Asserting that India's "strategic autonomy" would not be compromised while seeking healthy ties with major powers, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday said it is too large a country to be "boxed" into any alliance or regional arrangements.
Addressing top Commanders of Defence services here, he observed that India's "toughest challenges" lie in its neighbourhood and the country's growth ambitions cannot be realised unless peace and stability is ensured in South Asia.
While underlining the need to maintain "healthy relations" with all major powers, Singh however made it clear the country's strategic autonomy would be preserved as it is an "article of faith for us".
India, he said, is "too large a country to be boxed into any alliance or regional or sub-regional arrangements, whether trade, economic or political." Singh said as India's economy grows, the technological capabilities must expand to set higher standards for the modernisation of defence forces and "war fighting doctrines" should be updated to meet "new threats" to the country's security.
"In the ultimate analysis, the strength of a nation flows from the strength of its institutions, its values and its economic competitiveness," the Prime Minister said.
"If we are to sustain a growth rate of 9 to 10 per cent in the forseeable future, we require foreign capital inflow, both portfolio and direct investment, the best of modern technology and access to markets of the advanced economies," he said.
In the global terms, the Prime Minister said, there was a shift of economic and political power to Asia, with the Asia-Pacific region, including the South East Asia needing more attention from India.
"This must seep into our defence and foreign policy planning as never before. This is a palpable desire on the part of the countries of this region to enhance cooperation with us which we must reciprocate," he added.
Describing the nations of the Gulf region, West and Central Asia as "natural partners", he said India had tangible interests in these regions, among which energy security was most important.
"We have to ensure adequate availability of commercial energy to support our growth targets. This requires not only diversification of the sources of our energy imports but also widening of our overall energy mix. It is in this context that we need to operationalise our nuclear energy option, which holds great promise and is a necessity," he added.
Referring to the global economic crisis of 2008, Singh said India had weathered it better than most large economies, as there was a continental sized economy and large internal market. But the challenge, he said, would be to ensure that growth was balanced across all regions and reached all sections of society.