No change in countrys N doctrine: Krishna

New Delhi: Government on Wednesday made it clear that there will be no revision of the country`s no-first-use nuclear doctrine and said minimum credible deterrence would be maintained in view of threats and challenges.

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna told the Lok Sabha that the government is working to improve relations with immediate neighbours, including Pakistan and China, as also with other countries like the US and Russia.

In his hour-long reply to a debate on the Demands for Grants of his Ministry, he dwelt on various aspects of foreign policy and rejected the notion that India was getting isolated or was a "by-stander" in world affairs, including the evolving situation in West Asia. The Demands were later passed by a voice vote.

He spent some time in praising former External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh and responded to the points raised by the senior BJP leader yesterday, including the suggestion for revising the no-first-use doctrine in the nuclear policy.

"Government remains committed in taking effective steps to strengthen India`s defence and to maintain credible minimum nuclear deterrence," Krishna said referring to some members` concern over Pakistan`s growing nuclear arsenal.

"On nuclear doctrine, I would only like to say that there is no change in our policy. We are committed to universal, non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament and we remain firm on the commitment," he said.

Yesterday, Jaswant Singh had advocated the need for revising the no-first-use policy, framed by his own NDA government, citing changes in the global scenario including a growing nuclear arsenal of Pakistan.

Turning to relations with Pakistan, Krishna said India was pursuing a path of dialogue to reduce the trust deficit and resolve all outstanding issues in the spirit of openness and with the hope that "we can build a better future for the peoples of both countries".

At the same time, India has "never abandoned" its concern and the need to eliminate cross-border terrorism and to put an end to activities of terrorists and terror groups which have "negative and destructive agendas for our nation and which is not in the best interests of our relations".

In a veiled reference to Pakistan, Krishna said "those countries which provide space for terrorism to grow and space for terror camps to be set up are deeply regretting having done so" as there are "explosions every day".

Turning to China, he said India had conveyed its concerns over its practice of issuing stapled visas to people from Jammu and Kashmir and has got assurance that "it is their intention to solve the problem to our satisfaction"

Noting that this had "generated differences" between the two countries, he said India expected that China would implement its assurance.

Krishna steered clear of any response to queries put forth by RJD chief Lalu Prasad who wanted to know what the government was doing to regain "thousands of acres of land under Chinese occupation".

Instead, he said, the government has accorded high priority to construction of infrastructure, including roads, on the India-China border as a "matter of strategic interest".

The External Affairs Minister said the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) is constructing 61 roads whose total length is 3,429 kms and covers states like Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

Work has been completed on 14 roads while 32 roads are projected to be completed by 2012 and nine by 2013, he said.

With regard to the US, Krishna said India`s relations are improving as part of the multi-sectoral strategic dialogue.

He said the next round of Strategic Dialogue, to be held here next month, was postponed by two months because of certain "difficulties" on both sides.

Responding to concerns over the fate of some students duped by the Tri Valley University in the US and 18 of them being radio-tagged later, he said the matter has been taken up with the American administration which has been asked to respect their privileges besides "religious and cultural sensitivities".

He said India has asked the US to ensure that such incidents are avoided in future.

Giving details of the matter, Krishna said radio tags of 17 Indian students have been removed and denied that anyone is in jail.

He said a Federal inquiry is on into the bogus university and a process is underway to shift the affected students to other universities.

Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj observed the Minister was giving an impression of all being well with regard to the Tri Valley University issue but it was not the case.

Responding, Krishna noted that there are one lakh Indian students in the US and the Tri Valley University issue is a "ticklish" one to which efforts are being made to find a solution.

"It will take time… We are dealing with a sovereign country of the US…. These are problems which have to be resolved," he said.

He rejected the contention that India was acting as an "opportunist" when it comes to relations with Russia and said the ties with the time-tested friend continued to improve.