NEW DELHI: Peace in the neighbourhood and setting its own house in order are key priorities that will help propel India towards a high growth trajectory, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said today, while he renewed his offer
of a ‘hand of friendship’ towards Pakistan and all of India’s neighbours, including China.
India and its neighbours need to “overcome the burden of history” to achieve peace, he said, emphatically stating that India sought good relations with all its neighbouring countries.
“We need to overcome the burden of history and we would like to achieve peace with them. We wish to see democracy take deep roots in all the (neighbouring) countries. We must not allow our past to limit our future,” Singh said, outlining his vision for the region.
“We sincerely wish to resolve all outstanding issues with our neighbours through dialogue... that should characterise our relations,” Singh said, delivering the keynote address at the annual Hindustan Times Leadership Summit. “There are difficulties in expanding areas of cooperation, but they have to be overcome. And I believe it is for the leadership of all countries to make the future happen,” Singh said.
Referring to Pakistan’s ongoing turmoil, the Indian PM said, “I think Pakistan is grappling with many internal problems... terrorism is one of them and I wish them success in that. I would like to say that …the destinies of our two countries, and indeed the destinies of all countries of South Asia are closely interlinked,” he said.
He reiterated India’s desire to resolve all issues with its neighbouring countries through dialogue, and said India sought good relations with each one of them.
“We (want) to live in peace with our neighbours and world at large. We wish to remain good neighbours and good global citizens,” Singh said.
“We do face external and global challenges. The global slowdown is a reality, rise of terrorism is also a reality and we have to face these challenges.” However, India’s daunting internal challenges and the need to remove the curse of poverty was his foremost priority.
“But I sincerely believe that they are nowhere as daunting as the ones we face at home,” he said. “If we get our house in order, if we can liberate each and every citizen of this free nation from the tyranny of poverty, ignorance and disease, there is no external challenge that we cannot overcome,” he stressed.
He rejected the theory of the clash of civilisations, saying, “Freedom, democracy, pluralism and secularism go together. You cannot have one without the other.”
Manmohan Singh identified the pursuit of a peaceful neighbourhood as the third pillar (after economic growth and the removal of poverty and freedom from violence) of his vision of “a new India by 2020 and a new South Asia,” which is the topic of the two day conference which will also see an address by former US President George W Bush.
“They will remain the three pillars on which the India of 2020 is built. 2020 is not far away,” Singh said.
“India seeks a neighbourhood of peace and progress. We wish our neighbours well,” he said. “I do believe our destiny is intrinsically linked with that of all our neighbours. We would like to see them develop and wipe out poverty and overcome the burden of history and we would like to work with them to achieve these goals.”
“India is always happy to extend a helpful and supportive hand to all our neighbours. We wish to see democracy take deep roots in all these countries so that the people of South Asia are truly empowered to take their destiny into their own hands, “the Indian PM said.
He also sought to allay the impression of rivalry with China, saying there was adequate space in the world to accommodate the growth and ambitions of both India and China, and claimed that both nations have decided to maintain peace and tranquillity pending a satisfactory resolution of the border dispute that has marred bilateral ties between the Asian
giants.