Friday, October 18, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Fiscal reforms irreversible: PM
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 17
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today called for a broad-based approach towards terrorism and religious extremism while maintaining that India’s economic reform process was irreversible.

Terming the recent terrorist attack in Bali as “barbaric”, Mr Vajpayee said “governments alone cannot effectively fight this grave danger to world peace and human civilisation”.

“The time has come to broad-base the struggle against terrorism and religious extremism”, he said while delivering the inaugural address at the first India-ASEAN Business Summit held here today.

The “inhuman act” in Bali calls for the harshest condemnation,” he said, adding that the summit could not ignore the negative impact of such terrorist acts on business climate in the affected country and the religion.

“Our hearts go out to the shockingly large number of innocent tourists and local people, who perished in the bomb attack. We in India have been the victims of such terrorism for a long time”, Mr Vajpayee said.

Terming the “diversity and openness” as proud features of both India and ASEAN societies, he urged to convert this shared heritage into a “strong weapon against terrorism and the mindset that breeds it”.

On India’s economic reform process, he said it was irreversible. “Like an elephant, the Indian economy may be somewhat slow to gather momentum but when it does so, it is unstoppable and irreversible”, the Prime Minister said.

He said the hiccups were only the “democratic process of reconciling divergences and achieving consensus”.

“Our reform process continues to target high growth with balanced and equitable development. Our ambitious GDP growth target of 8 per cent exhorts us to stay on this path. There can be no looking back”, he said.

Taking a dig at the globalisation process as often being tilted towards the developed world, the Prime Minister said that “globalisation cannot be sustained as a one-way quest for developing country markets by the products and capital of the developed world”.

“We need greater equity and a larger share of the fruits of globalisation for developing countries. These socio-economic goals can be promoted through sub-regional cooperation”, he said.

Mr Vajpayee said India attached the greatest importance to the initiative for ASEAN Integration. India has launched human resource development programmes in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam under this initiative and would be happy to expand into more development projects in these countries.

Specifically, India has offered assistance for a communications network involving highways, railways, river navigation and port facilities.

Stating that India has consistently supported cooperative ventures, he made an oblique reference to Pakistan and said:

“We have been foiled in this effort by unrelated political obstacles.. We are now focusing our attention on sub-regional cooperation within SAARC, as well as regional and sub-regional cooperation with groupings like ASEAN”.

On the existing Indo-ASEAN economic cooperation Mr Vajpayee said Indians had been investing in South-East Asia over the past four decades. “Indian or Indian origin entrepreneurs today won the world’s largest palm oil refinery in Malaysia, one of the largest carbon black manufacturing units in Thailand and a number of large textile units in Indonesia”, he pointed.

“I believe India and ASEAN have a mutual interest in the working towards beneficial preferential and free trade agreements..... We see a regional trade and investment area as a near-term objective of India-ASEAN economic relations”, Mr Vajpayee said.

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