JULY 20, 1971


Replying to the Debate on Demands for Grants for the year 1971-72 of the Ministry of External Affairs in the Lok Sabha on July 20, 1971, the Minister of External Affairs Sardar Swaran Singh said :


Mr. Chairman, I have heard with great attention the contribution that has been made by Members in the present debate. Although, at the present moment, there are some very vital and immediate problems, about which our attention has to be concentrated, it is a healthy sign that, besides these immediate problems, some general problems about the world situation, the problems of peace and war, of disarmament, nuclear bomb, question of space and several other matters of general importance to the international community have been highlighted, and comments have been offered on these important aspects of international life.


I am also conscious of the fact that a very large number of Members of this House have participated in this debate- as many as 34 members have already spoken. Much as I would have liked to reply to all the points that have been raised, it may be appreciated that it is not possible to do so. I will, however, endeavour to say something about some of these important points, and will not try to answer each and every point that has been raised. I would, at this stage, assure the Members that what they have said will be very care­fully examined in the Ministry and by me. We will go into the suggestions that have been made, and we will examine with the greatest care the observations and opinions that have been expressed by the Members on the floor of the House.


Relations With Neigbhours


Before I come to the current matters of interest, first of all, I would like to say something about some matters which have been raised in the course of the debate, particulary in relation to our neighbours, and our general policy about them and about our success in establishing friendly relations with them. Although some comments have been made and some of them not well-informed, I would like to say that our relations with our neighbours, excepting two, are friendly and close, and there is a great deal of understanding and goodwill bet­ween India and her immediate neighbours. Our relations with Burma, Nepal, Ceylon and Afghanistan, which are our immediate neighbours besides Pakistan and China, have been traditionally friendly, and there is a great deal of understan­ding, goodwill and friendship between India and these neighbours. We may not always agree with their policies and they may not always agree with our poli­cies and this is not uncommon. But, basic friendship and understanding do exist between us, and I would appeal to the Members not to lose sight of this. This we have been able to achieve by pursuing consistently a policy of befriending our neighbours.




With our neighbour Burma our relations have been extremely friendly and close. There has been co-operation in several fields. As a result of an agree­ment arrived at between India and Burma about the demarcation of the boun­dary, more than 700 miles of boundary has already been demarcated, and the work is proceeding in a satisfactory manner. I would also like to remind the Members that in several other fields also there are close co-operation and com­plete exchange of information about matters in which we are vitally interested and the Government of Burma are also vitally interested : particularly, in their northern part and in our north eastern part there is very useful exchange of information between our two governments.




With Ceylon, we have friendship; and it is good that we were able to resolve a matter which had been outstanding between us since the time Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri was Prime Minister. I am glad the agreement has been arrived at, because that was one matter which stood in the way of closer relations between India and Ceylon in the economic and several other fields. I have no doubt that when this agreement is implemented and both Governments have expressed their determination to imple­ment this agreement-The relations will become even more close. We have very good economic relations with Ceylon, and we will continue to co-operate to our mutual benefit in the economic field, and in the technical and cultural fields. This is a development which should receive the blessing of the House.




With Nepal, we have very close relations, and we have participated in the develop­ment efforts of Nepal in a very significant manner. The extent of aid that we have given in the development efforts of Nepal in helping them to build their infrastructure, in helping them to open up their road system, and in helping them to establish several projects of benefit to their people, is a record of which any country can rightly be proud. The treaty of trade and transit has been a subject matter of some difference of opinion between the two countries, but I would like to remind the House that, although the treaty had expired several months ago, we took special care to ensure that all the essential supplies from India reach Nepal so that the people of Nepal may not suffer, and I have also every reason to believe that this treaty will be finalised before long. Already there has been consultation between the appropriate organisation in Nepal and our Ministry of Foreign Trade, and I would also like to recall that Government leaders in Nepal have made statements saying that they are anxious to conclude this treaty in a manner satisfactory to both countries, and I have every reason to hope that before long this treaty will be concluded.




With Afghanistan, we have traditional friendship. Afghanistan has got its own problems, problems of trade and transit-being a land-locked country. And the logistics and means of communications are such that it has to depend to a very large extent on Pakistan for movement of most of their goods into Afghanistan and also out of Afghanistan. Notwithstanding this dependence on Pakistan, our relations with Afghanistan have always been very friendly and very close. I visited Afghanistan some months ago and was greatly impressed by the goodwill expressed by the Government leaders of Afghanistan to the people and Government of India. And this is the basis upon which there has been a great deal of not only understanding but co-operation in several fields, educational, cultural and economic, and our efforts to still further strengthen these relations will continue unabated.


I would like to say that although our relations with these four countries which are our neighbours-have been good, unfortunately our relations with our two other neighbours--Pakistan and China-have been uneven, have been either hostile at times or indifferent or tense.


I would like however to clarify that this is not of our seeking, and if we find that our relations with these two neighbours on the west, cast and north have been of this nature, we have to see the background.




The hostility that Pakistan has always entertained for India is the result of the basis upon which India was partitioned. And, subsequently, Pakistan was fed by several outside powers in the belief that it was in Pakistan's interest to con­tinue the policy of confrontation; and Pakistan, in this respect, had been receiving a great deal of encouragement, not only moral and political, but substantial in the sence of economic aid, military aid and all manner of support-even for causes which appeared to be, on the face of it, absolutely unjust. We have, therefore, to frame our attitude and our policy, knowing this background.




In relation to China, the matter has been explained on several occasions and I do not want to go over the entire history. But, even before the Chinese attack in 1962, their attitude was taking a certain shape which smacked of hostility and friction against India.


It is in this background that we have to see as to whether the policy that we have been pursuing in relations to our neighbours-both those who are friendly, as well as those who, for no fault of ours, are not friendly to us, but are actu­ally hostile to us-is the correct policy to be pursued.




A great deal of effort has been put in by several Members to show that our policy of non-alignment, the policy that we have pursued so far, has not yielded result. I had, however, been very careful and attentive to find out if any alter­native was suggested by any Member to the policy of non-alignment that we had been pursuing. So, what could be the alternative of the policy of non-align­ment ? Can it be a policy of aligning ourselves with any of the power blocs ? Obviously, no one has suggested this, and no one can, in any seriousness, suggest this.


A Member : Independent, nationalist policy ?


Sardar Swaran Singh : Independent, nationalist policy is precisely the policy of non-alignment and it is that policy that we have been pursuing so far.


I agree with those Members who have said that this policy of non-alignment means that we decide ourselves what our attitude should be in any particular situation; not that others should take steps or action as a result of which we would find that we have to adopt a particular policy or oppose a particular policy. If we have not subscribed to any of the defence pacts, if we have not aligned ourselves with any of the power blocs, it has been with a view to ensure independence of our action and independence of our approach in any situation.


I was amazed when some Members propounded a strange theory that if we get any arms from any country then we become aligned with that country. That is a proposition which is very dangerous; that is a proposition which we can never accept and should never accept. I have said on more than one occasion that where our own national interests are involved, where our own security is involved, when we stand in need of any military equipment of a sophisticated nature or of a type which we do not manufacture in our country, 1 shall have no hesitation in getting that equipment or that material from any source whatsoever, and I do not see why there should be any objection to that.


A Member: How is Pakistan different?


Sardar Swaran Singh: Pakistan is a member of actual defence pacts, and, there­fore, they are getting arms from those countries with whom they are allies and are members of defence pacts. This is an entirely different situation as compared to the situation of a non-aligned country like India getting arms from any source whatsoever. To suggest that we can be deflected in the pursuit of our independent policy merely because we acquire arms from one source or the other is a wrong idea, and I think that those Members who made that suggestion are playing into the hands of those who want to malign India by saying that because India is getting arms from a parti­cular source, therefore, they are aligned to that country. That is a great error and pitfall, and I would warn Members not to fall into it.


We have pursued this policy; we will continue to pursue that policy because that is the best policy that is in our interest, and I have no hesitation in saying that we will pursue it and we will get help and equipment from whatever source it may be available. I have no inhipitions whatsoever in that respect, and I do not see why we should not have confidence in our own country to see that merely getting help from any other country does not in any way compromise us.




I would like to say that there are other matters of important to the world community such as the questions of war and peace, questions of disarmament, questions not only of the remnants of colonialism in whatever form they exist, but of ending the apartheid and racist regimes in South Africa, Rhodesia etc. These are matters on which we have always lent our full support in all forums; whether it be the conference of non-aligned countries, whether it be the United Nations in its various organs or committees, or bilaterally in the forum of the Commonwealth, we have steadfastly adhered to the pursuit of the policy where our opposition to colonialism in any form has been clear, forthright and unequivocal. We have steadfastly stood for helping freedom fighters engaged in the task of freeing themselves from colonial clutches of the Portuguese in Angola and Mozam­bique; also, our sympathy and support has always been for those who are fighting against the apartheid regime in South Africa and the racist regime in Rhodesia. Our pre-occupation with our problems does not mean that we can

adopt an attitude of isolation from the contribution we must make in the affairs of the world. We have always pursued a policy where we have made our position absolutely clear, and have used all our influence in order to further those causes and the causes of those who are suffering.


United Nations


At this stage, I would also like to say that it was farthest from me to say anything which might have the effect of denigrating the U.N. organisations or the international community or the various organs in which we function. That was not my object, but we must be realistic in this respect. It is a hard reality that these U.N. organi­sations are political bodies where governments of countries arc repvrsented. I am also conscious of the fact that the U.N. did a great deal of admirable work in focussing world attention on problems of colonialism and several other matters; and it was mainly on account of the pressure built up in U.N. organs that the colonial powers found it difficult to hold on to their colonial empires, and progres­sively country after country became free and independent. But we must also keep this in mind that the U.N. being a body in which Governments are represented, for getting support for any particular proposition which we want a particular U.N. organisation or group to adopt, we must first have sufficient support in the capitals of the countries represented in the appropriate U.N. body: It is with this object in view that we have been mobilising support in various capitals and also through their representatives in U.N. headquarters at New York, at the U.N. organisations headquarters in Geneva, also here in Delhi, by having contacts with the represen­tatives of the countries concerned; also, sometimes, even by special missions, not always of Ministers, but of experts, sometimes of professors, lawyers and other knowledgeable people to convince those Governments of the correctness and justice of our case.

We have already raised the question of Bangla Desh in ECOSOC, and depending on the response we get, and also depending on whether it will serve our purpose and interest, we will certainly raise it in the other appropriate organi­sations of the U.N.-provided we are assured of sufficient support for any formulation or proposition we expect that particular organ of the U.N. to adopt.


Recognition of G. D. R., D. R. V. N., etc.


The question of recognition of certain countries has again been raised by several members--recognition of G.D.R., D.R.V.N., the Provisional Revolutionary Govern­ment of Viet Nam, etc. I am afraid, I have nothing to add to what I said the other day when a non-official Resolution-precisely in relation to this-was debated on the Floor of the House. This matter was discussed here and I made my observations and clarified Government's stand as best as I could.


Normalisation of Relations With China


Several members have made suggestion that we should take some step to normalise our relations with China. Several members have expressed this desire. Some have even suggested that some concrete action should be taken. I would like to say a few words about this matter.


Some members have suggested that we should defuse our relations !with China. I entirely agree that we should not only defuse, but try to normalise relations with China. However, normalisation does not depend upon one party alone. There has to be a mutual normalisation. If and when the Government of the People's Republic of China is willing and ready to take concrete steps towards normalisation, we shall be equally ready and willing to do so. It must, however, be clearly understood that normalisation can take place only on the basis of mutual respect for each other's integrity and sovereignty, and on the principle of non-interference in other's internal affairs. We welcome the change in the style of China's diplomacy which has been in evidence of late, and we hope that it will also lead to a change in substance.


Sino-American Detente


Something has been said, and quite rightly, about the new development that has taken place according to which it has been announced that President Nixon will visit Peking. President Nixon's Adviser, Dr. Kissinger, has already visited Peking in

 a secret, clandestine manner. I have made some comments already on this develop­ment when I was replying to the debate on the non-official resolution about recognition.


I should like to make some comments on the Sino-American process of detente.


In this connection, I should like to recall that I have already made a statement on 16th July. While we welcome the rapproachment between Peking and Washington, we  cannot look upon it with equanimity if it means the domination of the two powers  j over this region or a tacit agreement between them to this effect. We maintain the ' right of each and every country and people to decide their own destiny without any

interference from outside.


This applies as much to Bangla Desh as to Vietnam or the Palestine problem.

We shall not allow any other country or combination of countries to dominate us or to interfere in our internal affairs. We shall, to our maximum ability, help other countries to maintain their freedom from outside domination, and their sove­reignty. We have no desire to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, but this does not mean that we shall look on as silent spectators if third countries come and interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, particularly our neighbours, as our own national interest could be adversely affected.


I sincerely hope that any Sino-American detente will not be at the expense of other countries, particularly in this region. However, we cannot at present totally rule out such a possibility. It can have repercussions on the situation in this sub­continent, as well as in this region. We have, therefore, for sometime been consider­ing  ways and means of preventing such a situation from arising, and meeting it if it should arise.


In this, we are not alone, and there are other countries, both big and small,

, who may be more perturbed than we are. We are in touch with the countries concerned and shall see to it that any Sino-American detente does not affect us or the other countries in this region adversely.


Several observations have been made about the motives that may have been the mainspring for the development of the Sino-American detente, Several points have been suggested that one party may be motivated by this aspect and the other country by another motive. Whatever may be the motives, this is a very important and very significant development. We shall have to watch very carefully the effects of this, and we shall have to take every possible step to safeguard our own interests.


I know that several countries have already given their reactions. Some of them have been critical. Some have expressed their fears. But there is no doubt that in the months to come this will be the most important event of the year, and a great deal of thought will have to be given to the after-effects of this, and how it unfolds itself. We need not rush to any conclusion straight away, We have to be careful and watchful, and take adequate steps both political and otherwise in the international field and inside our own country to safeguard our interests.


President Yahya Khan's interview


Several Members have made reference to the press report of an interview given by President Yahya Khan. I should like to remaind the Members that the report in this case is from Mr. Maxwell who put forward the theory of India's war in relation to the Sino-Indian conflict. It is very difficult to make any comment upon a press report of that nature, but there are some points in that statement which require notice. I would like to take this opportunity to state Government's viewpoints with regard to some of the matters which have been highlighted in the press report and the statement attributed to President Yahya Khan.


President Yahya Khan is reported to have said that if india made any attempt to seize any part of East Pakistan, he would declare war and Pakistan would not be alone. Pakistan has been trying for sometime to mislead the world into thinking that Pakistan's problem is with India and not with the people of Bangla Desh. It is the military regime's own action, the burtallties committed by the Pakistan army in Bangla Desh, that have landed Pakistan in a morass in East Bengal, and only a settlement with the elected representatives of the people of Bangla Desh will enable it to extricate itself from this morass. So long as Pakistan does not recognise this, the activities of the Mukti Fauj are bound to continue and increase. If the Mukti Fauj succeeds in liberating the territory in Bangla Desh, and Pakistan uses it as a pretext for an attack on us, then I must make it clear that we are ready to defend ourselves.


President Yahya Khan talks about his willingness to meet our Prime Minister in response to efforts of mediation. That is also mentioned in that statement. I would like to make it clear that this is not a problem between India and Pakistan, if mediation is required, it should be between President Yahya Khan and the people of Bangla Desh. The people of Bangla Desh have in an unequivocal manner demonstrated their faith in the leadership of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the Awami League by winning as many as 167 out of 169 seats. So, those friends of Pakistan, who want to do any mediation, would be well-advised to carry on their mediation efforts between the military regime, that is President Yahya Khan, and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the leaders of the Awami League. There is no use in diverting the attention of the world by saying or by suggesting that there should be mediation between President Yahya Khan and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. This is a fight which is going on between the people of Bangla Desh and the military rulers.


I would like to say very categorically that these efforts to divert the attention of the international community and to project this liberation fight that is being carried on in a relentless manner by the freedom-fighters-this we have to scotch; and we have made it absolutely clear to all important countries that this is a matter between the Awami League, between Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the military rulers, and any attempt to divert the attention of any international community by projecting this as an Indo-Pakistan dispute is something which is totally unacceptable to us.


Sheikh Mujibur Rahman


I would like to say about the report that has come out about Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The report says that there is a proposal to try Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Even if he should be tried as it is-as mentioned in some reports-by a military court in which they say he may have a lawyer, but not a foreigner as a lawyer-all this shows, if any proof was required, that there (in Pakistan) is no judicial system of the type with which we are familiar. Any trial of that nature will be a farce. It is not a legalistic matter, or a matter in which we should devote so much time to these procedural matters, whether it is in Camera or not. It is obviously a political matter in which we have taken a consistent stand that the military regime having embarked on these atrocious activities against the unarmed people of Bangla Desh, they have to reverse that trend, stop military action, and have discussions with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the Awami League. That is what we have been implying when we talked of giving up military means and trying to find a political settlement, which means a settlement acceptable to the people of Bangla Desh, accep­table to the Awami League, and to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who is the undisputed leader of the Awami League and the people of Bangla Desh. Any attempt, therefore, to take any action against Sheikh Mujibur Rahman will be follow-up action on the statement that President Yahya Khan made on 28th June, which has paved the way completely for the emergence of an independent Bangla Desh. Any further action of this type will be a mad action, which will result only in making the freedom-fighters more determined in the pursuit and realisation of their objective namely, freedom for Bangla Desh and for the people of Bangla Desh. So, we would like to warn that any action taken against Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who is the elected leader of the people of Bangla Desh, and any continuation of these atrocities, and any steps taken to pursue this mad policy and continued military action against unarmed people-this is something which will make the freedom­fighters even more determined, and if I may say so, it is the determination and the effectiveness of these freedom-fighters which appear to have rattled President Yahya Khan, and he is now trying to find excuses by saying that if any area is liberated, then he would declare war. It is obvious that now that he feels the pressure of the activities of the freedom-fighters, he has tried to divert the attention of the international community in another direction.


Our attitude has been made clear from time to time. This Parliament has unanimously adopted a resolution pledging sympathy and support, and we are pursuing that resolution in the best possible manner, and we are doing everything possible to lend support to the freedom-fighters.


So far as the foreign office and our missions abroad are concerned, I would like to assure you that they know fully well the implications of this issue. Let us not forget that this is a matter which is very vital for us, which is vital for our existence and for our survival. Therefore, we have to take major steps, we have to exercise all the wisdom, but still, in a relentless manner, pursue our objective, the objective being the will of the people of Bangla Desh expressed in such over-whelming manner by returning Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the Awami League, and giving him such massive support. Unless an administration and Government which is controlled by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the Awami League is installed there, I do not see any hope of these refugees going back, because it is not by statements alone that any confidence can be installed into the minds of these refugees to enable them to return to their homes and hearths. There is no substitute for experience, and the experience that they have had before they fled for their lives is an experience which cannot be wished away merely because somebody is making a statement that these refugees are welcome and they can return. What was the effect of the statement that President Yahya Khan made ? After that, 3J million more refugees crossed into Indian territory. So, this is the response to the statement made by President Yahya Khan. Therefore, their confidence cannot be restored by statements or assurances by the U.N. people. It is very strange that they think that if they merely establish camps these refugees can be induced to go into those camps. That again is not likely to happen. Therefore, they will not go unless the root cause is tackled, unless the basic problem is solved, and the basic problem is the fight between the people and the democratic forces on one side and the military regime on the other. In this, we are committed to support the freedom-fighters and that is the objective that we have to realise.

Thank you very much.






Source: Bangladesh Documents, Vol – I, Page no – 703 – 710.