Manmohan for ‘confluence of civilisations’

By Amit Baruah, The Hindu, 5 November 2004

NEW DELHI, NOV. 5. The ideology of a “clash of civilisations” and of terrorism is a threat to world peace. Hence there is a need to empower the voices of moderation and of civilised discourse to enable a ‘confluence of civilisations’ to make the world a better and safer place to live in, according to the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh.

At a conference organised today by The Hindustan Times, Dr. Singh said the challenge of political extremism in the world did not have any military solutions. “There are no unilateral solutions either. Any meaningful solution must be based on the principles of democratic pluralism and inclusivism, respect for the rule of law and diversity of opinion and faith,” he pointed out.

“I believe that the world community can deal more meaningfully with the challenge of globalisation and the threat of terrorism by enabling a dialogue between nations and a ‘confluence of civilisations’. India must actively engage the world towards this end,” he said.

“The world expects us to bring to the table of global discourse something more than strategic partnerships and market opportunities, important as both these are and open as we are to engaging the world on both these fronts.”

While noting that there was continuity in India's foreign and external economic policies, Dr. Singh said that India's standing in the world, in the final analysis, would be defined by domestic capabilities and the resilience of its political and social institutions.

Better deal to farmers

In response to questions, Dr. Singh said that in line with the Common Minimum Programme of his Government, he wanted to give a better deal to farmers, improve the country's infrastructure, both in terms of quality and quantity, and give priority to the education and health care sectors.

On relations with Pakistan, he said honest and sincere efforts were being made by New Delhi to resolve differences with Islamabad. If the Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf, honoured the commitment he had made on January 6 of not permitting cross-border terrorism from his country “in letter and in spirit”, all outstanding issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, could be resolved.

He said that India's economic engagement of the world must match the country's size and scope. “I would like to see closer and wider economic engagement between India and our Asian neighbourhood … We would like to see a widening and deepening of our economic relations with China, Japan, the member countries of ASEAN, the Central Asian Republics and our traditional friends in West Asia and Africa.”

The Prime Minister maintained that India wanted a neighbourhood of peace and shared prosperity in which people, goods and services could travel with ease across borders.

Reiterating the validity of vasudhaiva kutumbakam [the world is one family] theme as a political basis of dealing with the challenges of the times, Dr. Singh admitted that there were people in the country who did not share a syncretic view of India. “They not only believe in the ‘clash of civilisations’ but wish to encourage it. They do not, indeed cannot, represent the true spirit of our ancient land.”

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