Dr. Subramanian Swamy – Chairman, BJP Committee on Strategic Action and Member of BJP’s National Executive Committee in an exclusive interview with spoke candidly on what to expect in changes to India’s foreign policy under Prime Minister Modi’s administration and on India’s support to Sri Lanka.
Following are the excerpts:
Q In your opinion how do you think Foreign Policy under the Modi-government would change in comparison to the previous government?
It will be distinctly different. The fundamental milestones from which you can distinguish the variations would be the priority given to SAARC countries – it was reflected well when invitations were sent to all the SAARC country leaders for the Prime Minister’s swearing in ceremony.
Secondly, we would be non-aligned in interactions between China and the US. The previous government was more complicit with US interests than China. We would like to work more closely with China, without letting down our guard in the process.
Thirdly, we believe that in the long run there should be a restructuring of the global power set up . The present UN should be restructured and for that purpose we wish to see the Asian countries, which includes Japan and Korea, join in this effort because Asia has had a very poor representation in the UN.
As for Sri Lanka, we regard you are a cultural sibling. We would certainly be very active in promoting devolution but not the way previous governments did. We would do it more privately. Recognizing that devolution has to be carried out within the sovereignty of Sri Lanka and the sovereign power – namely the Sri Lankan Parliament would have to decide. But as friends we can put in our weight and we will not allow any state- particularly Tamil Nadu- to override the national objectives of our country. National interests of India will not be sacrificed for Tamil interests.
Q Given that India and China are regional powers in competition, do you think the two countries will be able to sustain a close relationship?
I am not talking about being allies of China – not at all. I am saying we will remain non-aligned..In dealing with our relations with US and China, we will look at the merits of the issue. In that respect we will be different to the previous governments. For example, in our relations with Iran, US pressure worked with the previous government but it would not work with us.
Q Why are you rooting so ardently for China?
They are our neighbours and we share cultural similarities. As the Chinese President said, if India and China come together the whole world watches. Together we constitute 40% of the world’s population and our coming together is big news. We have very little conflicting interests. Where there is, we would certainly use our strength to impact smaller countries against Chinese bullying tactics.
“The fundamental milestones from which you can distinguish the variations would be the priority given to SAARC countries – it was reflected well when invitations were sent to all the SAARC country leaders for the Prime Minister’s swearing in ceremony.”
Q How will the Sino-Indian border disputes impact this new policy for closer ties?
I don’t think it is a serious issue. The Chinese will not settle it on a bilateral basis – they will settle it as part of an overall political settlement. If China feels that India will not be an ally of the US in dealing with them I think they will be pretty receptive in settling the border issue. The only issue lies on the Kashmir side but we will negotiate and settle it.
Q The former government described as one that was ‘submissive’ towards US policies. But the present government has indicated drastic changes to that theory. Do you think your former PM’s history with the US played a part in this policy?
It would be an understatement to say that the previous government was submissive to the US. The US will always act to protect its national interests and we have the same freedom so there are bound to be clashes. Take the question of Pakistan or Afghanistan – out of deference to Pakistani concerns the Americans have kept the Indians as far away from the issue as possible, that is despite the fact that geographically Afghanistan and India are very close to each other.
So all that would be different is our behaviour towards our national interests.We would certainly not like to be an enemy of the US.
Q Don’t you think the decision to remain non-aligned with US and China and the new policy to develop closer ties with China, would have an impact on US-India relations?
China and the US have extremely good relations economically. The Chinese economic miracle is partly due to the market access provided by the US. The Americans cannot complain if we develop good relations with China.
India’s political issues will be guided by our national interests- if you do things that suit our national interests we will be with you and not China.We will exercise that independence. The problem is the US has got used to junior partners – India is not a junior partner – we are an equal partner.
Q Will India take a stronger stand against terrorist threats emanating from Pakistan?
It has not yet been officially defined but knowing the party as I do, it will be very difficult for the Modi-government not to take strong actions against Pakistan because the cadre and the people who have supported the party expects this to happen. If the PM does not take strong action on this issue, he will be in a difficult position.
“We would be non-aligned in interactions between China and the US. The previous government was more complicit with US interests than China. We would like to work more closely with China, without letting down our guard in the process.”
Q Soon after the PM was elected to power, fears were expressed on the plight of the Indian Muslims due to the BJP being a pro Hindu party. In a religiously diverse society like India, do you think the Hindutva policy can be justified?
Firstly, India is not a diverse country, it is a myth spread by the British. We are 80% Hindu and we are all connected by a single culture. When Diwali is celebrated, it is celebrated all over India. Our Gods are common, whether in Tamil Nadu or in Northern India. So its very wrong to think that India is a very homogenous country because DNA studies show that all Indians have similar DNA including the Muslims and Christians. So we want our Muslims to be national minded. The international clerics of Islam want them to be an international community. The formation of this caliphate and its caliph in Iraq calls for all Muslims to obey him. We object to that – we want the Muslims to recognise that their ancestors were Hindus.
Q Do you think India siding with the Shiite community is wise in the ongoing Shia-Sunni conflict?
We have very good relations with Shia countries and they have always stood with the Hindus. They are being persecuted in Pakistan and killed in Iraq. The hardliners in the Islamic community are Wahabis- so I believe India should side with the Shiites.
Q Indian media reports indicated that the current position of the Indian government with regards to the international inquiry on Sri Lanka has ‘shocked and embarassed’ BJP allies in TN. Do you think that the present position can be maintained against rising pressures from the BJP allies in TN?
There is no pressure from Tamil Nadu and we have made it very clear that when it comes to foreign policy, the centre decides. We will listen to the state but we will decide – you have no veto.
In the case of the previous government, the Tamil extremist organization had a veto but we will not allow it. The election results have shown the extremist Tamil parties have no public support- they have all been defeated.
All of Mr. Vaiko’s candidates have been defeated with the loss of deposit and the BJP suffered because of our alliance with them. I don’t think that in our government, TN can veto this issue – we will pursue our close relations with Sri Lanka.
Q What of the calls that have been made to allow the UNHRC investigation to be held in India?
You don’t give them visas, that is all. Why should Sri Lanka care? Who are they? The UNHRC cannot make these unilateral decisions. If it wants teeth it would have to go to the Security Council and the Chinese will exercise their veto. So it is just a scarecrow.
I don’t think Sri Lanka should bother. We certainly will not allow an intrusive foreign investigation into human rights by international agencies.
Q What changes does India envisage in deciding to call for a restructure of the UN?
We wish to see apt geographic representation in the UN Security Council; countries such as India and Indonesia are out of it but smaller states like France and Britain are still in. Employment opportunities are also lopsided; there is an over dependency on Europeans. Asians must be given more chances in this respect – particularly in the higher levels. We will be actively lobbying for these issues and we expect China to support our cause.
Q What are your thoughts on media reports quoting Indian intelligence that there are Islamic terror groups operating in Sri Lanka?
Yes, there are Islamic terror group operations in Sri Lanka. We have arrested two of them – Sri Lankan Tamil Muslims trained by Pakistan. Because they are able to mingle easily within Tamil Nadu, Pakistan is exploiting them.
I say this in the interests of the Tamil Muslims in Sri Lanka, please don’t fall for this trap or you will be in big trouble. We have had enough of this kind of terrorism in India and we will certainly not tolerate it.
QIs India comfortable with Sri Lanka’s close relations with China and Pakistan?
This is Sri Lanka’s decision but we know when the chips are down, Sri Lanka is with us. That is enough for us – we are not worried or concerned.Concerns will only be raised if it involves some security issue because we wouldn’t want China to have direct access to Sri Lanka as it is just next door. But we can only raise issues in a friendly way – the more friendly we are the more likely we are to get a result that would be in our favour.
QThe GoSL has on many occasions spoken of the full implementation of 13A. What are your comments on these unrealized promises by the Sri Lankan Government?
I thought 13 A is implemented except for a few provisions such as police powers.
QBut repeated complaints are being made, particularly by the Northern Chief Minister about the lack of autonomy to even the effectively exercise the provisions that are already implemented?
I will have to see the constitution to decided on this. Sri Lankan Tamils only talk to extremists in India, not people like me who can speak to the government. I am not aware of what the present position is but even in India, there are always complaints of the Centre interfering too much with the regional governing bodies. Recently we celebrated one week of Sanskrit and Tamil Nadu is up in arms claiming we are intervening with states. So those complaints will be there, but whether they are serious or not no one knows – nobody from Jaffna has ever spoken to me about these problems.
QDo you think international intervention should not occur even in a situation where the democratic processes and negotiations have failed to ensure the non-recurrence of human rights violations?
International intervention is justified only under one ground, genocide. Even the UN doesn’t say that genocide took place in Sri Lanka in 2009 – only the crackpots in Tamil Nadu and London infer that. You can always get one or two channels by paying them money to show lurid pictures of a child being shot. The fact of the matter is that no responsible agency has said that genocide took place in Sri Lanka.
There is no doubt Tamil extremist forces killed many innocent people, including Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, a fact that we can never forget. So then on what grounds can international agencies come? If there are human rights excesses, there is a democratic process in Sri Lanka,let the people here raise it like we do in India. I don’t think anyone should interfere in Sri Lanka’s affairs.
Q There have been allegations about RAW infiltration into Sri Lanka, particularly in the North. What are your comments about these allegations?
Do you have the CIA in Sri Lanka? Chinese intelligence? Pakistan’s ISI? I cannot stop intelligence agencies from coming, there is no way to do that. They go everywhere, they have to collect information etc. If you can stop all of them, then that is very good but you just cannot single out Indian intelligence.
Courtesy: Daily Mirror