Statement by Prime Minister Atal Behari
|Heads of State or Government of sixteen Asian countries converged at Almaty, the capital city of Kazakhstan, for the first Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA). At the Conference Prime Minister Atal Behari said terrorism sustained by religious extremism is a stumbling block to conflict resolution through dialogue. Following is the complete text of the Prime Minister’s statement at the conference|
Your Excellency President Nazarbayev, Excellencies and distinguished guests,
Yesterday, Mr. President, I was delighted to have joined you in naming a road in Almaty after Mahatma Gandhi. I was conscious of the special coincidence of honouring this Apostle of Peace on the eve of the CICA conference. For the Mahatma continues to remain an inspiring symbol of the noblest traditions of Asia and the world, of values that are as universal as they are eternal.
This is not the first time that roads between India and your charming country have carried a message of peace. Long ago, Buddhism had travelled along the Silk Route to many parts of our continent. Later, the Sufi saints’ message of universal love and brotherhood echoed across India, Central Asia and beyond.
All the nations of present-day Asia are, in some way or the other, products of the process of interaction and integration that has gone on in Asia throughout history. Therefore, in our tendency to focus on the conflicts of the day, we should not forget or belittle our shared past. What unites the countries of Asia is far deeper and, I have no doubt, far more enduring, than what may temporarily divide us.
It is with this optimistic belief that I greet all the fellow participants of this conference. In this context, Mr. President, I cannot but salute your own personal vision and political foresight. This first summit of CICA is, above all, a tribute to your untiring efforts in the past ten years. The leadership gathered here in Almaty is proof of our confidence in your vision. The documents that we are going to adopt today are definitely our collective effort. But CICA would for long be remembered as your gift to international goodwill.
Excellencies, we have gathered here at a unique point in the history of Asia and the world. At the dawn of the last century, much of Asia was under colonial rule. Today, many scholars have prophesied that the 21st century belongs to Asia. From an economic point of view, several countries in Asia have already embraced the future. This is a matter of pride and hope for all of us in Asia.
Yet, Asia is also home to many serious problems that continue to impede its progress, undermine its potential and cause concern to us as well as to people around the world. Some of these problems are a sad inheritance from our colonial history. It is my belief that none of these contentious issues is beyond resolution through dialogue – patient, sincere and mutually accommodative dialogue.
Unfortunately, in recent times, the logic of conflict resolution through dialogue has had to counter a formidable enemy. Its name is terrorism, sustained by religious extremism. Its epicenter is in India’s neighbourhood. It has emerged as the biggest enemy of peace, security, democracy and multi-religious societies in Asia and around the world. Experience shows that terror respects neither boundaries nor lines of self-control. Its lethal power and its sinister objectives became known to the world after the September 11 terrorist attacks on USA. India, however, has been its target for close to two decades.
We in India have been fighting terrorism from the line of self-control that we have drawn around ourselves. We have heard, once again, assurances that this line will not be allowed to be pierced. We hope that the words contained in these assurances will be matched by deeds.
Asian and global security depends crucially on how unitedly, decisively and speedily we counter this menace. In this struggle, there can be no place for any nation to rationalize or justify terrorism any of the causes propounded by its perpetrators. The plain and simple truth is that the killing of innocent men, women and children cannot be defended by invoking any of the alleged grievances, underlying causes or attendant circumstances.
This gathering is well aware that the United Nations’ Security Council Resolution No. 1373 specifically bars any nation from supporting terrorism – either directly or indirectly in the name of providing moral and political support. Implementation of this Resolution will prove to be an important confidence-building measure in Asia.
The other confidence-building measures that CICA should actively promote are economic cooperation, cultural interaction and people-to-people contacts. We should
consistently strive to strengthen trade, investment, joint ventures, and cooperation in science, technology and human resource development both within and among all the regions of Asia. India has long held the view that closer bilateral and regional cooperation in all these areas can act as a powerful catalyst not only for prosperity and development, but also for conflict-resolution. It is this conviction that drives our perseverant efforts to build relations of cooperation and trust with all our neighbours.
Under-development and unequal development between countries and regions has always been a source of discord and conflict. Therefore, just as peace is a goal in itself, we must accept balanced development too as a goal in itself. Indeed, removal of poverty and sustainable development is an important confidence-building measure.
Thus, an Asian Development Initiative has to become an integral part of the CICA process. This should encourage the more developed countries in Asia to increase their cooperation with the less develo ped ones.
In our understandable focus on economic progress, we sometimes tend to downplay the importance greater cultural and civilisational interaction as a confidence measure. Asia is blessed with all types of natural resources. But perhaps its most precious wealth is its diverse civilisational and spiritual heritage. Almost all the world’s religions – Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, Sikhism, Confucianism, etc – originated in Asia. All of them continue to thrive here.
This religious, cultural and civilisational diversity need not divide us. Rather, it can become a powerful basis for unity if we adhere to the principle of tolerance and equal respect for all faiths and cultural traditions – even as we remain justifiably proud of our own.
The cultural, economic and political heterogeneity of Asia naturally has a profound bearing on the security challenges in our continent. The countries of Asia have a legacy of different experiences of colonialism. The trauma of the Cold War has impacted us differently.
It is also important to remember that Asia has four declared nuclear weapon states. It has some of the largest standing armies of the world. Non-Asian navies operate freely in Asian waters. The continent has a large number of missile producing and exporting countries. Asia’s military spending has actually increased sharply after the Cold War.
CICA, therefore, has to evolve certain reliable ground rules that would promote peace and security in Asia, by reconciling the diverse concerns and interests of the countries of the continent. One of the most important ground rules is that nuclear weapon-states should not indulge in nuclear blackmail. India has already adopted the doctrine of no first-use. We believe that adoption of this by all nuclear weapon-states would be an important confidence-building measure for Asia and the world.
Excellencies, the quest for universal peace is a lofty goal. And the path may be difficult. Our own world today is a testimony to the difficulties we face. But we owe it to our future generations to struggle for peace now. We must not leave them a heritage of violence.
The great philosopher and poet of Kazakhstan, Abai, had once said:
"Look deep into your soul and ponder over my words:
To you I am a puzzle, both my person and my verse.
My life has been a struggle, a thousand foes I have braved.
But, don’t judge me harshly – for I paved the way for you."
I have pondered over these lines in Almaty. They have given me hope. Like Abai, I know we have a hard struggle ahead. But, like Abai, I am also hopeful. Hopeful that the good will prevail over evil. Hopeful that terror would one day lay down its arms. Hopeful that the peoples of Asia and the world would live in a future of peace, love, brotherhood and cooperation.
Excellencies, it is with this hope and goodwill that I wish you and your people well.
Before I conclude, I would like to say the following:
We have heard President Musharraf talk about tensions in South Asia and offer a dialogue between India and Pakistan.
Distinguished delegates in this room will recall that on January 12, the President of Pakistan had publicly made two promises. One, that Pakistan will not allow its territory
to be used to promote terrorism anywhere in the world. Two, that no organization will be allowed to indulge in terrorism in the name of Kashmir.
We have seen in the following months that cross-border infiltration has increased, violence in Jammu & Kashmir has continued unabated, and terrorist camps operate unhindered across our borders.
On May 27, President Musharraf has again made the commitment that cross-border infiltration will stop. You would agree that the past record makes us very cautious about accepting such promises unquestiongly.
If we see that action on the ground corresponds to the promises made by President Musharraf, we will naturally take appropriate consequent steps.
As far as an India-Pakistan dialogue is concerned, it is India which has always taken the initiative for it. In the space of the last four years, I have been to Lahore and invited President Musharraf to Agra. We have repeatedly said that we are willing to discuss all issues with Pakistan, including Jammu & Kashmir.
But for that cross-border terrorism has to end.
Source: Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India