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Indian constitution among models to be inspired by: Tunisian minister

Delhi,Diplomacy, Wed, 25 Apr 2012 IANS

New Delhi, April 24 (IANS) Tunisia wants to learn from India's experience of pluralistic democracy and looks at the Indian constitution as one of the models to be inspired by in writing its new constitution, the country's foreign minister says.


Hedi Ben Abbas, Tunisia's minister of state for foreign affairs, said Tuesday that his country was impressed by India's ability to maintain cohesion despite ethnic, cultural diversities.


"How to manage that cohesion, inspired at least in that area (from the Indian constitution)...It certainly is one of the models to be inspired from," Abbas told mediapersons here.


Abbas said Tunisia, where the Arab Spring movement began, also wanted to learn from the Indian experience of holding elections.


The north African country will condcut elections next year after its constitution is written, the deadline for which is March 2013.


Street protests began in Tunisia in December 2010 over unemployment, corruption and high food prices and escalated in January 2011 culminating in president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali fleeing the country after 23 years of authoritarian rule.


Elections for a constituent assembly elections were held in October 2011. The constituent assembly is charged with drafting a new constitution and preparing for legislative and presidential elections. The country has a coalition government which includes Islamists and secularists.


"The whole world will have its eyes on Tunisia (when elections are held)," Abbas said.


Abbas also evinced interest in India's experience of using electronic voting machines in the elections but said it would not be possible to use them in 2013 elections.


"Given the time we have, it is too early to implement this in the coming elections," Abbas said.


He said the country wanted to depart from the old constitution based on the French system. "(We are) designing something that is futuristic," he said.


Stressing on cultural ties, Abbas said he wanted Tunisia to be more visible in India and added that the two countries "share common cultural elements".


"Bollywood industry is so strong.. it is already invading different cultural spaces in Tunisia," he said.


He said Tunisia's relationship with the West was very strong because of social, economic and geographical links, but the country "was reinforcing relationship with the Eastern countries" including Japan and China besides India.


The minister said that India and Tunisia have set a target to take their bilateral trade to $1 billion in the next three years.


Answering queries on Syria, Abbas said Tunisia supported the Syrian people but did not want to create a situation "in which foreign countries interfere directly".


"We do not want military intervention and want opposition parties to unite," Abbas said.


He also said that as a country where the Arab Spring began, Tunisia is not keen to "export" it to the region but cannot help if neighbours take it as an example.



"The way things happened in Tunisia (we) not necessarily wanted to export (it). Political situation is different, ethnic situation is different (in each country) and cannot transpose one situation on the other... Can't help if neighbours taking Tunisia as an example," Abbas said.


He said his government also was responsibile for the success of the "democratic process" underway in his country.


"If we do not succeed in Tunisia, chances of success in neighbouring countries is very low," Abbas had said Monday in a talk at the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) at Sapru House and added that the democratic process should succeed so as to become a basis of good governance in the region.


The Arab Spring was a string of uprisings in the Arab world that began in December 2010 with the self-immolation by vegetable seller Mohamed Bouazizi, who lived in the provincial town of Sidi Bouzid in Tunisia. It ultimately forced out the rulers from power in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, and caused unrest in Bahrain and Syria.


Abbas Tuesday met Vice President Hamid Ansari and Minister of State for Science and Technology Ashwani Kumar.


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