Recalls success of Vajpayee government

In a globalised world where commercial interests shape foreign policy, only a strong economy can protect the nation’s interest, asserted Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. “I believe a strong economy is the driver of effective foreign policy”, but “we need to put our house in order,” he said, delivering the 11th Nani Palkivala memorial lecture on the theme “India and the World”.

In a speech that took several digs at the UPA Government, Modi, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, said India should draw on its ancient heritage and culture in showing ‘balance and restraint’ where needed to create a harmonious relationship with neighbouring countries.

India should have built on its ancient ties with South-East Asia. But “we remain insensitive where we needed to be sensitive and weak where we need to be strong,” he said.

Strategy and security

Another pillar of foreign policy should be ‘strategy and security’, he added.

Recalling the nuclear tests conducted during the Vajpayee-led BJP government, Modi said the then Prime Minister had demonstrated political will and leadership.

Vajpayee had worshipped ‘Shakthi and Shanthi’ — power and peace — while not bowing to international pressure and economic sanctions, Modi said. But after demonstrating the nation’s nuclear capability, he had committed to the international community, India’s policy of “no first use of nuclear weapon.” India’s economy had not suffered then, Modi said, adding that today it is ‘in the ICU’.

It was Vajpayee again who had brought the concerns and issues of terrorism to the centre-stage, he said. However, in the recent past, the response has been weak. “We need to unite the world against terrorism,” Modi stated. Modi also focussed on local issues. Why can’t a large country like India address even the problems faced by fishermen, he asked, referring to Tamil Nadu fishermen being harassed by Sri Lankan security forces. India should protect Indians abroad tackle problems such as those faced by Tamils overseas, he said.

States should be given a larger role in foreign policy, be allowed to strengthen ties with other countries, he said.

Modi formally released a book by Arun Shourie, titled Self Deception: India’s China Policies.

‘Cho’ Ramaswamy, political commentator and Editor of Tamil magazine Tuglaq, received the first copy. Shourie, a former union minister, addressed the gathering.

(This article was published on October 18, 2013)
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