Our foreign policy will have muscle: Advani

New Delhi, February 24: The National Democratic Alliance, if elected to power, would pursue a “muscular foreign policy” that would preserve the country’s autonomy and secure its interests in the neighbourhood, Bharatiya Janata Party leader L.K. Advani said here on Monday.

Mr. Advani was summing up the party’s view after a meeting with experts on foreign policy issues at his residence.

Later, the former External Affairs Minister, Yashwant Sinha, who was present at the meeting, told journalists: “India cannot depend on the United States to protect its national interests. We have to do it ourselves.”

A “muscular” foreign policy did not necessarily mean that India would be prepared to go to war to protect her interests. However, countries in the neighbourhood should know “they cannot take India for granted,” he said.

Asked about Operation Parakram, under which troops were mobilised on the border with Pakistan after the terrorist attack on Parliament, Mr. Sinha said he did not agree with his colleague Jaswant Singh, who had said that he would not defend that move. “I was a member of the Cabinet Committee on Security Affairs at the time. We took that decision to mobilise troops, and I will defend it.”

Mr. Sinha added that the January 6, 2004, joint statement with Pakistan, in which Pakistan for the first time said it would not allow territory under its control to be used for launching terrorist attacks on India was a product of Operation Parakram. “Let me say, without Operation Parakram we would not have been able to get the January 6, 2004 statement.”

“Total failure”

Those involved in the exercise at Mr. Advani’s residence described the United Progressive Alliance government’s foreign policy as a total failure.

The relationship with Iran was jeopardised as a result of pressure from the U.S.; Russia had been neglected; the countries in the neighbourhood were no longer listening to India; India continued to turn a blind eye to illegal immigration from Bangladesh; the UPA failed to engage African and Latin American countries; and India’s support of the candidature of Shashi Tharoor for the post of United Nations Secretary-General was a disaster, the BJP said.

Asked to reiterate his party’s stand on the nuclear deal with the U.S., Mr. Sinha said: “We would like to re-negotiate it.”

Among those present at the interaction were the former Ambassador to Sri Lanka, N.N. Jha; the former Foreign Secretary, Shashank; the former Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, Vijay Kapoor, and party spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad.