Indicating that more International pressure would be brought to bear on Pakistan to take action against terrorists behind the recent terror attack on Mumbai, the PM, Dr Manmohan Singh on Thursday asserted that steps to strengthen national security would not be found wanting.
“We have taken several measures to strengthen National security and we will continue to work with the International community to ensure that there are no safe havens and launching pads for terrorists,” Dr Singh said in Chennai, inaugurating the 3-day 7th edition of the ‘Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD), a magnificent congregation of overseas Indians in India’s “southern most State”, as he put it.
Even as Chennai woke up to a wet weather putting behind the seasonal chill and ringing in a warmth to the first ever event of this kind to take forward India’s engagement with NRIs’ and persons of Indian origin abroad, Dr Singh added a touch of personal warmth in a scintillating half-hour address breaking schedule.
As the recent terror attacks that India has been a victim to and the fallout of the global economic slowdown were two main concerns that dominated the inaugural session at the Chennai Trade Centre here on the city’s outskirts, Dr Singh expressed serious concern at the Mumbai terror attack.
“It is a grim reminder of the grave threat posed by extremism and terrorism to our pluralistic and liberal traditions. There are many who would not like India to succeed. But we have shown over and over again that we will not allow the forces of terrorism and extremism to destabilize us,” Dr Singh said to a round of applause from the huge gathering that included several foreign dignitaries.
While complementing Chennai for continuing to be a city that “easily blends” culture with modernity and technology, Dr Singh also took the occasion to emphasize that the Government in recent weeks had taken several measures to strengthen National security.
Despite the global economic downturn, Dr Singh was optimistic that this year India would achieve a 7 per cent growth rate, which will be among the highest in the World. It was due to the fact that much of India’s growth “is internally driven and I expect we can maintain a strong pace of growth in coming years,” he said.
Making a special mention on India’s active involvement of late in the meetings of the G-20 countries, which is deliberating the creation of a “new global financial architecture,” Dr Singh forthrightly said that “countries like India should be given their due place in the scheme of things.”
The “new structure” that emerges should be suited to the “new challenges and vulnerabilities facing the world economy and reflective of the changes that have taken place in the economic structure,” The Prime Minister said, alluding to a subtle point that India’s own financial sector reforms could not be ignored.
Dr Singh also took a swipe at the ‘Hindutva’ forces on the occasion by underscoring pluralism and willingness to live with each other despite differences “is a deeply embedded trait of our culture”. Hence, “those who pursue the politics of exclusion, of monotheism (his euphemism for Ram politics), betray the very idea of India,” he said. Quoting Nobel laureate Amartya Sen who has described Indian civilization as being an “argumentative people,” Dr Singh, added, “I also say that we have been a consensual civilization.”
The Chief Guest at the Inaugural, Mr Ramdien Sardjoe, Vice-President of Surinam, said his country like India advocated a multi-polar world and pledged his country’s support to India in all global forums to “eradicate terrorism in all forms”. Mr Ramdien, himself a person of Indian origin from the Bhojpuri-speaking region, noted that early immigrants into Surinam were indentured labour, largely from UP and Bihar, besides Madras as Chennai was then known. Surinam, with its sizeable Indian Diaspora, could be the hub for expanding India’s commercial links with the entire South American continent, Mr Ramdien noted.
Mr Vayalar Ravi, Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs, said ‘Members of Parliament of Indian Origin’ constituted a potent force to articulate “our common aspirations to the world.” The Government proposed to organize a conference of ‘Parliamentarians of Indian origin’ in the near future with the assistance of the Indian Parliament, Mr Ravi said this could be a useful networking forum.
Saluting the Indian Diaspora who migrated to distant lands with a “strong belief in hard work and devotion to duty”, the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Mr M Karunanidhi, said India was poised to play a key role in world affairs today as it promotes the “spirit of co-existence and accommodation.” If China and India hold the key to early global economic recovery, within India Tamil Nadu would be one of the States to take the lead in that direction, Mr Karunanidhi emphasized.
DMK leader raises Sri Lankan issue with PM on sidelines:
The DMK leader and Chief Minister, Mr M Karunanidhi, who met the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh at the Raj Bhavan here late last night on his arrival, also broached the issue of continued suffering of the Tamils in Sri Lanka due to the military action there, after having raised several Tamil Nadu related issues.
Mr Karunanidhi was particularly anxious to know when the Foreign Minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee would visit Colombo to take up the Tamils issue with the Sri Lankan Government. Dr Singh responding said that he “fully respected” the Chief Minister’s sentiments on the issue and assured that Mr Pranab Mukherjee would go to Colombo “as early as possible”.
Later on Thursday, before leaving Chennai, Dr Singh in the presence of both Mr Karunanidhi and the Union Shipping and Road Transport Minister, Mr TR Baalu at a separate function laid the foundation stone for the Rs 1600 Crores ‘dedicated freight corridor’ between Chennai port and suburban Mudaravoyal.