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Will revise nuclear doctrine, mend equations: BJP manifesto promises

New Delhi: The BJP Monday pledged to “revise and update” India’s nuclear doctrine, observing that the strategic gains acquired by the party-led NDA regime were “frittered away” by the Congress, and unveiled a foreign policy that would stress on “mending equations” and ties with neighbours.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), true to its pro-Hindu ideology that reflected its majoritarian bias, declared in its foreign policy section of the manifesto released by the party in the presence of its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and a galaxy of senior leaders that India will remain a “natural home for persecuted Hindus and they shall be welcome to seek refuge”.

The manifesto did not take the name of any nation, unlike the Congress manifesto unveiled earlier which had mentioned ties with neighbours, especially Pakistan, China and Sri Lanka. However, in its basic essence, the BJP manifesto did not take a markedly different line.

The party, whose National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government conducted a nuclear test in 1998 and shook the world, said a party-led government would “follow a two-pronged independent nuclear programme, unencumbered by foreign pressure and influence” for civilian and military purposes especially a “major contributor to India’s energy sector”.

In this, the BJP manifesto is not much different from the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), which has in the decade since 2004 been actively pursuing civil nuclear deals with members of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group to cater to India’s growing energy needs.

The BJP said, if it comes to power, it will “study in detail India’s nuclear doctrine, and revise and update it, to make it relevant to challenges of current times.

“Maintain a credible minimum deterrent that is in tune with changing geostatic realities” and invest in “India’s indigenous Thorium Technology Programme”.

On foreign policy, it was critical of the UPA, accusing it of having “failed to establish enduring friendly and cooperative relations with India’s neighbours”. The government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, which also pledged good neighbourly ties, has drawn flak for being perceived as hobbled by the pulls and pressures of coalition partners and letting go major strategic initiatives with neighbours.

The BJP manifesto noted that “India and its neighbours have drifted apart. Instead of clarity, we have seen confusion. The absence of statecraft has never been felt so acutely as today. India is seen to be floundering, whereas it should have been engaging with the world with confidence. The collapse of the Indian economy has contributed to the sorry state of foreign affairs in no small measure”.

Promising to “reboot and reorient the foreign policy goals, content and process, in a manner that locates India’s global strategic engagement in a new paradigm and on a wider canvas”, the BJP said it would “revive Brand India with the help of our strengths of 5 T’s – Tradition, Talent, Tourism, Trade and Technology”.

It will pursue “proactive diplomacy” to project India’s “soft power” and will also harness the strengths of NRIs, PIOS and professionals settled abroad to protect and strengthen “Brand India”.

It said it will mend “equations through pragmatism and a doctrine of mutually beneficial and interlocking relationships, based on enlightened national interest”. In an apparent reference to the UPA’s perceived leaning towards the US, it said it would not be led by “big power interests” and would instead “engage proactively on our own with countries in the neighbourhood and beyond”.

In perhaps a reference to Pakistan, towards which its leaders have vocally been taking a strong stand, the manifesto said with regard to the neighbourhood the party will “pursue friendly relations. However, where required we will not hesitate from taking strong stand and steps”.

It also said it would work towards strengthening regional forums like SAARC and ASEAN and continue engagement with other global forums.

Individual states will be encouraged to play a greater role in diplomacy and build relations with foreign countries by harnessing their cultural and commercial strengths, the manifesto said.