsive to the changing scenario keeping India’s national interests at the fore.

Former minister of state for External Affairs Natwar Singh said India like most other countries had been caught unaware by the Spate of events in the Soviet bloc but now had to press its views on crucial issues like a non-proliferation treaty and expanding the UN Security Council to include counties like Japan Germany India and Brazil.

Other speakers in the three-hour debate included former foreign minister Inder Gujral BJP member of Parliament Jaswant Singh Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) General Secretary Harkishan Singh Surjeet former foreign secretary M.K.Rasgotra and noted Columnist Nikhil Chakravarty.

Natwar Singh said India had made a mistake by not taking the “logical step and going nuclear after the peaceful nuclear experiment in 1974.”

Referring to fears expressed by some of the speakers that liberalization and opening up of the economy would compromise the country’s sovereignty Singh said the U S investment in China totaled 42 billion US dollars. “China has the confidence to accept the (U.S. investment without bartering away their independence” he added.

Inder Gujral sharply attacked the government’s foreign policy saying it “lacked foresight does not know where it’s taking the country and is a prisoner of three times namely the siege within captive of the IMF and Inertia.”

He said it was unfortunate that the country did not have a foreign minister and wondered who was making the country’s foreign policy at present Gujral demanded that the prime minister who was in charge of the ministry should come out with a statement on the Priorities before the foreign policy debate and in the face of new challenges and Opportunities posed by the changing global scenario.

Article extracted from this publication >> May 8, 1996