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Katju bats for states to be part of foreign policy making process

By Nageshwar Patnaik
Bhubaneswar, January 7, 2015

The states have a role in shaping foreign policy of the country and there is a need for creation of an institutional structure for centre-state interaction on foreign policy issues, according to noted diplomat Vivek Katju.

Delivering the 14th Foundation Day Lecture of Navaratna PSU National Aluminium Company Ltd [NALCO] on  'Foreign policy: challenges and prospects', Katju on Tuesday endorsed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s thrust for greater involvement of the states in foreign policy making.

"Perhaps the time has come to create an institutional structure for centre-state interaction on foreign policy issues," the former Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs said adding that there has to be greater involvement of the states in foreign economic and commercial matters. 

Katju suggested that there could be structured periodic meetings of the Ministry of External Affairs Secretaries led by the Foreign Secretary and the Chief Secretaries of the states, which will go a long way to strengthen centre-state relations.

Recalling the Nani Palkhivala Memorial Lecture of Narendra Modi delivered in October 2013 in Chennai, Katju said the basic thrust of Modi's ideas is the greater involvement of the states in foreign policy making in order to strengthen federal relations.

While it is the centre that can holistically and comprehensively reconcile competing interests and formulate a position, there has to be greater involvement of the states in foreign economic and commercial issues, he said. 

"I feel that the national institutions of foreign policy making need to be periodically reviewed. Only then can it be ensured that they meet the needs of the times," Katju said adding Central authorities in federal and quasi-federal countries have to take into account among other pressures those coming from the constituent states. 

Endorsing the Act East Policy of the Prime Minister, which is a follow-up of the Look East policy, Katju said this would help Odisha, which has the tradition of maritime trade with countries in the Far East as symbolised by Bali Yatra.

Katju delved deep into the country’s foreign policy goal of having a conducive and peaceful external environment saying that there are challenges galore to achieve the aim. 

Referring to the turmoil in the entire west of India stretching from Pakistan to Afghanistan and through Iran to the Arab world, Katju said it was both a challenge and opportunity to India's interests. 

He supported the PM’s stand on relation with Pakistan saying that Modi had crafted a coherent policy towards Pakistan,

“It can only be hoped that the policy would continue even if pressure comes to modify it whether from within the country and abroad. Those who are advocating that dialogue should be resumed should ask themselves if the earlier dialogue has brought about stable relations or if dialogue is an end in itself," he added.

The attack on the Peshawar Army School in Pakistan reinforces the dangers of using terrorists as instruments of state policy; Katju said adding that it was definitely appropriate for India and Indians to sympathise with Pakistan for the Peshawar tragedy.

“But nobody should expect any significant impact of it on the bilateral relationship with Pakistan”, he cautioned wondering if India can change the Pakistani army’s mindset from conflict to cooperation. 

India has no role except to signal that its doors are open to cooperation, he said adding finally there is a coincidence of interests between Pakistan and China to keep India in check and for this purpose over decades Pakistan has been "China's cat's paw in South Asia." 

"The Pakistan Army, which controls the country's policy towards India, looks at our country as an eternal threat and enemy. Pakistan's hostility towards India will continue. The J&K  issue is only a manifestation of it and not its cause," he said adding that Pakistan would continue to seek to thwart Modi's efforts to integrate South Asia to transform it into an economic powerhouse.

"By brandishing nuclear weapons and constantly indicating that any Indian response to cross-border terrorism by Pakistan-based groups such as Lashkar-e-Toiba may snowball into a nuclear exchange, it wants to keep India paralyzed," he said.

On the bitter relationship with China, Katju recalled the slogan of Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai saying that it was a misnomer. “India in 2015 is not India of 1962. That does not mean that we should engage in confrontation. The principal challenge comes from China and we have to deal with it soberly, patiently, firmly and calmly," he stressed.

Stating that China’s progress is far better than India, Katju advocated continuing with Rajiv Gandhi’s policy towards China in 1988 that border dispute with China should not disrupt other relations with China.

The challenge to India was not limited to Pakistan and China alone but it goes beyond Afghanistan and further afield. Besides, there were challenges from management of the Indian Ocean as well, he emphasized stressing on the need of Indian companies to invest in natural resources abroad to secure raw material for domestic factories as India is set to become a manufacturing hub.

"As India becomes a base for manufacturing, it will need greater natural resources to feed the factories that will come up. These resources lie in Africa and in Latin America. It is the Chinese who have moved into these continents in a major way to buy or otherwise tie up and control natural assets there. China's large financial reserves have been deployed for this purpose. There has been some interest shown by the Indian companies but they have been mostly diffident," he informed.

The Make in India initiative should not override this aspect, he said hoping that the Indian government would do well in building up relation with and paying greater attention to African and Latin American nations, as it has done in the case of Arab world.



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