Underlining that “peace cannot necessarily be achieved by a desire for peace but by the ability to deter war,” Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said Thursday that “India is determined to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of unilateralism and aggression, no matter what the sacrifice”.
Singh’s remarks, at a webinar to mark the 60th anniversary of the National Defence College, came on the eve of the eighth round of talks between India and China to dial down tensions along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh where the two armies have faced off since May. The Corps Commander-level talks will be held Friday at Chushul.
In his address, Singh said: “India has fostered close relationships and partnerships with like-minded friends to further the common interests of countries in the region and beyond.”
He mentioned the United States, Japan and Australia — along with India, these three countries make the Quadrilateral grouping or Quad — as countries with whom India now has an enhanced relationship.
Without naming China or its aggression along the LAC, the Defence Minister said: “Recently, India has been facing other challenges on its borders. India is a peace-loving country. We believe that differences should not become disputes. We attach importance to the peaceful resolution of differences through dialogue.”
“We are committed to respect for various agreements and protocols that India has entered into for the maintenance of peace and tranquillity on our borders. However, India is determined to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of unilateralism and aggression, no matter what the sacrifice.”
On Pakistan, he said it “continues to remain adamant in the use of terrorism as state policy” but India has “achieved substantial success in working with progressive and like-minded countries to not only expose Pakistan’s regressive policies, but also make it increasingly difficult to continue with its previous business-as-usual approach”.
The armed forces, Singh said, have “ensured the defence of our borders and interests during this period despite obvious challenges, as a result of their well thought out policies, and the ability to continue with their operational responsibilities despite the pandemic”.
“The most fundamental lesson that the roller coaster of the rise and fall of nations taught us was that peace cannot necessarily be achieved by a desire for peace but by the ability to deter war,” Singh said.
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“Unfortunately, the mere desire to seek peace, if not reciprocated by others, does not necessarily succeed in building a harmonious environment in a world beset by conflicting ideas of security, sovereignty and national interests,” he said.
On ties with Russia, Singh said the two countries “have weathered many a challenge in the past” and “we continue to build upon our relationship with Russia, especially in the military sphere”.
He called the Neighbourhood First initiative as “one of the most important elements of India’s foreign and security policy”. The results of this initiative, he said, “are evident” and “with the exception of Pakistan, given its agenda of fuelling terrorism, India has improved its relations with all neighbours”.
India, he said, has “invested heavily to help and support our friends to forge a relationship of mutual-respect and mutual-interest”.
The last six years have laid down a blueprint for India’s approach towards national security over the next decade.
Speaking on the “four broad principles that are likely to guide our quest for national security in the future,” Singh said: “The first is the ability to secure India’s territorial integrity and sovereignty from external threats and internal challenges. Second, the ability to create secure and stable conditions that can facilitate India’s economic growth… Third, we remain steadfast in the desire to protect our interests beyond the borders in areas where our people reside and our security interests converge. And finally, we also believe that in a globalised and interconnected world, a country’s security interests are interlinked by shared and secure commons.”
“We have proved that countries that employ terrorism as an instrument of national policy can also be deterred through options that were considered un-implementable in the past,” he said.
On internal security, he said the government has a “three-pronged approach” including development of terrorism-affected areas “along with the provision of justice to the aggrieved”; the “ability and desire to go more than half way to negotiate settlements with dissatisfied groups to enable a political settlement”; and the willingness to “challenge status quo, if the status quo becomes a tool for the exploitation” of citizens and provisions of governance.
“Our interests to secure trade routes, shipping lines of communication, fishing rights and communication networks also require the ability to contribute to the global effort, to maintain open and free oceans. That is the essence of our initiative to be a part of the Indo-Pacific initiative,” he said.
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