Chidambaram picks on India’s ‘troubled neighbourhood’

September 18th, 2008 - 7:56 pm ICT by IANS  

F-16New Delhi, Sep 18 (IANS) Tracing the impact of India’s “troubled neighbourhood” on its economic growth, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram has singled out Pakistan for “supporting terror activities” and blamed China for its “negative attitude” in NSG that has “raised questions about its attitude towards the rise of India”.Linking economic transformation and high growth to India’s place in the geo-politics of the region, he said: “The security of India consists of many elements: food security, energy security, financial stability, border security and cross-border security.”

“Each one of these elements is impacted by events in the neighbourhood. Within the sub-continent, India is in a troubled neighbourhood,” he said while delivering the Field Marshal K.M. Cariappa Memorial Lecture here Wednesday.

In some straight talk on China that reflected growing feeling in sections of the political establishment after Beijing’s alleged negative role in the NSG, Chidambaram said: “From time to time, China takes unpredictable positions that raise a number of questions about its attitude towards the rise of India.”

“The most recent example is the negative stance adopted by China in the meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG),” he added.

“However, the nagging doubt is whether China will regard India as an equal or as an upstart and what will be China’s attitude to India if India’s economic strength begins to equal that of China,” Chidambaram asked.

Saying that India is still behind China economically, Chidambaram spoke about massive spending by Beijing on defence.

“China will spend $50 billion more each year than India. This is a large sum of money, equivalent roughly to 1,700 F-16 fighter jets each year!” he said.

In candid remarks about the neighbouring countries, Chidambaram spoke about the ethnic strife in Sri Lanka and the failure of the state in Bangladesh that has triggered massive migration to India.

He stressed that the migration from Bangladesh has altered “the demographic profile of many districts in West Bengal and Assam”, and put “an enormous strain on India’s financial, food and physical resources”.

On Pakistan, he was equally harsh. “Pakistan is implacably opposed to India: while Kashmir appears to be the central issue of contention, Pakistan has taken its hostility beyond Kashmir and supports terrorist activities and communal conflagrations in other parts of India.”

His remarks on Nepal may rile some in the foreign office as New Delhi is treading cautiously to put its relations with Nepal on a new footing. Describing Nepal as “an enigma”, the minister said it was “difficult to predict at this stage the future of India-Nepal relations under a Maoist-led coalition government in Nepal”. His remarks coincided with the end of Nepal’s Maoist Prime Minister Prachanda first visit to India.

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