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Strategic partnership with US to move on, says Kalam

Friday 17 February 2006

NEW DELHI, FEBRUARY 16 As India gets ready to receive French President Jacques Chirac and US President George W Bush, President A P J Abdul Kalam today expressed the hope that New Delhi would be able to add capacity to its civilian nuclear programme on the basis of the July 18 deal with Washington last year.

While expecting Indo-French ties to move to a higher plane with Chirac’s visit, President Kalam, in his joint address to Parliament, delved into “substantial” transformation of ties with US and made it clear that New Delhi wants to carry forward its “strategic partnership” with Washington.

Though the address was silent on ties with Iran, it noted the “high importance” New Delhi attached to the relationship with Israel while advocating a separate state for the Palestinian people.

Showcasing the UPA government’s achievement on the foreign policy front, Kalam referred to comprehensive re-engagement with Russia, commitment to composite dialogue with Pakistan and elaborated on the parleys with Beijing on the boundary settlement issue.

He said that the government’s foreign policy was “guided by enlightened national interest” and oriented to “enlarge our policy choice”. The President did not mention Iran by name but the reference was obvious and timely, as Parliament will discuss the issue in the coming days.

Among the achievements of the government, the President said a new 15-point programme for minorities was under preparation and would aim at enhancing the social development of minorities, modernise madrasa education and provide financial support for self-employment.

There was a minor disruption at this stage from Mordadabad MP Shafiqul Rahman who wanted the minority status of Aligarh Muslim University to be restored. Kalam mentioned the creation of the Ministry of Minority Affairs. “A committee under Justice Rajinder Sachar is studying in-depth the condition of minorities and is expected to recommend steps for their economic and social development and empowerment.

The highlight of the President’s address was on the economy. While the Opposition and the Left criticised the address for not disclosing anything new and being “divorced from reality”, the applause was reserved for his reference to the India-on-the-move theme: a growth rate of 8 per cent and more, low telecom tariffs announced by BSNL and MTNL, and the global stature that hosting the Commonwealth Games would give the country.

The President outlined the general policy direction of the government on the economic and social sector development fronts-giving a “sense of purpose” to the economy and restoring a “sense of inclusiveness” to society.

The optimism of the economy was visible in a savings rate of over 29 per cent and an investment rate of close to 31 per cent, he said.

Kalam spoke about the critical need of investment in infrastructure and promoting manufacturing to boost the economy. In the first case, he said while the public sector would continue to play an important role, it was necessary to create a policy and regulatory environment to attract long-term private investment in infrastructure.

On promoting manufacturing, he gave details of the Ten Year National Manufacturing Initiative, announced by the government in January, which would be the prime driving force for employment and economic growth. The emphasis, he said, would be on labour intensive sectors like textiles and garments, leather goods, food processing and IT hardware.

But moving away from urban growth and development, the President also focussed on the agriculture sector, referring to rural credit.

My government is committed to doing all that is possible to protect the livelihoods of small and marginal farmers,” the President said.

See online : The Indian Express

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