Defence, National Security and Foreign Policy
The Congress will ensure that all delays in the modernization of our armed forces are eliminated and that funds budgeted for modernization are, in fact, spent to the fullest. The Congress is committed to maintaining a credible nuclear weapons programme while at the same time it will evolve demonstrable and verifiable confidence-building measures with its nuclear neighbours. The welfare of ex-servicemen will occupy urgent attention and plans will he expeditiously prepared for involving them in crucial nation-building tasks. A new Department of Ex-Servicemen’s Welfare will be set up in the Ministry of Defence. The long-pending issue of one-rank, one-pension will once again be re examined and the satisfactory solution arrived at expeditiously.
The Congress will make the National Security Council a professional and effective institution. It will immediately have a discussion in Parliament on the Subrahmanyam Committee report on Kargil and move resolutely to implement its recommendations to strengthen our intelligence networks.
The Congress has been consistent, unlike the BJP, on the issue of dialogue with Pakistan on all issues including Jammu and Kashmir. It has always advocated formal and informal talks on the basis of the historic Shimla Agreement of 1972. At the same time, the Congress is firm in its view that Pakistan’s sponsorship of cross-border terrorism must end completely once and for all. If it continues, then the Indian state has the responsibility to protect its citizens.
The Congress will expand trade and investment relations with China and with countries of East Asia. It will revive the country’s close ties with West Asia and other non-aligned countries. It will reaffirm our traditional bonds with countries like Russia, Japan and the European Union. It will engage the United States in scientific, technological, strategic and commercial cooperation. It will take the leadership to strengthen SAARC and launch major regional projects in areas like energy and water that will bring benefits to all countries of our region[Congress manifesto]
It remains to be seen if the Congress is ready to move beyond its dogmatic thinking on non-alignment and take steps to continue the ‘close strategic tango’ with the United States. In the Middle East, Congress foreign policy dogma dictated closeness to Yasser Arafat’s PLO and excoriating Israel. South East Asia was not ever on the Congress’ radar.