South Asian neighbours are India’s highest priority, says Mukherjee

Chandigarh, Sept.30 (ANI):President Pranab Mukherjee inaugurated the concluding Conference of a programme on ‘Cooperative Development, Peace and Security in South and Central Asia’ organised by the Centre for Rural and Industrial Development, Chandigarh, today.

Speaking on the occasion, the President said the primary goal of India’s external engagement has been to seek peace and stability, enabling a supportive environment for pursuing our nation’s multifarious development needs.

This approach of foreign policy for economic progress and development is nowhere more relevant than in our South Asian neighbourhood and the extended neighbourhood, including Central Asia.

Both South and Central Asia face enormous challenges with regard to development as well as security. These range from ensuring economic growth and stability to dealing with trans-national security threats such as the scourge of drug-trafficking and terrorism.

Our approach to both the regions has been to build bridges of friendship and cooperation, establish greater physical and people-to-people connectivity and foster closer integration for overall progress and well-being.

The President said South Asian neighbours are India’s highest priority in keeping with its neighbourhood first policy. Our approach to South Asia has always been one of seeking shared prosperity and security.

“Our South Asian neighbours are our most indispensable partners. The Government of India has articulated a desire to pursue a policy of three Cs – greater connectivity, closer cooperation and broader contacts to promote closer ties in the region. It has conveyed a clear message that India wishes to use its size and scale to pull the entire sub-continent along on the path to growth and development,” he said.

The President said the South Asian landscape and its geo-politics present its own set of challenges.

“Despite geographical contiguity, the promise of regional integration has eluded us and undermined the goals of SAARC, solemnly adopted at Summit level meetings. Hence, India must push ahead with sub-regional cooperation such as through the BBIN Growth Quadrangle and pursue its bilateral ties with like-minded countries in the region in areas such as road transport, energy and water resources,” he said.

The President said India needs to make full use of the opportunities offered by the recent Iranian nuclear deal which opens the possibility of establishing connectivity with the region through the development of Chahbahar Port in Iran.

This also opens up the possibility of implementing the International North South Corridor for a competitive and quick route to Eurasia for India.

India’s future dependence on imported energy, mainly oil and gas, is a stark reality that will also require creative and diversifying sources of supply. The Central Asian States have considerable surplus and the TAPI pipeline project is worth pursuing both for sourcing energy supplies and its collateral geo-strategic benefits. The Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline can also be revived since Iran has already built the section of the pipeline in its territory. Such energy projects could also prove to be game changers for geo-strategic stability. (ANI)

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