Evolve consensus on national security: Narayanan

March 27th, 2008 - 12:03 am ICT by admin  

(Roundup, combining different series)

New Delhi, March 26 (IANS) India’s political parties should evolve a consensus on national security like they have done on economic reforms, a top official said Wednesday. “The challenge is to see whether we can evolve consensus on national security,” said M.K. Narayanan, the government’s top advisor on the issue.

“We need not wait for a major crisis to evolve this consensus,” the national security advisor (NSA) maintained.

Narayanan was delivering the 25th Air Chief Marshal P.C. Lal memorial lecture on “Managing India’s National Security & Building a Consensus for the 21st Century” at the Air Force Auditorium here.

In this context, he noted that there was a consensus on the economic reforms that had begun a decade-and-a-half ago.

“The reforms have continued through successive governments. We need a similar consensus on national security,” Narayanan maintained.

During the lecture, he spoke on a broad swathe of issues ranging from India’s international security situation to relations with China and Pakistan, the immediate and extended neighbourhood and Central Asia, as also with the US, Russia and the European Union.

Dealing with the situation within the country, he criticised the tendency to taint the Muslim community - without naming it - with the terror tag because of the acts of a few of its members.

“We face serious problems when (terror) attacks take place. There are several allegations that members of a community are targeted,” Narayanan said.

“There are accusations of bias against the security agencies (in probing terror strikes,” he added.

Strongly refuting allegations that the government was “soft” on terrorism, Narayanan said: “This perception is grossly off track.

“The record of the security agencies in preventing attacks is unparalleled. In 2006, 1,000 (terrorist) modules were detected and neutralised,” he pointed out.

“Terrorism is too serious a matter for dichotomy,” Narayanan maintained.

He also termed as “unfortunate” the opposition of the Left parties to India’s civilian nuclear deal with the US, saying it was driven “other considerations” than those relating to the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

“The opposition within the country is unfortunately driven by other considerations,” Narayanan said, adding: “The absence of a consensus is a major handicap. We need a resolution to this earlier rather than later.”

He prefaced his remarks by pointing out that the opposition to the deal outside India “stems from the non-proliferation lobby”, adding that the pact “has nothing to do with India’s military programme.”

On India’s relations with its neighbours, Narayanan said China and Pakistan posed contrasting security challenges for India.

“With China, the challenge lies in the perceptions and not in the threat. It’s the reverse with Pakistan,” Narayanan maintained.

“What we really need is a broad national consensus on whether China is a threat or a neighbour we can go along with. We also need consensus on the possible terms of a border solution,” he added.

“We also need consensus on China’s intentions,” Narayanan added.

“The issue is even more relevant when it comes to Pakistan,” the official said, adding: “The challenge we face with Pakistan is that without compromising on our national security parameters, how do we enlarge our area of contact (with Islamabad)?”

He also hoped that the installation of a civilian government in Pakistan “will lead to stable conditions and weaken the forces of fundamentalism”.

“This is not to discount the activities of the fundamentalists and the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence). Pakistan also continues to acquire missiles and other weapons and its military strategy remains India-centric,” Narayanan maintained.

He also noted: “There is no change in the attitude of the ISI to mentoring terror groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the JM (Jaish-e-Mohammad). Their attacks are likely to continue.”

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