Com. Sitaram Yechury's Speech in Rajya Sabha on India's Foreign Policy

August 05, 2017

Mr Vice-Chairman, thank you very much. This is a very important issue that is being discussed and is very vital to our country’s future. Sir, basically, we are discussing India’s foreign policy at a very critical time. Foreign policy, as all of us know, is essentially an extension of your domestic policy. Now, what is in India’s interest should dominate what should be our foreign policy at any point of time. Over a period, historically, we have evolved our position that India’s foreign policy, essentially, has to be an independent foreign policy that will protect our interest. That should be the topmost priority. Hence, there was a time when we led the developing world, as a leader of the Non-Aligned Movement. There was a time when our voice, as an independent voice in the comity of nations, was heard with great deal of respect and there were times when we influenced global policy positions on various issues, including our then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s proposal on nuclear disarmament, which is still pending before the United Nations General Assembly. On total abolition of all nuclear weapons, India was taking the lead. Today, unfortunately, what has happened is, I think, a very serious rupture of this entire policy orientation. Yes, the world has changed since then. The Cold War has ended. Then, you had a different co-relation of power and forces in the international arena; so, Governments of India had taken certain shifts in those times. In these shifts, the basic question is: where does our interest lie? Does it lie in the pursuit of an independent foreign policy, or does it lie in the pursuit of being aligned with some power or the other? In the whole world situation that was emerging, and which is still continuing today, in the battle between unipolarity under the leadership of the United States of America and multi-polarity -- which is what the natural tendency in the world is and should have been after the end of the Cold War -- the choice is: where do we align ourselves with, with the unipolarity led by the USA, or the multi-polarity that has various poles in which we can define our interests? Unfortunately, my charge against this Government is that we have lock, stock and barrel moved towards this whole position of unipolarity. And that, in my opinion, is not in India’s interests. Therefore, Sir, by saying this, I also want to make the point that India’s security, India’s international borders’ security, India’s sovereignty, are paramount and the defence of these is non-negotiable. Whoever be the one who tries to violate our security and sovereignty, India must be in a position to defend and, as I said, on that, there can be no compromise. I mean, all of us go along with that. But having said this is joining the unipolarity camp led by the USA in terms of foreign policy in India’s interest when this whole battle between unipolarity and multi-polarity is happening? Yes, we have seen earlier Governments also, in India; take up positions with which we thoroughly disagreed. You moved into a strategic partnership with the USA under the UPA Government; then, you went on to make the Indo-US Nuclear Deal, which led to a rupture, and our support had to be withdrawn because that  was not a part of the Common Minimum Programme that we had all agreed upon. But, today, Sir, looking back, after that Indo-US Nuclear Deal, what has India achieved? How are you putting your trust in the United States leadership for us to achieve anything? Has there been one extra Megawatt of nuclear power added in our country, subsequent to that deal? Was there any transfer of technology that has occurred here from the United States, or the so-called elite Nuclear Club? Have you been permitted to enter the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group? If, today, our scientists are able to fire these rockets and satellites and send them to outer space, that is only because of the pride that we all have in our own indigenous talent and in our own scientists who have actually made that happen, and not because of any foreign collaboration?

So, instead of that, at the same time, in this battle between unipolarity and multipolarity, we have lauded many instances that the UPA Government took. We were responsible, and we played a vital role for what was called the IBSA, India, Brazil and South Africa. We played a very important role, extending that to the BRICS, that is, India, Brazil, South Africa, including, China and Russia. Now, this multipolarity is the natural tendency the world should move into. But, now, in these three years, what has India been reduced to? I am sorry to say that India has been reduced to, from what I can see, as a junior strategic ally of US Foreign Policy in the world. And the reason I am saying is the string of Agreements that we have signed with the United States of America. Five times the Prime Minister went there; and, the fifth time, what happened? I will come to that later; but, after the fourth time, in the joint statement, you find that one of the things that have been signed, which is actually very worrisome, is what is called the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement, the LEMA; and about this Memorandum, we know nothing. We know nothing about what are the conditions of this Memorandum. It is not being placed before the Indian Parliament; it is not being discussed here. But, in the USA, this has to go for the approval of the US Senate as part of the 2017 National Defence Authorization Act. It has gone there. What is contained in the Agreement, we know from their website. We know from what the United States Government has put out. And according to what they have put out, what do they say? They say, the major defence partner designation -- the statement says -- is a status unique to India, and then, India to a level at par with that of the United States' closest ally and partner. What does that mean? I am reading out from that report which they have put on their website. Paragraph E of section 12 (9)(2) of that says, "Mechanisms to verify the security of defence articles, defence services related technology, such as, appropriate cyber security, and end-user monitoring agreements, and that India will align its export control and procurement regimes, with those of the United States." What surrender of sovereignty can there be, Sir? And what does this Agreement go on to say? That we were talking about India's strategic sovereignty, security, and said that that is non-negotiable? But, what does this document say? I quote: "Defence and security cooperation in India in order to 'advance,' please underline the word 'advance' United States interests' in South Asia, and greater Indo- Asia Pacific Region." So, we are now the junior ally and the subordinate partner of the USA in our neighbourhood. This is the last nail in the coffin of our independent Foreign Policy, and I say this with a heavy heart that we see this happening in various initiatives that this Government has taken. We see this happening, Sir. You say, now, this alignment with the United States of America has had its implications in all the fields. I don't know. There is a difference in count. Mr Anand Sharma said the Prime Minister went 65 times on world tour. I took it as 56 because he has 56 inches chest. But, not once, have we had any statements here in the House? That is why, when I praise the hon. Foreign Minister, I said, she calls the Consultative Committees on time to tell us what happened in this visit or that visit, but not in the House.

That is why, I presume, Madam, on the Policy also, to come from your office. After all this, all these things have opened up all our domestic avenues, this junior partnership status has led to a shift in your Economic Policy to the extent that we have virtually made all foreign investments on an automatic route of 100 per cent, in almost, all sectors. You are privatizing now your Railways; you are privatizing Air India, your defence procurement, the biggest privatization that is happening, and the defence procurement and privatization, following these treaties that I was quoting; and what is the end result of that? I am just quoting what is the actual effect? In these three years, after this Government assumed office, just 1.1 crore of defence FDI has come in! After the fifth visit now to the USA, there has been no foreign investment that has come in till May. The country stood at 1,000 dollars of foreign investment, 2016-17; in 2014-15, it was 78,000 dollars. Despite all this, what have you done now with this Agreement? Forty-nine per cent of all defence production in our country, will, through the automatic route, be available for foreign investment. Is that in our interest? Is that in our interest not only to allow the USA but, any other country, to inspect our defence facilities? Our DRDO that produces all these things today, is in close collaboration with Israel--I will come to it--as a partner of defence industry of Israel. Is that in our interest? And this is the question that I am asking. If you are talking of India's security, what have we got out of this in the last visit the Prime Minister went, the fifth visit? Many colleagues have said that we have got no assurance on H-1B visas. Only we were assured when the EAM said that we can also retaliate. There are also so many thousands of US workers here. We can also do that. Whatever that has happened, there has been no assurance you are giving on visas; there has been no assurance on anything that is connected with easing this sort of development with India, and there are more than 5,000 of our youths in the IT industry. Sir, Silicon Valley, you must be happy also, Mr. Deputy Chairman, Sir, that if you go to the Silicon Valley today, officially, the USA says, the second language in the Silicon Valley is an Indian language, and in the year when I went, when Stanford invited me, I was very happy because that was my mother tongue, Telugu, they said. Sometimes, Malayalam comes, sometimes Kannada comes. But, we rule the roost. Our youths are today at the forefront of information and technology; much of the profits go to the multinationals; that is a different point. But, even there, five lakhs of them, today, their continuation there and doing the job there is in jeopardy, and then, you have trusted the US President! May I read out to you a report that has appeared in Los Angeles Times when President Trump completed seventy days? It is an editorial, what they call, The Leader. I am quoting from the Los Angeles Times. I quote: "Nothing prepared us for the magnitude of this train wreck." That is how they described the Donald Trump Presidency. I am continuing with the quotation. "Like millions of other Americans, we clung to a slim hope that the new President would turn out to be all noise and bluster, or, that people around him in the White House would act as a check on his worst instincts, or, that he would be sobered and transformed by the awesome responsibilities of office. Instead, seventy days in, with about fourteen hundred days to go before his term is completed, it is increasingly clear that those hopes were misplaced." These are Americans. It is their assessment, and we come back here, satisfied with an assessment that the US President is going to meet our demands. Are we being realistic? And in this background, what I am really worried about is this shift, not just in our being junior partner of the US in world affairs, but, this is actually most confirmed with his recent visit to Israel. Now, in the recent visit to Israel, you have signed seven Agreements. I would like to know what they are.

We see your report in Consultative Committee, but these seven agreements without making the traditional joint visit to Palestinian territories and visiting Ramallah and with all the statements that have come out in the media of some leakage, of some comments that the Prime Minister has made which are very disparaging to the Palestinian, this is the final nail again in the coffin of our entire independent Foreign Policy and our solidarity with the Palestinian struggle. This solidarity goes back to our Independence, to what Mahatma Gandhi said during our Freedom Struggle, “If English can have England, French can have France, then Palestinians will have Palestine.” Not one word on the illegal occupation of Palestinian land! You have further cemented our relation as a defence partner, we already were, the largest purchaser of arms and defence material from Israel, and that sale to India was what was financing the illegal occupation of Palestinian land. Today you have virtually given up that entire approach of India’s standing in world affairs. And to what end and what is the benefit? I told you what was the benefit of it, the economic policies that you opened up, your demonetization, and the way you brought your GST, all designed to give mega profits to your multinational corporations. What is this entire digital drive that you have done through your demonetization? Who are the digital companies in the world who get this profit, Sir? After the GST, you pay 18 per cent on every digital transaction as your transaction cost. If a hundred rupee travels one lakh times, if it is in cash its value remains hundred rupees, but if it is done through digital transaction one lakh times with 18 per cent as commission, then eighteen lakh rupees profit is generated for the digital companies when the value continues to remain hundred. What are we doing? You are burdening our own people in order to appease this foreign capital and yet nothing comes into the country and I have quoted the figures to you. By your GST your economic policy is opening up and today in the world of this capitalist crisis that is continuing for its ninth year now having started in 2008, what is the West looking for, what is it that America is looking for? It is looking for markets, it is looking for cheap resources and you are opening up India for their benefits so that they can get out of their crisis while our people pay the price. So, where is this Foreign Policy leading us to? One important element of this Foreign Policy is as to what are your relations with your neighbours. It is universally accepted, tenets of India’s Foreign Policy is good neighbourly relations. Now those good neighbourly relations, Sir, we have heard, my other colleagues mentioned about what is happening with the neighbouring countries. But look at Nepal that is the country with whom and where we have all gone and said, “Indians and Nepalis, there is no big brother, small brother, we are twins, we understand each other’s pain, we celebrate each other’s happiness. Today in that country what is happening? For twenty-two months the Constitution of Nepal was adopted by the Nepali Parliament. They will adopt their Constitution. We may have disagreements. We will take it up diplomatically with them. But that general opinion in Nepal that India is interfering, why does it arise? Why does it arise that India wants Monarchy back in Nepal because that was the only Hindu Rashtra in the whole world? With this anti-Indian feeling going there, is it in our country’s interest? What is happening with Bangladesh? Their Prime Minister comes. Their general elections are there shortly. Some agreements that had to be done or what you assured them earlier, why you assured them that the Government will build this. But that is not done. Any dissatisfaction there or growth of anti-India feelings in the run-up to their elections, that is not in India’s interest. Pakistan, of course, all of us know, yesterday, I am surprised, Madam Minister, and I hope you will answer, that the High Commissioner said that both the NSA of India and Pakistan are holding talks. If that is true, what was this chapter we were talking about and saying nothing doing till they stop terrorist activities from their soil?

Are the talks on or not on? You allowed the ISI in Pathankot. What did we get back? You did the surgical strikes. The incidents of our soldiers dying, according to reports, have doubled after those surgical strikes. So, what is the policy you are adopting? Then you have the stand-off with China today. Yes, I hundred per cent agree with the Government and I said that the best way that they have said that is, they will resolve this issue through diplomatic means and talks. It is absolutely correct. But not only China, I want you to seriously consider. You had this year’s Malabar exercises. You know, Sir, where Malabar is. It is in the Arabian Sea. What is the meaning of doing Malabar exercises in the Bay of Bengal? Is it geographically correct? In the Bay of Bengal, you do Malabar exercises. With whom? With the USA and Japan, a joint military exercise with the United States of America, Japan and India. What does it signify to all these countries in South East Asia and South Asia? Joint military exercises are often done when two countries perceive a common enemy. Who is the common enemy between USA, Japan and India in the countries that are in the Bay of Bengal? You don’t think that these countries understand these signals! ‘One Belt, One Road’ and Dr. Sahasrabuddhe was there with me. He spoke today on the Foreign Policy when the first meeting took place in Beijing on this issue. I proposed there. The policy was followed. Then we were persuading the UPA Government to follow that if you had the Silk Road, which is sought to be revived now, you had the mirror image. If you hold the map of the world the mirror image is the maritime route and that what we have called the Spice Route. If you revive the Silk Road, then you revive the Spice Route and both.

So, my point is, you please look at relations in our neighbourhood. Good neighbourly relations should be the bedrock of our Foreign Policy. The Look East Policy was announced many years ago that this Government is also following. Just make a review of what is happening with all our neighbours and what is happening with our global standard. For heaven's sake, our appeal to the Government is, do not cement any US-Israel-India axis in world affairs. That is not in our country's interest. That is not in the interest of support that we give and allies that we have. With this, I would only wish the Government would accept this. With this sincere appeal, I conclude my submissions. Thank you.