New Delhi: The country's opposition parties have demanded a national debate in Parliament on whether the country's nuclear and missile arsenal needed re-orientation. Leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Jaswant Singh, claimed that such a debate was necessary given the fact that the nature of warfare that the country faced had changed.
Speaking on the motion of thanks on the President's joint address to the two houses of parliament, Singh warned that the whole of south and the south-west Asia appeared to be on the brink of "civil war" and instability. This, he said, necessitated a debate on the "total nuclear issue" at a national level.
Singh cited US vice-president Dick Cheney's recent reference to Pakistan as the breeding ground of terrorism, and questioned the justification of the government's decision to engage Islamabad in an intelligence-sharing dialogue. Taking a swipe at the government's handling of foreign affairs, and also comparing the performance of the previous NDA regime with that of the UPA, Singh said, "Earlier, it was India who was leading the pace of negotiations, but now it seemed we were merely reacting to events in Islamabad."
Singh also queried why India was inert even as the Chinese were going ahead full steam with their "String of Pearl" strategy to encircle India in the region. (see: United States, Japan and India: An Axis of the East ) Also speaking on the motion, CPI-M leader, Sitaram Yechury, urged the government to focus on the education and health of the youth so that they did not come under the influence of extremists. He said the per capita income of the country now was at its lowest, even worse than what it was during the World War or the Bengal famine.