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External Affairs Minister, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee's Press Interaction on his taking over charge on 25th October 2006

New Delhi
October 25, 2006

EXTERNAL AFFAIRS MINISTER (Mr. PRANAB MUKHERJEE): I am happy to be back to this room after almost ten and a half years. I left this room in May, 1996. Of course, all of you are aware a lot of stories and speculations were going on, but now it has come to an end. 

I am fully aware and conscious of the responsibilities of steering the foreign policy of this great country, particularly at this moment when we are poised for playing a more important role and taking our rightful place in the comity of nations. 

What is our objective? After all the foreign policy of a country is the extension of its national interest. Keeping that in view, our objective is to have sustained economic growth in the range of nine to ten per cent during the Eleventh Plan and a higher growth level during the Twelfth Plan on a sustainable basis. For that we require investment, we require technology, access to technology, and we also require – what is most important - to have peace and tranquility in our periphery and desirably all over the world. 

Why I say all over the world is because if there be instability in one part of the world - in today’s context when the world is fast emerging as a real global village - it would have its impact on other parts. Therefore, in one word, to achieve our objective of attaining higher growth syndrome we require investment and technology, of course, state of the art. The precondition of attaining this higher growth is peace and stability in the region and in the world. Our foreign policy would be directed to achieve these objectives. Thank you. 

QUESTION: I have a question specifically on the problem of terrorism that we have in our country today. A lot of it is rooted in Bangladesh. Bangladesh is fast emerging as the hub of terrorist activities in this region. Do you plan to talk to the Bangladeshi leaders and put some kind of force on them so that they curb and crack down on these elements whose activities are inimical to India’s interest? 
MINISTER OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS: It is not a question of applying force on any country. Every country is a sovereign country. But we have already taken this up with Bangladesh. Apart from taking it up at the officials’ level during the talks between the Defence Secretaries and Foreign Secretaries of the two countries, when Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia visited our country last time, we had a detailed discussion. In fact, in the discussion I myself was present. Of course in a different capacity, wearing a different hat, but nonetheless the issue was security and terrorism. We discussed this issue. We suggested to Bangladesh Government that it is in the interest of both the countries that the fundamentalist forces who are indulging in terrorist activities and violence should be curtailed. 

QUESTION: There have been a lot of comments on whether India has credible evidence or not on the Mumbai bomb blasts vis-à-vis Pakistan and the ISI. What is the real situation vis-à-vis what is happening with Pakistan on this particular event and also generally with relations with Pakistan? What do you think is your view on the reaction this side? …(inaudible)… 
MINISTER OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS: My view cannot be separate from the view which we have taken and which we are pursuing already. I am a part of the Government. So far as the evidence is concerned, our law enforcing agencies have gathered certain evidence and we will share that evidence with the Pakistani authorities. 

As we cannot alter our neighbour, it is desirable to live with our neighbour in peace and to create a tension-free situation on our borders, amongst our neighbours in the region. Thank you