India to maintain strategic autonomy: PM

PM Manmohan Singh said it was "an article of faith" and India was "too large a country to be boxed into any alliance or regional or sub-regional arrangements.

New Delhi: Emphasising the country`s "strategic autonomy", Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday said it was "an article of faith" and India was "too large a country to be boxed into any alliance or regional or sub-regional arrangements, whether trade, economic or political."

He said if India had to sustain its nine to 10 percent growth, it needed foreign capital inflow, both portfolio and direct investment, the best of modern technology and access to
markets of the advanced economies and the country had to modernise its infrastructure.

For all this, India needed to maintain a healthy relations with all major powers, he added.

On 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.

Noting that some of the "toughest challenges" lay in India`s neighbourhood, Dr Singh said the country would not realise its growth ambitions unless peace and stability was
ensured in South Asia.

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, Dr 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.

"Given our youth demographic profile, we will also have to ensure access to good quality education and health services to all. We have to put in place a National Skill Development Mission to empower our youth which will yield positive results," he added.

Dr Singh also assured the armed forces that the country would accord priority to equipment, training and welfare of soldiers and retired defence personnel.

"We will do all that is necessary to ensure the armed forces attract the best talent in the country," he added.


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