CARLA HILLS: Ladies and gentlemen -- ladies and gentlemen, let me interrupt your conversation and give you all a very, very warm welcome. We are so privileged today to have such a distinguished guest join us. I want to, before we start, make a very warm welcome to Ambassador Ronen Sen, the ambassador from India to the United States, seated here, and Ambassador Nirupam Sen, the Indian ambassador to the United Nations, and Shivshankar Menon. And we welcome the three -- here you are. I'm delighted to have you here with us today.
Let me go through a couple of logistics. The old-timers know it, but please turn off your cell phones, your BlackBerries and anything else that will buzz, and I would like to tell you all that the meeting is on the record. We will start with let me say a few words about our guest today.
His Excellency Pranab Mukherjee is the -- India's ambassador for External Affairs, a position that he's held before. Indeed, he's held several key cabinet positions, including that of Finance minister, Defense minister and chief of Policy Planning. And while Finance minister, the European Magazine declared that he was one of the world's best, one of the world's best of five. And his luster as a cabinet officer has also been paralleled by his luster as a parliamentaric leader. He currently serves as leader of the -- India's National Congress. He has also served many years in India's higher house, the Rajya Sabha. And he has been voted India's outstanding parliament; indeed, Sonia Gandhi's biographer has said that this gentleman is a living encyclopedia, he knows so much about government. He has also served on the boards of the IMF, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the African Development Bank. He holds a master's in history and in political science as well as a law degree.
Minister, we are delighted that you could join us, to take the time from your busy time here in New York, and may I say the floor is yours. I invite you to the podium. (Applause.)
MINISTER PRANAB MUKHERJEE: Ambassador Carla Hills, Dr. Richard Haass, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for inviting me to the Council of Foreign Relations. I thought I might share some thoughts with you on India's foreign policy and the future of India-U.S. relations.
Yogi Berra is sometimes credited with having said that it is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future. (Laughter.) I'm nevertheless sufficiently confident that extrapolating current trends and developments, the future of India-U.S. relations is strong and the graph is on the ascendent.
India's approach to the world is naturally a function of our values, our history and geography and of how we define our interests. Our strategic perspectives in the last 60 years have been a product of this historical aberration that was the early the 20th century. Throughout history, India has been a society that was open, pluralistic and intensely engaged with the rest of the world. Yet in 1947 independent India found herself restricted by the Cold War and reduced by colonialism to poverty, disease and famine.
In the beginning of the 18th century, India accounted for about a quarter of the world's wealth roughly equal to that of all of Europe combined. By ambivalence, our share in global output has plummeted to less than 4 percent. It is, thus, not surprising that our primary objective since independence has been to improve our peoples lives by regaining our position as a major global economy within a pluralistic, secular social equitable and democratic framework.
In making this effort, India has also decisively demonstratate (sic/demonstrated) that democracy and development are not only compatible, but also necessary for ensuring sustainability. The primary task of Indian foreign policy since 1947 has naturally been to enable the transformation of India's society and economy, restoring traditional patterns of dealing with the world and building strategic autonomy of choice.
Judging by the results, our foreign policy choices have served the nation well. For more than two decades, India has recorded annual GDP growth of around 6 percent. In the last four years, this has risen to about 8 percent with the result that India is now the fourth largest economy in the world in terms of purchasing power parity. Historically, unprecedented transformations and improvements in the people's living standards has taken place in India in the last few decades, yet much remains to be done. If we are to abolish mass poverty in India, we need to grow at 8 to 10 percent every year until 2020. Our record suggests that the goal is achievable, given considerable effort and the right policy responses, as well as supporting and peaceful international environment.
Among the reasons that we have confidence in India's future effort to develop, one of the major factors must be democratic nature of our polity. Democracies by their very nature are predictable. This may seem paradoxical given the fact that democracies tend to be fractious and full of competing political agenda and ideologies. However, because democracies are based on popular mandate and governments are answerable to the people, there is an underlying continuity in the policies of the elected governments. The predictability of India's foreign policy can also be ascribed to the fact that it is based on principles and broad national consensus. Our world view, reflecting the vision of leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, also bears the indeliable influence of our civilizational heritage and our historical experience.
As a secular polity, India shares the values of fundamental human rights and freedoms of other developed democracies. Thus, quite apart from its size, population economy and politics, India's civilizational values make it a natural bulwark against fundamentalism and terrorism and a factor of peace and stability in Asia.
Other reasons for confidence in India's future are our demographic trends and human resource base, which are two of our strongest assets. Some 550 million Indians out of our 1 billion-plus population are below the age of 25. The middle class of over 300 million people is growing steadily. Our universities produce over 2 million undergraduates each year. India's competitive advantage in knowledge-driven economic activities is a direct result of our demographics and education policies.
We seek today to replicate the successes of the IT industry in the fields of biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and other knowledge-intensive areas.
Ladies and gentlemen, in the evolving geopolitical and economic situation in the world, India needs a stable, peaceful, democratic and prosperous periphery for its own and the region's future. If India is to grow rapidly and transform herself, we need a supportive and peaceful regional environment.
This is why the present situation in Myanmar concerns us deeply. We urge a broad-based and inclusive process of national reconciliation and peaceful reform to lead Myanmar's political evolution.
Bloodshed in this situation is unacceptable. India will work with like-minded countries to make a peaceful outcome possible in Myanmar.
Indeed, in this neighborhood, India today sees difficult transitions to democracy all around -- in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. We have strongly supported the positive movement towards democracy and government in Afghanistan and Nepal in the last four years. Over 3,500 Indians are in Afghanistan, engaged in that country's peaceful reconstruction. In each of these neighbors, it is for the people themselves to make their choice about the nature and direction of their own governments.
India's interest is in a stable and peaceful periphery, and we'll continue to work with our neighbors to achieve this goal. One of our primary strategic challenges is to restore traditional linkages with our region, and between the region and the rest of the world. Connectivity would enable India's reintegration into the immediate and extended neighborhood, whether in Central Asia or Southeast Asia or West Asia. This has led us to pursue actively cooperative arrangements such as SAARC, BIMSTEC, and our dialogue with ASEAN.
The wave of preferential and asymmetrical trading arrangements that India has built up already or is working on with her neighbors is designed to further a vision of common and indivisible prosperity. This is also what is behind India's consistent initiative to improve relations with Pakistan, which have borne some fruit in the last three years, but which need to be pursued to their logical conclusions, through dialogue, in an atmosphere free of violence.
Further afield, India's political and economic ties with Asia Pacific region are also growing through institutional mechanisms such as East Asia Summit. We are also pursuing high-level dialogue with major powers through the India, China, and Russia trilateral forum and India-Brazil-South Africa group, and also developing closer linkages with major powers like the United States, Japan, the European Union and Russia.
In today's world, as interdependence among the major powers grows, each of us is engaging the other. Today India enjoys strategic partnerships of one kind or another with as many as 11 countries and the European Union. Our strategic partnership with U.S. has strengthened our relationship bilaterally in the region and in the world. It is also clear that the development of closer relations between India and any one strategic partner will not be at the expense of relations with any third country.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Indian Ocean littoral has greater economic and strategic value to the world economy than ever before. India has a natural and a widening stake in the safety and security of the sea lanes of communication from the Malacca Straits to the Gulf. We have endeavored to promote greater cooperation between Indian Ocean littoral states. Existing or emerging threats of piracy, drug trafficking, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, closure of choke points, environmental hazard, a regional conflict and other developments are of equally heightened concern to us.
As we look around the world, the defining characteristics of the Cold War era, namely conflicting ideologies and opposing military blocs, are being transformed by the imperatives of globalization, interdependence and connectivity. When I look at the rule of the future, namely energy security, environment, food security and the possible spread of weapons of mass destruction, it is clear to me that each issue will require all states, and particularly countries like India and the U.S.A., to work together. The new challenges that are emerging, including protecting the electronically connected and interdependent world from terror and organized crime, are immensely complex, and in this complexity requires much broader international cooperation than has been the case till now.
It is naive to expect the international system to deal with such complex and significant issues without democratizing international decision-making bodies. Globalization and integration requires that the United Nation and its Security Council be changed dramatically to reflect the present-day realities. On a number of these emerging issues, such as disaster relief, HIV/AIDS and other pandemics, new initiatives have been taken for closer India-U.S. cooperation. A telling example of the possible cooperation in those areas is a seamless coordination by our two countries to assist the world's neighboring states afflicted by the tsunami disaster of 2004.
If India is to realize its economic potential, it will also need alternative sources of clean energy. Foremost among them is nuclear energy. The bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreement that India and the USA have finalized indicates the way forward, which should lead to the lifting of technology restrictions and the opening up of cooperation in this field with several countries.
Ladies and gentlemen, the future trajectory of India-U.S. ties should be clear from what I have describes as India's foreign policy preoccupations and priorities. Today, India and the USA have an objective convergence in several areas: in values and interests, in areas ranging from economic development to the dangers of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and in terrorism. There is much that India and the USA need to do individually and together. Each of us brings to the relationships complementary skills and attributes.
We are aware of the challenges that continue to confront our own country, but these challenges also translate into opportunities. In infrastructure or energy, telecommunication or manufacturing, they create opportunities for economic partnership between India and the United States. I anticipate that there will be underlying predictability and transparency in India-U.S. bilateral ties, because this relationship answers to the aspirations and interests of people of both countries.
The links between our two countries are multi-layered. The large and vibrant India-America community constitutes a vitally important bridge closely connecting many millions of citizens of both our countries. Parallels of such significant and broad-based popular stakeholding in bilateral relations are rare.
Ladies and gentlemen, another important aspect of our relationship with the United States is that it is of mutual benefit. India's rapid economic growth is propelled not primarily for exports but much more by growing domestic consumer demand and increasing investments. Our growth will thus not be at the cost of other countries. It will in fact be a major stabilizing force in the global economy. This is reflected in the recent trends in India-U.S. trade. While U.S. exports to India are growing much faster than U.S. imports from India, investments are now also flowing in both directions.
In terms of the global economy, India and the United States have shared concerns on critical issues such as energy and security. Both our countries are, for instance, interested in the stabilization of oil and gas prices at reasonable levels and in reduced dependence on fossil fuels.
In advanced areas, like nuclear energy and space exploration, a sound indigenous base has been built that enables India not only to absorb high technology but also to collaborate with the United States in new fields. We remember U.S. contributions in building centers of excellence in India in science and technology and agricultural research. This collaboration led, amongst other things, to the green revolution and self-sufficiency in food. India believes that advanced technologies must be used and managed with care and a sense of responsibility. Our systems of protecting advanced technology show an increasingly apparent convergence.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have touched briefly on some of our foreign policy concerns and priorities, and on trends in India-U.S. ties. In sum, our relationship has never been better than it is today. I am confident about its future.
I'll be happy to answer any question and to hear your comments. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. (Applause.)
HILLS: Thank you so much, Minister. We will invite you to sit here.
MUKHERJEE: Thank you. Yeah.
HILLS: I know everyone in the room was impressed with the eloquence of the minister's remarks and the pointing out of the tremendous values that the United States and India shares.
And I'm wondering. The world supply -- just to get the conversation started -- the world supply of energy is about 70 percent supplied by Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. Do you have any ideas about what the United States and India might do together to ensure the stability of those governments and the reliability of the world's supply of energy, which is so key to our continued prosperity?
MUKHERJEE: I would respond to the question by pointing out we can create an environment for the stability in the region, including the regions to which these countries belong to.
But to my mind, our dependence on hydrocarbon sources of energy, which are -- which these countries are supplying substantially -- as you have very correctly pointed out, nearly 70 percent of the world's requirement are coming from there -- therefore, we have to look at the alternative sources of energy simultaneously, for which we are working together. And it is not merely in the area of nuclear energy, which is clean, but even under nonconventional energy.
For instance, I can give you one example. India today is producing little more than 4,000 megawatts of green power, which is one of the largest in the world. The effort simultaneously to provide the predictability and stability about the supply of the hydrocarbon sources of energy and simultaneously working for new sources of energy which is renewable. I think both strategies could be (worked out ?). And in this area, India and the USA can work together because USA has the superior technology which will be (helpful ?), and if we can have some sort of joint (collaborancy ?) efforts in this direction, it would be of immense help.
HILLS: I would like to ask another question before we open it up to the audience. And that is, the relationship between India and the United States has truly been transformed by our strategic partnership. And this past summer, the Confederacy of Indian Industry, with counterpart organizations in Japan and the United States, made recommendations to their three governments that a quadrilateral mechanism that included Australia -- so, United States, India, Japan and Australia -- should create a mechanism for consultation to ensure that the region of Asia stays open in the face of the development of such institutions as the Asian -- East Asian Summit.
I'd be interested in your views as to whether a quadrilateral mechanism of that nature would be of value. And if so, what sort of issues would you put on its agenda?
MUKHERJEE: This type of quadrilateral/trilateral mechanisms we are having now. But the primary objective should be for the economic cooperation, technological collaboration, and to help each other and the countries belonging to the region, but not with the objective of containing somebody. It should be to the mutual benefit of the countries concerned. But it should not appear as some sort of challenge or some sort of threat to the other.
HILLS: That sounds very diplomatic. (Laughter.)
I would like to invite our audience, and I would just ask that when you stand, so the minister knows to whom he is speaking, you state your name and affiliation. Please.
QUESTIONER: Ralph Mutins (ph), New York University. Mr. Minister, you are the senior statesman of South Asia. No other individual in the region has held such high public office continuously for so long. With that experience and the insights you have gained, I'd like you to address two closely interconnected questions.
The first is that -- and you referred to it in your speech -- the first is that there has been quite recently a rash of political instability and violence in the countries around India, culminating in events in the Maldive Islands a couple of days ago.
In your view, are these coincidences or has some pattern evolved, is some pattern evolving out of this? Are these developments sustained or encouraged by some other big regional power whose interests are inimical to India? And in that context, could you comment on developments in Bangladesh, where there are reports of harassment of minorities recently?
MUKHERJEE: In fact, if I be permitted to say so, the Indian Subcontinent, including the three countries each constituted one unit till 14th August 1947 -- that is, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and if we go a little -- back even up to 1913, Sri Lanka and Myanmar were administered from Delhi by the then-British government -- therefore it was some sort of compact administrative unit. Myanmar of course was known as Burma in those days.
And when we became independent, every country accepted parliamentary form of government. But unfortunately, as it is part of history, it is known to everybody, except in Sri Lanka and in India, the parliamentary form of democracy did not last for long. I think within 11 years, there was military rule in Pakistan, and from 1958 till today, in some form or other, interjected between the democratic governments, there have been some sort of military administration and occupation of Bangladesh in 1971, and the same phenomenon was -- (inaudible).
Sri Lanka has switched so far to presidential form to government after 1977, and in Myanmar it is known that from over the last 45 years, there has been one military rule substituted by another military rule.
Therefore, we are living with this situation, but that did not influence the democratic process and its unfolding and evolution in India itself. Democracy has become strong. At one point of time, it was believed, because of monolithic rule of one party, but the same developments will clearly demonstrate that even the coalition government, the democratic polity is not being jeopardized and disturbed in India, having the largest number of electorate -- more than 700 million people.
But unfortunately -- we cannot say so because of certain factors in our neighboring countries, but what we believe -- that we should try to help them to restore normalcy, peace, stability -- and after all, it is the people of the country to decide what type of government they would like to have, and in recent elections, they will go. So far as Bangladesh is concerned -- (inaudible) -- concerns about developments in Myanmar, I would hope that the people of Bangladesh will have the choice to elect their own government and the process of democracy, which has been committed by the present regime to hold election by October -- by end of 2008 -- would be held, and peace, stability, prosperity will remain there.
In other areas, I do hope the type of democratic institutions and systems which they are having -- that will take its logical conclusion. And in Myanmar, I already mentioned -- and I would like to repeat that -- we would like to contribute our own efforts, along with the others, to see that the process of political reconciliation and reforms be expedited involving all stakeholders, so that it have its credibility.
QUESTIONER: Thank you.
HILLS: Yes, please.
QUESTIONER: Jeff Laurenti, The Century Foundation. Minister Mukherjee, in your opening remarks, you talked about how India is pursuing democratization of the U.N. Security Council in its search for a permanent and unelected seat, something that Washington has been notably cool to as well as a lot of other member states. And what you hear from Washington, frustrated by having to deal with the Russians and Chinese, is the desirability of an alliance of democracies, perhaps, or a global NATO, one in which all countries with a democratic form of government might be able to bypass the Security Council and authorize forceful action. You yourself had spoken about the fundamental values of human rights and freedoms that India shares with the West; what are the thoughts that you have about this kind of broad, global, partial system, based on democracy, as to maintain peace and security? And, given India's reluctance even to go very far on the human rights arena together with the West, how durable is democracy as a kind of binding agent for security interests across the north-south divide?
MUKHERJEE: Commitment to uphold human rights, no doubt, is important in respect of strengthening democratic process and fulfilling the people's aspirations. But I would like to split the concern into two parts. One part allows the reforms of the Security Council, including its structure. But I feel that the solution which was built up in the post-Second World War era does not reflect the world reality today. Therefore it is necessary to have the expansions of the membership of Security Council votes in permanent and non-permanent categories.
How it could be done? And I think President Bush, in his address to the U.N. General Assembly, recognized this fact and mentioned one country particularly, and along with some others. I do feel some other world leaders, also in their statements in the General Assembly, have highlighted the need of having this. Therefore the countries that have expressed their views, in the open-ended consultation mechanism initiated by the President UNGA -- now, what is needed is to enter into hard negotiations.
And perhaps it would be possible to achieve that objective by working out objective criteria: how this expansion can take place. If there is an objective criteria, and if some countries are chosen, because of that objective criteria, then others need not feel uncomfortable. And so far as the number is concerned, of course, there can be a consensus to the discussions and negotiations about the number to which the expansion can take place.
But when there's talk of the reforms of the United Nations, I do not merely mean the number. I also mean the content. That is, the United Nations and particularly the General Assembly must have another dimension. That is development, and developmental aspect should not be lost sight of. Therefore this General Assembly has a larger say in the matters of development. I do feel that to be truly reflective of the reforms, which many of the countries and member countries of the United Nations want too.
QUESTIONER: Thank you.
Hi, I'm Jonathan Tepperman from Newsweek International.
Last month, India held joint naval exercises with Japan, the United States, Australia and the government of Singapore. There's been some discussion since -- preceding the exercises and subsequently, that India's involved in the formation of an alliance of democracies, an informal democratic security camp in Asia to balance the rising power of China. Is India trying to balance China's strategic or military power?
MUKHERJEE: I mentioned earlier that I do not believe in containing or balancing any country. Because we have good relations with China; we have good relations with Australia; we have good relations with Japan. In fact as defense minister, in my previous incarnation, I entered into defense cooperation agreement with Japan.
And we are having some joint exercises with a number of countries. With USA, we are having joint air exercises, joint naval exercises, joint army exercises for a number of years. Similarly we have these joint exercises with other neighboring countries, including China, Thailand, Singapore.
We are having these joint exercises. Sometimes it is -- most of the times, it is bilateral. And we would like to encourage these mechanisms or bilateral exercises. But I'm limiting what I answered, and which Ambassador Hill pointed out as diplomatic answers, that we should not give the impression that any combination is against any country or any combination of countries.
HILLS: I think that was diplomatic. (Laughter.)
Yes, Ted Sorensen.
QUESTIONER: Mr. Minister, I'm Ted Sorensen at Paul, Weiss. You mentioned India's exports to the United States. One of the more interesting exports, visible in this city and on the West Coast in particular, is talent. There's a great deal of talent in our business, technology, universities, the medical profession and otherwise that comes from India. There was a time when developing countries and some other countries complained about such exports. They said there was a brain drain and that either the United States should stop it or the host -- or the source countries should stop it. How does India feel about the movement of talent from India to the United States?
MUKHERJEE: In fact, I do not believe and even I do not like the word "brain drain." I encourage them, because it is our investment in other countries. (Laughter.) Truly, I think day before yesterday I had a (delegation ?) from the Association of Indian Physicians in the United States of America. And they told me the number is 65,000. Thirty thousands are practicing physicians who have obtained their degree. It is not all of them have come from India. Some of them are (at least ?) second-generation. And 25,000 students and trainees.
And it is quite encouraging. It is not merely in medicine, but in IT, in management. And today in my observations, I have highlighted one important point which has contributed in improving our relationship, is Indian-Americans, the large number of diaspora who are settled here. They have also made their contributions in building up better relations between India and USA.
Therefore, I would like to -- of course I would like to have access to the superior technology, but once we have that access to the technology, perhaps you will agree with me that Indians have the capacity to absorb it and do some things, make it perfect, suitable to the Indian conditions or conditions of the developing countries. That is the area where our planners, starting from Mr. Nehru to all the prime ministers, they have laid emphasis on the development of human resources. And it has built up. We would like to encourage it. And -- (inaudible) -- move forward, it will be a two-way flow, it will not be a single-way flow.
HILLS: Yes, Dr. Feldstein.
QUESTIONER: Mr. Minister, I'm Martin Feldstein from Harvard University. India has one of the largest Muslim populations in the world, and you've had some serious crises over the years, yet currently things seem to be going reasonably well. I wonder, looking ahead, what you see as the future of the relationship between India's Muslim population and the country as a whole, and whether new kinds of policies are going to be needed in India to deal with that.
MUKHERJEE: Of course -- (inaudible word) -- population has its strength, has its problems. And for quite some time, we are trying to moderate the population growth, and currently it is (16 per thousand ?), but we would like to reduce it little more so that it becomes manageable.
But what is important, how we utilize these huge populations and how we can provide them the opportunities to build up themselves. Population (as such ?) is not liabilities; it can be converted into assets. And we should try to do that, which we are exactly trying to do that.
HILLS: Across the room, please.
QUESTIONER: Mr. Minister --
HILLS: Would you stand?
QUESTIONER: Sorry. I'm Lalil Cha (ph). I write for the -- (affiliation inaudible) -- News Magazine published from Thailand. It's a Burmese news magazine. What's the message you delivered to the Burmese foreign minister this morning when you met him?
And secondly, do you agree with the U.S. viewpoint that the U.N. Security Council needs to do more in case of Burma?
MUKHERJEE: U.N. Security -- (inaudible)?
QUESTIONER: U.N. Security Council needs to do more in case of Burma.
MUKHERJEE: I have already articulated my views about the -- Myanmar, but I do not subscribe always that there should be (penal ?) sanctions. We should try to engage the country concerned in negotiations in talk and dialogue. Sanctions from the Security Council should be as the last effort because sometimes we find that frequent use of this very powerful instrument become counterproductive. Instead of collecting the (errant ?) rulers, it ends in the sufferings of the innocent people. I would not like to give examples because all who are present here are aware of it.
Therefore, we should try to engage ourselves with Myanmar, like-minded parties. The U.N. secretary-general his sent his emissary. ASEAN, of which Myanmar is a member -- ASEAN Foreign ministers have expressed their collective view. Other countries are also working on it. And therefore, I do feel, even it is being debated and discussed in the Security Council, it will have some sobering effect and serious efforts to engage themselves in dialect and constructive approach to resolve the impasse of ultimately -- (inaudible).
HILLS: Yes, Joan Spero.
QUESTIONER: Joan Spero from Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Mr. Minister, you have referred several times to the importance of clean energy, renewable technologies. I wonder if you could share with us your views about the prospects for international consensus and international agreement on climate change in the remainder of this year and beyond.
MUKHERJEE: In fact, our prime minister articulated our positions in -- (inaudible) -- G-8 summit, along with the five outreach. We ourselves have undertaken taken the responsibility that our (fuel to ?) emission would not be beyond the level of the (fuel to ?) emission of the industrialized countries as it is today, and if they reduce it farther we automatically have to reduce it. But just to have quantitative ceiling irrespective of the developmental requirement of the developing countries would be impractical, to our mind.
Therefore, what we say, that what decided in the Kyoto Protocol, that yes, we should have a common approach, but the responsibility should be differentiated. Industrialized countries will have to bear more responsibilities compared to the developing countries. Secondly, the new technology, which will help us to have access to the clean energy, must be available as the affordable cost. And here if we just go by the concept of ideas -- and I had the privilege of working with ambassador when she was USTR, during the old days of Uruguay rounds of discussions, and reach -- ultimately were finalized in -- (inaudible) -- case, I feel issue was one of the most important issue. I was trade minister at that point of time.
But what I feel that yes, inventors have to be recognized, and they should be rewarded. But it is affecting the interests of the world community as a whole, there must be a striking balance between the requirements of idea, cost of the energy to be made -- cost of the technology to be made available. And also, at the same time, there should be a different -- (inaudible) -- responsibility amongst the developed and the developed countries.
HILLS: Yes, over at this table, please.
QUESTIONER: I'm Tony Holmes, a fellow here at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Mr. Minister, you just mentioned that previously you were trade minister. One are where India has been recently a very difficult partner for the United States is in the discussions to relaunch the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations. It seems to many in this country that despite the formidable economic progress that India has made, that you've described, that India still wants a free pass in the WTO, and wants to continue to enjoy multiple protections that would derive from a developing country status.
I wonder, could you tell us please when India might be prepared to begin subordinating its traditional, narrower, parochial interests in favor of a broader view of its role as a leader of the developing countries, and as a partner in terms of promoting its longer-term, more enduring interests?
MUKHERJEE: Thank you very much.
First of all, I would like to remove this impression that we are taking a narrower view and protectionist view in respect of trade. Very recently we have ourselves voluntarily declared that we will provide -- (inaudible) -- access to the services and commodities from the least developed countries to India. We are committed to take the Doha Round of trade negotiations to its logical conclusions. And we have placed on table, to what extent we can -- (inaudible).
But there is another aspect in the Doha Round of discussion. That is developmental aspects. And we cannot completely ignore these developmental aspects. And if we just mechanically link -- (inaudible) -- I'm afraid it could affect a large number of developing countries, where agriculture is essentially at the subsistence level. In India, too, we have large number of farmers who doesn't have any exportable surplus. (Inaudible) -- to many developing countries.
So we should try to find out an acceptable compromise between these two aspects. And I think we are engaging ourselves constructively in these discussions, and we'll continue to do so. We want the ®MD+IN¯®MDNM¯Doha Round to be taken to its logical conclusion.
HILLS: I'm delighted with your optimism. Let -- we're coming to the end of the time. And let me exercise my prerogative here and ask a last question.
You are one of the world's best finance ministers, one of five -- (inaudible) -- said. We have tremendous global imbalance, with the currencies in Asia, several, being undervalued. And a lot of contention, political contention, is being created throughout the United States, but other places too, because of this imbalance. Many worry that this will generate a wave of protectionism.
What's the way out? What is the best financial mechanism to fix this problem, in your view?
MUKHERJEE: I am afraid what you say, that was in past. I was considered as one of the best finance ministers -- (inaudible) -- in 1984, I think. (Laughs, laughter.)
HILLS: Those were tough times. I remember there was a recession in 1981.
MUKHERJEE: Yeah. Yeah. Anyway, around that time I was the finance minister of India. So -- and the credit rating -- if you will just permit me to point out that the credit rating, for which I was -- (inaudible) -- was my management of budgetary balance and also stepping up the developmental expenditure. As you know, we are having the five-year plan in those days before the economic liberalization, and the -- (inaudible) -- were privatized, and it was targeted. So announcing the developmental expenditure in the plan was sufficient levels so that we can reach the target of the plan outlay.
But anyway, the short question which you have referred to is very important, and that stability -- currency stability -- is required. And to some extent, the mechanisms which we are having now to control the system, that should be more and more liberalized and allowed the market to the play the more permanent (truth ?).
But at the same time, the experiences which we had in this wake of some of the major crises, including the last South Asian crises, it compels us -- I would not say it compels us sometimes to look at some protectionist point of view, but it compels us to some extent to take a conservative view. What I think, that more and more markets will be allowed to have its access, and at the same time I think the (blocs ?) which are going on for about having the common Asian currency, common customs system, as in when it materialize synchronizing with the European Union's and EC's policies, I do feel will go a long way to provide the currency stability in future. But surely it will take sometime to adjust, because the level of development capacity of the countries to absorb under this system, it will take a little longer time, and we shall have to patiently wait for that.
HILLS: Well, you can see that the minister is a minister's minister who can handle any question from defense to foreign policy to economics and trade. Sir, we are incredibly indebted to you for taking your time and being with us today. (Applause.)
MUKHERJEE: I am delighted. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.)
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