Sunday, June 7, 2009

India: Transcript of press interaction of External Affairs Minister Shri S.M. Krishna on assumption of office

I am deeply honoured to assume charge of the high office of the Minister of External Affairs. We are at a moment in history when the world situation is rapidly changing and India, as a responsible power, must engage actively with the world. I am deeply conscious of the opportunities available to us and the difficulties that we face as we continue to pursue our independent foreign policy of peace and development, and strengthen our strategic autonomy.

2. In the coming years under the stewardship of PM Shri Manmohan Singh, it will be my endeavour to further advance our interest in the international arena. Our primary objective is to sustain high rates of economic growth in the range of 9 to 10% during the coming decades. For that, we require peace and tranquility in our extended neighbourhood and a supportive international environment.

3. I accord highest priority to strengthen our political, economic and cultural relations with our neighbours and look forward to visiting them soon.

4. To strengthen our policy and developmental options we will consolidate further our existing strategic partnership with major powers like USA, Russia, China, Japan and EU. Our strong and traditional ties with countries in Africa, West Asia and Latin America will be furthered and our Look East Policy strengthened.

I look forward to these challenging task in the pursuit of India’s non-aligned foreign policy.

Thank you.

Question: Since the Sri Lankan claims that the ethnic war is over in Northern Sri Lankan, now India has a most significant role to play to protect the rights and create basic infrastructure for the affected people. What kind of plan the Government of India is having in addition to providing regular relief material?

EAM: India will work with the people and Government of Sri Lanka to provide relief to those effected by the tragic conflict, as also to rapidly rehabilitate all those who have been displaced in order to bring their lives to normalcy as soon as possible.

With the conventional conflict in Sri Lanka coming to an end, this is the moment when the root causes of conflict in Sri Lanka can be addressed. This would include political steps towards the effective devolution of power within the Sri Lankan Constitution so that Sri Lankans of all communities, including the Tamils, can feel at home and lead lives of dignity of their own free will.

Question: This is on Pakistan. Do you think it is a good time for India to pull back troops from the border? What do you think about America increasing aid for Pakistan without making it conditional on stopping cross border terrorism against India?

EAM: We can change our friends, but not our neighbours. In general, we desire to live with all our neighbours in peace and to create a tension free situation with all our neighbours. We stand ready to extend our hand of partnership to Pakistan, if they take determined and credible action to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism operating from there territory.

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