India’s secular and pluralistic character being challenged: Minister

June 2nd, 2008 - 4:13 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, June 2 (IANS) India’s domestic security challenges emanate primarily from forces that ideologically challenge the country’s pluralistic and secular character, Minister of State for Defence M.M. Pallam Raju has said. “By espousing ethnic or religious extremism and advocating separation, they seek to threaten the Indian identity,” he said while addressing the Shangri La Dialogue regional security forum in Singapore over the weekend.

The complete text of the address was made available here Monday.

Noting that pluralistic cultures are broadly under threat from narrow and sectarian beliefs the world over, Raju said: “India, which lives in a particularly difficult neighbourhood, has borne the brunt of such attacks much longer than most other states.

“In recent years, the consequences of uneven growth and unmet expectations have added to our vulnerabilities”, the minister said, adding: “The internal security dimension occupies a significant portion of our policy making attention.

Noting that India’s defence policy aims to “deter the exploitation by external forces of our internal vulnerabilities while we fashion a domestic political response that draws on our democratic strengths”, Raju said that on the whole, “the nature of the challenge is predictable and manageable, even if there is not a ready end in sight”.

India’s neighbourhood, however, gave “much less cause for complacency” than the country’s domestic prospects, the minister maintained.

“While India’s economic growth has created an enormous sense of optimism in our society, this is not quite the case with our neighbours. Some are seriously afflicted by terrorism, itself a cause for concern to India as a neighbour.

“Such concerns are further aggravated when that terrorism spills over into India, through state sponsorship or otherwise,” Raju contended.

In this context, he noted that “undeniably”, India has a “difficult history” with some neighbours and that the political challenges were “no less formidable than the physical terrain of our borders.

“For its further growth and prosperity, India clearly needs a secure and peaceful periphery,” Raju said, adding that to ensure this “we are seeking to give our neighbours stakes in our own growth through trade, investment and services.

“The challenge is to convince them that we are all better off growing together rather than expend energies checking each other. To this end, reviving old affinities are helpful in building new interdependence.

“But, at the end of the day, regional cooperation will only gather momentum when the salience of hard security is reduced,” Raju contended.

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