Lundi 22 Avril 2019  

N°124 - Quatrième trimestre 2018

La lettre diplometque
Entretien exclusif
Diplomatie & Défense
La lettre diplometque
La lettre diplomatique Haut
  S.E.Mme / H.E. Savitri KUNADI

India: A Great Power Steps Forward

Long a key leader in the Non-Aligned Movement, India is steadily expanding its role on the international stage. The Ambassador of India to France, H.E. Savitri Kunadi, shares her thoughts on the main challenges faced by her country, underscoring the strengths of the “world’s largest democracy” and its commitment to multilateralism.

The Diplomatic Letter: Madam Ambassador, Over the past decade India has stepped up as a key player on the world stage. As your country readies for the all-important 2004 elections, could you describe the domestic situation inside India for our readers?

H.E. Savitri Kunadi: India is a multiparty Parliamentary democracy fully committed to the welfare of its citizens. It is both politically and economically stable and has registered consistent growth rates in the last two decades. As is well known, India is often referred to as a subcontinent. This appellation expresses the size, diversity and the numerical strength of India and its people. India’s democratic institutions provide opportunities to all to freely but in a nonviolent manner express themselves and air their grievances. One of the important underpinnings of Indian democracy is the electoral system supervised by the Election Commission of India. An electorate of more than 600 million people voting freely and fairly gives expression to the very concept of democracy and freedom. Democratically-elected political institutions permeate the Indian political landscape all the way from the national to the grassroots level. This is the basis of India’s stability. Hence, the internal situation in India has been and will continue to be stable. Our Parliamentary elections in 2004 will take place under these conditions.  Free and fair elections at the national and regional levels will continue to assure continuity and orderly transition of governments.

T.D.L.: India has been working hard to open up its economy since 1991, becoming one of the most promising emerging countries despite a continued dependence on  protectionist policies. What is your country doing to remove the roadblocks to greater foreign investments? Are  measures being taken to reign in public spending, which has prevented the Indian economy from really taking off? Could you describe ongoing programs to fight poverty and foster better education and health care?

H.E.S.K.: The economic reform program in India has been making steady progress since its launch in 1991. India is now viewed as one of the most promising emerging markets. A recent study by Goldman Sachs predicts that by 2050 India would become the world’s third largest economy in absolute terms. As part of the ongoing economic liberalization the custom tariff levels are being progressively brought down and the peak level of tariff now only stands at 20%. The reforms are transforming India into an Investor-friendly country. The government is also taking measures to tackle the fiscal deficit through both rationalization of expenditure and augmentation of revenues. Antipoverty programs are being strengthened to generate additional employment, create productive assets and raise the income level of the poor. A high priority has been accorded to the education sector on which the government expenditure has increased rapidly over the years. Education and health are seen as critical inputs for investment in human capital and welfare. The major objective of the public health programs is to improve the access to and utilization of health services with special focus on the under privileged segments of the population.

T.D.L.: India has the proud distinction of being the “world’s largest democracy.” What steps is the government taking to foster even greater respect for human rights with special focus on the rights of the child, a keystone in the current administration’s programme? Women have long been actively involved in the wheels of State in India. What must yet be done to improve the overall status of women in Indian society?

H.E.S.K.: India took an active part in the drafting of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. India is a signatory to the six-core human rights covenants and is fully committed to promote and protect the rights proclaimed in the Universal Declaration. India has advocated a holistic and integrated approach that gives equal emphasis to all human rights, whether civil or political or economic, social and cultural, based on their interdependence, interrelatedness, indivisibility and universality, and reinforces the interrelationship between democracy, human rights and the right to development.  These basic human rights are also enshrined in our Constitution and guaranteed to all our citizens.
India has signed and ratified the UN Convention on Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). In India we have long recognised that policies and programmes for the advancement and empowerment of women must be action oriented and targeted. 1/3rd of the seats for elected village councils are reserved for women. Numerous institutions and mechanisms for delivery of social services targeted at women of all ages and children are in place.  More recently we have enacted laws to prevent sexual harassment at work places. Our national human rights machinery mainstreams gender perspective in its work.  The objective is to enable women to overcome the disadvantages that they face and to empower them to play an effective and equal role in society.
Rights of the child in India are being promoted in accordance with provisions of CRC. We believe that the rights of the children are to be seen in an intergenerational context. An early start in life that sustains the full growth and development of a child and enables the adult to fully attain his or her potential is vital. Children are our first concern and priority. It is recognised that literacy particularly from early childhood is the key to the implementation of this intergenerational approach. Despite scarcity of resources, a law is being considered in India to make primary education compulsory and free. We have also begun work towards the establishment of a National Commission for Children which will help attain the goal of the full and complete development of the children. India remains strongly committed to the full eradication of all forms of child labour wherever it might exist beginning with the most exploitative and hazardous forms and moving on to this progressive and effective elimination. Our National Human Rights Commission and our legal system have been active on this issue. We are also participating in the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) of the ILO.

T.D.L.: As a “Group of 21” leader, alongside China and Brazil, India adamantly contested the stands taken by the industrialised countries during the September 2003 negotiations in Cancun. Could you summarise your country’s positions in the Doha cycle, which sought to open up both the agricultural and service markets (GATS)? How is India tackling its debt problem? Could you outline your country’s WTO strategy in light of its refusal to support the World Social Forum, which will nonetheless be hosted by your country in 2004?

H.E.S.K.: In view of India, the most important element of the Doha Ministerial Declaration was that it affirmed the importance of trade as an instrument for economic development particularly in the developing countries. Unfortunately, the progress since Doha has been limited and hardly any genuine effort has been made to address the problems of the developing countries. The abrupt termination of the Cancun Conference came in the wake of reactions to the Chairman’s revised text of September 13, 2003 in which the concerns of the developing countries on agriculture and Singapore issues were not taken on board. India’s position on Agriculture has been consistent and is underpinned by the recognition that developing countries can be expected to reciprocate on market access in agriculture subject to their economic and social conditions, development needs, food and livelihood security and rural development requirements only if they get adequate concessions and commitments by the developed countries. India has to ensure that the negotiations do not result in an outcome which would affect the livelihood and survival of its 650 million farmers. Similarly for the Services Sector, India calls for greater flexibility to be shown to developing and least developed countries. India has filed initial request to its trading partners in computer related services, health services, tourism services and other service areas. India also supports removal of the barriers and procedural difficulties associated with visas and work permits and non recognition of qualifications. India has actively participated in the negotiations on various issues included in the Doha Work Programme. It has consistently taken the stand that the development dimensions of the work programme should not be diluted at any cost. India is optimistic that, in spite of the failure of the Cancun Ministerial Conference, it would be possible to move forward in a constructive and flexible manner & in a way that the needs & concerns of the developing countries are not ignored. India is firmly of the opinion that a fair, rules-based multilateral trading system is absolutely essential to ensure all round global development.

T.D.L.: Already a key regional player and nuclear power, India is now moving towards ASEAN membership, on the heels of China and Japan. With this triad of countries  destined to assume the leadership of the budding free-trade zone, what kind of balance of power will we see within ASEAN? Does the cooperation agreement signed by Beijing and New Delhi in June 2003 augur well for a new bilateral economic partnership that would allay the long-standing rivalry between the two countries?

H.E.S.K.: India has recently signed the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation with the ASEAN which is expected to enter into force from July 1, 2004. The main objective of the ASEAN integration process to strengthen and enhance economic, trade & investment ties can be achieved through a cooperative approach among the member countries.  The Prime Minister of India paid a visit to China in June this year during which there was a special emphasis on bilateral economic relationship. There is a clear awareness on both sides of the potential of the bilateral economic relationship. As a result of the visit, the two countries have agreed to wide ranging mutually beneficial engagement even while simultaneously addressing their difference through amicable discussions. During the visit, for the first time in Indo – China relations, a Joint Declaration was signed by the two Prime Ministers which, inter alia, confirms the commitment of the two countries to work more closely together at the international level to strengthen the trend towards multi polarity, on WTO issues and on other areas of concern to the developing countries.

T.D.L.: Spurred on by Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, India and Pakistan began renewing diplomatic ties one year after the escalation of violence last summer. Could you tell us what prompted this move? Has it opened up new avenues for finding a peaceful resolution to the India-Pakistan standoff, and to the conflict over Kashmir? Along with the rekindling of economic exchanges, how can your country and Pakistan work together to foster stronger regional development in the long term?

H.E.S.K.: India is committed to establishing peaceful and friendly ties with Pakistan. It is this commitment which has encouraged PM Vajpayee to take initiatives to improve relations in spite of Pakistan’s sustained support and sponsorship of terrorism in India. Thanks to these initiatives the two High Commissioners are in place. Steps have also been taken to promote trade, cultural exchanges and people-to-people contacts. Trade delegations have been exchanged. Non-governmental and nonpolitical exchanges and interaction at technical level have taken place.  The twelve Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) proposed by Indian PM Vajpayee, last year include early restoration of air, ferry and train links, restoring sporting relations, increasing strength of diplomatic missions, visa camps, free medical treatment for Pakistani children, formal links between Coast Guards, etc. To initiate a dialogue process to address all bilateral issues including Jammu & Kashmir, we hope that Pakistan puts and end to cross border terrorism and agrees to a dialogue with India in the spirit of the Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration. We have also always looked at the possibilities for regional cooperation under the SAARC Summit marks an important development in Indo-Pak relations. Following his talks with President Musharraf on the sidelines of the Summit, both sides have now agreed to commence the process of a composite dialogue in February 2004.

T.D.L.: With Pakistan’s shaky political situation, Sri Lanka’s continuing civil war, and Nepal’s ever worsening internal conflict, Southern Asia remains a highly unstable region. What resources can Indian authorities muster to promote peace and encourage closer economic integration? Does the SAARC still offer an effective framework for meeting these objectives?

H.E.S.K.: India is a peace-loving nation and wishes to have peaceful and friendly relations with all its neighbours and with countries in the region. In tune with this desire, India enjoys good relations with all its neighbours and has taken important initiatives to improve relations with Pakistan. India’s political, economic and cultural relations with most of its neighbours are strong and on the increase. Through these bonds of friendship and cooperation, India wishes to create along with its neighbours a prosperous and peaceful region. India would like to have friendly relations with Pakistan also. This would be possible once Pakistan ceases its support to Terrorism in India.
India has numerous bilateral agreements and other arrangements with its neighbours to promote cooperation in diverse fields. In addition to this, SAARC is a Regional Association of countries created in 1985 to promote economic cooperation among countries of the region. SAARC is very keen on implementing a South Asia Preferential Trade Arrangement (SAPTA) and later a South Asia Free Trade Area (SAFTA). The framework agreement for SAPTA was finalised in 1993 and formally came into operation in December 1995. Under this framework agreement, member-countries conducted several rounds of trade negotiations and agreed to preferential tariff concessions to a range of each others’ products. It is an ongoing process. The framework agreement for SAFTA was finalised during the recent SAARC Summit, in Islamabad.
Rapid regional economic cooperation within the SAARC framework, resulting in increased prosperity for all the member countries is the surest way to ensure peace and prosperity in the region.  India is hopeful and confident for the future of SAARC.

T.D.L.: Two decades of battling terrorism have put India at the forefront of the fight against international terrorism. Have the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq affected the climate in your own region, which has a large Muslim population? Could India’s participation in international antiterrorist operations lead to the launching of a dynamic strategic partnership with Washington, which has been slow to come together since 2000?

H.E.S.K.: India had traditionally enjoyed excellent relations with Iraq and Afghanistan. The coming of Taliban regime, which was sheltering the al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, disrupted these relations with Afghanistan. These terrorist organisations were using Afghanistan as a base to launch terrorist activity in India and other parts of the world. Many of these terrorist groups had strong links with Pakistan’s intelligence agencies and were working together with Pakistan-based Kashmiri terrorist organisations to perpetrate terrorist activity in Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of India. With the fall of the Taliban regime, India has established excellent relations with the present government in Afghanistan and has joined hands with the international community for post-conflict reconstruction. It is also important for the international community to fully support and sustain President Karzai's Government in Afghanistan to make Afghanistan a peaceful democracy.
With Iraq also, India has historic links. Iraq is situated in the strategically important oil-rich region and close to our neighbourhood. The war in Iraq and the subsequent events have had a ripple effect all over the world. The immediate priorities in Iraq are ensuring security and stability, restoration of basic facilities and infrastructure, and a roadmap of a political process for instituting a representative Iraqi Government.
Indian PM Vajpayee’s lecture to Asia Society in New York in September this year sums up our position:
“Iraq and Afghanistan are two immediate test cases of our efforts to build a world order based on cooperation and partnership. In both cases, the way we address these challenges will have far-reaching implications for our common future.
In Iraq, we have to develop an international consensus, which accelerates the political, economic and security transformation in that country. In Afghanistan, we need to complete the work commenced by the Bonn process, and help its government to completely wipe out the remnants of Taliban, to establish full control over the entire country and to progress as scheduled towards national elections.
The future of Iraq and Afghanistan is vital for their citizens, but will equally have far-reaching implications for the region and for the world”.
India is well aware that the populations of the Muslim countries in its neighbourhood almost universally recognise the dangers of the international terrorism that is perpetuated in the name of Islam, and have no sympathy for such terrorist organisations. India itself is also home to the second largest Muslim population of the world, and the indigenous Muslim community is a well-integrated part of Indian society and polity, which fully supports the Government in its efforts to protect the country against the scourge of terrorism. India does not see international terrorism as a religious phenomenon, but essentially as disruptive and misguided actions being sponsored and supported by some irresponsible nations and individuals, in order to further their own strategic interests.
India and the USA enjoy close friendly relations. As democracies, both are committed to political and economic freedom, free flow of commerce and fighting international terrorism in order to create a stable world. They also enjoy tremendous potential for cooperation in several key areas of mutual interest. A strategic partnership between the two countries has been established in the post Cold-War world, which is becoming progressively more meaningful.

T.D.L.: India and Israel recently strengthened their military and security ties, during the first visit by an Israeli head of State to your country. Is this agreement the first real step towards the creation of a US-Israel-India strategic axis to fight international terrorism? How will your country balance its ties with Israel against its ties with its energy partners in the Muslim Arab world? In view of the agreement signed during President Vladimir Putin’s visit to New Delhi in December 2002, how would you describe your country’s current relations with Russia?

H.E.S.K.: The Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, accompanied by a high-level delegation, visited India from September 8 to 10 this year. His interactions with the senior Indian leadership, and the various agreements and exchange programmes signed during his visit, covered the entire gamut of bilateral cooperation, and a comprehensive Delhi Statement on friendship and cooperation was issued on the occasion. Therefore, the focus of the visit was on promoting bilateral cooperation in all areas, and not restricted to any single-point agenda, or directed against any other country or region.
The scourge of terrorism has become a worldwide phenomenon and India and Israel do share some views on terrorism and methods to combat this menace. The Delhi Statement clearly says “Terrorism undermines the very foundation of freedom and democracy, endangers the continued existence of open and democratic societies and constitutes a global threat; therefore, there cannot be any compromise in the war against terrorism. Together with the international community and as victims of terrorism, India and Israel are partners in the battle against this scourge”. The same could be said about India’s cooperation with the USA in combating Terrorism. However, the fight against terrorism cannot be conducted by one country or an axis of countries alone. The entire international community is threatened by this scourge, and hence must unite to protect civilisation against bigotry and fundamentalism. There is widespread appreciation, in all responsible nations, of the dangers posed by international terrorism, and the need to fight it together, for the safety and security of successive generations.
India’s relations with Israel have in no way adversely affected its relations with the Arab world. India continues to support the Palestinian cause and regards President Yasser Arafat as a legitimate Palestinian leader. India enjoys excellent political relations with the Arab world. A large number of Indians live in the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf region and this region continues to be India’s primary source of oil. India enjoys huge trade and commercial exchanges with the Arab countries. Hence, India considers both Israel and countries of the Arab world as its partners in progress.
Despite major changes in the international environment, India-Russia relations have remained marked by stability and continuity, on the basis of a mutual appreciation by the two sides of each others’ national interest, a common approach to international problems, a commitment to mutually beneficial cooperation, and, above all, continuing trust in each other. India and Russia have created a durable and comprehensive structure of cooperation based on intensive political dialogue, expanding bilateral trade and commerce, exchanges in science and technology and cooperation in the fields like culture and education. Regular high-level interaction and several bilateral agreements provide momentum to Indo-Russian bilateral relations. Indo-Russian political dialogue focuses on important issues like Disarmament, Security, Globalisation, Equitable international economic order, Clean environment and sustainable development, Public health and International and Cross border terrorism. India and Russia share common views and a close similarity of approach to these important issues. Both sides have emphasised that terrorism is a danger for the entire international community because of its close links with religious extremism, international crime, drug-trafficking and illicit arms transfer. Hence, it is a global threat which requires a global response. India and Russia have worked together in the UN and through bilateral action at combating international terrorism. Russia has expressed complete support for India’s permanent membership in the UN Security Council.

T.D.L.: As an advocate of a multipolar world looking to play a more active role within the UN, what would India like to see done to make this organisation a truer reflection of the realities and stakes of our modern-day world? Your country is a Non-Aligned Movement leader renowned for following an “ethical foreign policy.” How does India feel about the new world order that has taken shape since the close of the Cold War?

H.E.S.K.: Reform and improvement are an intrinsic part of any organisation which has to serve the needs of a changing environment. The United Nations is no exception. India supports a strengthened and revitalised United Nations with its various organs functioning within their mandates in accordance with the UN Charter. India supports an enhanced role for the United Nations in development and development cooperation dialogue. India firmly believes that development should be central to UN’s agenda and be pursued in its own right. It is an indispensable prerequisite to the maintenance of international peace and security. India has actively participated in all Reforms and restructuring exercises that could enhance the capacity of the UN and the fulfilment of its primary tasks.
As a primary body entrusted with the responsibility of maintaining international peace and security, Security Council must be adapted to present day realities. Over the decades, the UN membership has grown enormously. The scope of its activities has expanded greatly, with new specialised agencies and new programmes. But in the political and security dimensions of its activities, the United Nations has not kept pace with the changes in the world. For the Security Council to represent genuine multilateralism in its decisions and actions, its membership must reflect current world realities. Most UN members today recognise the need for an enlarged and restructured Security Council, with more developing countries as permanent and non-permanent members. Given any criteria for expanding the Security Council, India would emerge as a leading candidate for permanent membership and India’s candidature has been supported by several countries.
The new international order which has emerged after the end of the cold war has some important characteristics. The phenomenon of Globalisation has a great impact on the evolving international order. The effects of Globalisation transcend national boundaries. Similarly, migration patterns, movement of natural resources and climate change pose challenges across national boundaries. Terrorism, flow of illicit drugs, weapons and money and spread of diseases are some of the other areas which recognise no national boundaries. Hence, it is clear that in a world of global interdependence, cooperation is the key word. The new international order should be based on the concepts of plurality, consensus and collective decision making giving due weightage to the legitimate interests and concerns of all countries big or small.

T.D.L.: The European Union is India’s leading trade partner as well as a key political ally. Did the EU-India Summit held in Athens in January 2003 open up new avenues for further strengthening India-EU ties? As the EU pushes forward towards the adoption of a European Constitution, do you think the Indian institutional system could serve as a sounding board or even a model for Europe?

H.E.S.K.: The third India-EU Summit held in Copenhagen in October, 2002 reaffirmed the commitment of India and EU to the shared values of democracy and pluralism. The two sides also reiterated their commitment to combat Terrorism. On trade and economic issues, the two sides agreed to intensify the high-level economic dialogue and to strengthen the multilateral trade regime of WTO. Greater cooperation in promoting Afghanistan’s reconstruction, increased cooperation on Counter-Terrorism issues and starting negotiations for an agreement on Customs cooperation were some of the other important issues discussed.
We have followed with attention the grand exercise of drawing up a European Constitution. India has a federal set up and its institutions are modelled on the principle of decentralisation and unity in diversity. While circumstances may differ, our unique experience can serve as a model for anyone interested in preserving individual and group identities and rights while at the same time, functioning in complete freedom for the good of the larger entity, viz. society or country or a federation of countries.

T.D.L.: Indo-French relations have gained fresh momentum since Jacques Chirac visited  India in 1998. New cooperation mechanisms have been forged in recent years, such as the Indo-French Forum held on 13-14 October of this year. Did this meeting generate innovative new ways of bolstering bilateral ties? Could you describe the key industrial, scientific and technological cooperation projects between India and France?  How does your country feel about France’s determination to maintain a “balance” between its military cooperation with India and Pakistan?  2003 was the “Year of France in India.” How can we follow up on the success of this event to further bolster our countries’ cultural relations?

H.E.S.K.: Indo-French relations have traditionally been strong. They cover a wide spectrum of areas and are constantly growing. In the last few years, several institutional mechanisms have been put in place for providing a framework to Indo-French cooperation in diverse areas. The Indo-French Forum and several Joint Working Groups are some of these mechanisms. The Indo-French Forum for Initiatives was President Chirac’s brainchild during his visit to India in 1998. It consists of eminent French and Indian members from outside of the Governments. Through their deliberations they provide ideas for greater cooperation in different fields. They also identify specific projects for collaboration. The last meeting of the Forum in October this year made an assessment of ongoing programmes and also identified new areas of cooperation.
There is extensive industrial, scientific and technological cooperation between India and France. Cooperation between the Indian Space agency and Ariane Space, the Megatropique project for monsoon predictions, collaboration in the field of Laser technology, collaboration in the field of medicine in areas like AIDS and Tuberculosis, cooperation in agricultural research and growing company-to-company cooperation in the field of Information Technology are some of the important ongoing areas of cooperation.
France recognises that India is a emerging global player and a strategic ally.  India and France have an active and mutually beneficial cooperation in several fields including in the field of defence. As two important democracies sharing a common world view, our relations are based on mutual trust and confidence.
India and France have recently finalised the new Cultural Exchange Programme. This will give fresh momentum to the already multifaceted and vibrant cultural relations between the two countries.
Retour en haut de page

La lettre diplomatique Bas
  Présentation - Derniers Numéros - Archives - Nos Liens - Contacts - Mentions Légales