'India for independent foreign policy'

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New York, Dec 1: Minister of State (MoS) for External Affairs E Ahamed has reiterated India's committment for the pursual of an independent foreign policy and non interference in internal affairs of other nations. ''We encourage democracy everywhere, but that doesn't mean that we have a right to interfere in other sovereign nations' internal affairs,'' Mr Ahamed here said, adding, ''We should not at all interfere.''

The Minister addressed a UN session in New York on the West Asia situation yesterday and earlier spoke at an Indian-American community meeting at the Consulate General of India.

The foreign policy of the country was formulated by first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and it has been largely followed by any ruling party at the Centre, the MoS for external affairs, pointed out.

''When it is absolutely necessary to make others know of our views on a certain issue, we do so,'' the minister said.

''India is not a big brother. We try to take all with us through understanding in forums like SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation). We're there to help, to work as partners in the development of our neighbours,'' the Minister said.

The MoS avoided comment on the Indo-US nuclear deal despite questions, and sidestepped a question from the audience. But Mr Ahamed said energy security was important for India and hence New Delhi was pursuing the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline.

''We're not under any obligation to follow others' policy on an issue,'' pointed out Mr Ahamed.

He praised the 30 million overseas Indians, particularly Indian-Americans, and described them as a ''success story of our times.'' ''You're the best ambassadors of our country. You helped improve the Indo-American relations by working for the cause of India,'' the minister said, and explained how economy was doing well in the country now.

He ruled out the possibility of Indian nationals living abroad getting the privilege of voting rights. ''We need to have a lot of discussions at various levels. The Constitution may need to be amended,'' the Minister said. It would take sometimes as there was a parliamentary democracy, Mr Ahamed added.

The Minister addressed the diaspora meet amid thunderous applause that New York was the single mission that issued the largest issuer of OCI (Overseas Citizenship of India) cards number 15,000.

Since October this year, the consulate began outsourcing its visa issuance work. The MoS visited the consulate and sought improvement in facilities there.


UNI

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