India for peace in Middle East

Defence Minister P Mukherjee expressed commitment to stability in a country with 3.5 mn NRIs.

india Updated: Jan 31, 2006 12:32 IST

Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee Monday called for de-escalating tensions in the Middle East and expressed India's commitment to stability and peace in the region that is home to 3.5 million Indian workers.

"India has repeatedly called for de-escalation of tensions," Mukherjee said in his inaugural address at the 8th Asian Security Conference, organised by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), India's premier think tank.

He was unstinting in his condemnation of the resurgence of violence in the region and backed resumption of dialogue to solve all conflicts.

"As a member of the international community, India has been deeply concerned about the vicious cycle of violence and counter-violence and the consequent deterioration of the security situation in the region."

"India has an abiding interest in peace and prosperity of the region. There are about 3.5 million workers from India in the Gulf countries. The remittances they send home are an important source of foreign exchange for us," Mukherjee said.

"Our oil imports from the region account for nearly 60 percent of our total crude oil imports."

The theme of the three-day conference is "Changing Security Dynamics in West Asia: Relevance for the Post 9-11 Systemic."

Experts from China, Japan, the US, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel, among other countries, are participating in the conference.

Although Mukherjee didn't mention the Palestinian verdict that gave a stunning victory to Islamic radical group Hamas recently, he repeated India's commitment to "a just, comprehensive and durable peace in the region" and the creation of an independent Palestinian state living in harmony with Israel.

"We believe that the conflict can be resolved only through meaningful dialogue and not by force, particularly since Arabs and Jews have lived together in peace for long," he said.

India had welcomed the holding of "free and fair elections" in Palestine and hoped the next government will continue to pursue the peace process with Israel.

Stressing on India's growing economic cooperation with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, Mukherjee spoke about the manifold importance of the region for energy security and the global fight against terrorism.

"West Asia is strategically located, focal point of diplomacy and a destination of export of India's manpower, technical know-how and expertise. India can't feel safe if West Asia is in turmoil," he added.

First Published: Jan 31, 2006 12:32 IST