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India’s Foreign Policy: A Riveting Presentation By Consul General Ajit Kumar

Consul General at Emory

Ambassador Creekmore with Hon. Ajit Kumar. Photo by Bytegraph.


Atlanta, Dec 2012: The Halle Institute for Global Learning at Emory University hosted the Consul General of India in Atlanta, Hon. Ajit Kumar, at the Michael C. Carlos Museum on Thursday, November 8, for a discussion of India's relationship with Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the United States.

Hon. Ajit Kumar in his far ranging, informative and compelling speech noted that India’s commitment to independence of judgment in conduct of external relations, democratization of world order, and maintaining international peace and security, are all enduring legacies of India’s national movement. The foremost priority in India’s foreign policy will be the welfare of all Indian people, global stability and peace, equitable international trading system, stable financial system, appropriate energy supplies, and food security. Partners in technology and innovation are needed for development. Our foreign policy is an instrument of our development but also a vehicle to fulfill our role and responsibilities. 

Here is the abridged text from his speech:

Relationship with the U.S.: As Dr. Manmohan Singh said, “Founded on many pillars, it is based on pragmatism and principles and strengthened by shared values and common interests.” President Obama had characterized India-U.S. bilateral relationship as a defining partnership of 21st century. His landmark visit to India in 2010—a first by a U.S. President in his first term—paved the way. As Indian Ambassador Nirupama Rao commented, “The strength of our relationship is also reflected in the presence of large Indian caucuses in both chambers of the U.S. Congress. These are, we understand, largest bilateral caucuses in the U.S. today. … There is increasing convergence in our foreign policy priorities, and we have shared approaches to some of the most complex regional and global challenges of our times.”

Our defense partnership with U.S. has been strengthened, just as our cooperation in counterterrorism and maritime- and cyber-security. The Obama Administration’s commitment to India’s membership in the multilateral export control regimes, and support for India’s permanent membership in the U.N. Security Council, have been encouraging. We are committed to civil nuclear cooperation. Every year our Foreign Ministers dialogue, this year reviewing trade and economic ties and charting a roadmap for partnership in all areas. The annual strategic dialogue saw enormous progress on the five principles: strategic cooperation; energy and climate change; education and development; economy, trade and agriculture; science and technology and health and innovation. Trade has increased fourfold since 2005 to reach $100 billion. The U.S. is one of the largest investors in India, and from 2005-2009, Indian companies have invested about $25.5 billion in about 43 States of the U.S. in fields including IT; manufacturing; distribution and packaging; and educational tie-ups. In 2011, Indian IT companies supported 280,000 direct and indirect jobs in U.S.

But the strongest element in our partnership is people-to-people. The three million strong Indian-American community plays a vital role. More than 100,000 Indian students study in U.S. universities, contributing about $3 billion annually in tuition. About 60,000 Indian-origin doctors are in the U.S., and 40% of all U.S. hotel rooms are owned by Indian-Americans. Indian Americans have highest per capita income and are best educated among ethnic groups here.

Relations between India and Pakistan: India desires peaceful and cooperative relations with Pakistan. We are committed to resolving issues through dialogue. A stable Pakistan, against terrorism and extremism, is in the interest of Pakistan, our region, and beyond. Greater cooperation will contribute to growth and development in both countries and will increase feelings of trust.

After the Mumbai attacks in 2008, frozen Indo-Pak relations revived when the two Prime Ministers met in April 2010. Other meetings—of PMs, Foreign and Commerce Ministers—followed, and bilateral trade is expected to go from $2.6 billion to $6 billion by 2014. It is hoped that those accused in the Mumbai attack will be speedily brought to justice. It was agreed that people-to-people contacts and cultural exchanges should be promoted. India welcomed the decision by Pakistan in 2011 to accord a Most Favored Nation status to India—India had already given MFN status to Pakistan in 1996. Both sides agreed to normalize trade relations. In April 2012, Pakistan's Prime Minister Asif Zardari (Benazir Bhutto's husband) visited India. Defense Secretary level talks were held on the Siachen and Sir Creek issue. In September 2012, India’s Foreign Minister went to Pakistan. A Joint Commission meeting was held after a gap of five years, and talks were held on nuclear and conventional CBMs.

A new Visa Agreement eases travel. A Memorandum of Understanding promotes cooperation in cultural relations. Pakistan welcomed India’s removal of restrictions on bilateral investments.

In October an interesting development took place. After a gap of 5 years, India agreed to welcome Pakistan Cricket Team. This is a significant development. Thousands of Indians went to Pakistan to watch the 2006 Test series and they were welcomed with open arms and likewise Pakistani cricket fans also get a warm welcome in India. India-Pakistan cricket rivalry is intense! Consul General Kumar hoped there would be thousands of Pakistanis visiting India in a spirit of cultural diplomacy.

India and Pakistan have made major strides in reducing the trust deficit. Dr. Manmohan Singh’s message to Pakistan was to find pragmatic solutions through constructive engagement. Relations can only grow in an atmosphere free of terror and violence.

India and Afghanistan have a strong relationship based on historical and cultural ties. Now India is assisting Afghanistan in reconstruction. Democracy and development are key for regional stability. The objective is to build Afghan capacity and institutions.

Three important developments:
1) Dr. Manmohan Singh visited Afghanistan in May 2011, met President Karzai, and became the first foreign leader to speak to the Afghan Parliament in recent times. $500 million in assistance was announced as well as the $1.5 billion for reconstruction and development of Afghanistan.
2) During President Karzai's last visit to India in October 2011, a historic Strategic Partnership Agreement was signed, a step in the commitment to peace.
3) In June 2012, Afghan Investment Summit was held in New Delhi to attract foreign investment in Afghanistan, to ensure a peaceful, democratic, and prosperous Afghanistan.
Kumar noted that in the next week, Karzai would be again in India, so relations continue.

Ajit Kumar emphasized that in the process of transition and transformation, the international community must help. Any perception of lack of will encourages backsliding into terrorism.

Kumar's speech was followed by a Q&A session.

Earlier, Professor Marion V. Creekmore, Jr., welcomed all. Dr. Creekmore, who was U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, served in India, and was Deputy Afghan Coordinator, noted that he was “delighted to have the Consul General in Atlanta—We've wanted that for a very long time!” He introduced Kumar as a man of great experience, engaging, and authoritative, and listed his work in multilateral diplomacy including on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, as well as his distinguished diplomatic service in Frankfurt, Germany and Durban, South Africa.

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