India has told China that peace and tranquility on border essential for ties: Foreign Secretary

New Delhi, March 9 : India has made it clear to China that peace and tranquillity in the border areas is essential for the development of the relationship, and while New Delhi desires good ties with Pakistan it cannot be at the expense of our security, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said today. Addressing the Inaugural Session of the Training Module on India’s Neighbourhood, at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Shringla said India has continued its special relationship with the friendly people of Afghanistan and is providing wheat and medicines as humanitarian assistance, and continues to remain engaged with Myanmar, with which it shares a long border. “We have made it clear to China that peace and tranquillity in the border areas is essential for the development of our relationship. Development of India-China relationship has to be based on ‘three mutuals’ – mutual respect, mutual sensitivity and mutual interest,” he said. On Afghanistan, he said that in response to the humanitarian situation there, India has decided to gift 50,000 MT of wheat to the people of Afghanistan. India has also supplied doses of COVAXIN, essential lifesaving medicines and winter clothing. On Myanmar, he said “We remain engaged with Myanmar, a country with which we share a nearly 1,700 km long border. In our engagement, we have emphasized India’s interest in seeing Myanmar’s return to democracy at the earliest. We remain committed to a relationship that provides for our cooperation with Myanmar in the areas of security, economy and humanitarian assistance. “While we desire a good relationship with Pakistan, it cannot be at the expense of our security.” Earlier, in his speech he said that Sri Lanka and Maldives “India First” policy, “Sonali Adhyay” in India-Bangladesh ties; and B4B – Bharat for Bhutan and Bhutan for Bharat – spirit, these “epithets describing India’s relations with its neighbours are not by coincidence. They are manifestations of our Neighbourhood First policy in action.” “Neighbourhood First policy has a strong economic dimension. We share a common geographic space with our neighbours. We share resources and commons. We share economic challenges. Many of our problems have the same solutions. Prime Minister’s vision of “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishvas” encompasses our neighbourhood,” he underlined. He said India’s policies in the region lay the greatest emphasis on augmenting connectivity – physical, economic, energy and digital. “We believe that this will, among other things, induce a virtuous cycle in which connectivity and growth feed each other.” Expanding on rail connectivity, he said India and Bangladesh will soon be connected through six rail links and India and Nepal by two rail links. Improved connectivity means greater people-to-people contact and greater goodwill. Travel between India and three of its neighbours – Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives – does not require visas. On cooperation in the energy sector, he said the Indian grid is connected to Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh through high-capacity connections. Trans-national movement of electricity in the neighbourhood is a reality. India supplies about 1160 MW of power to Bangladesh, about 700 MW to Nepal, and imports 1.8 GW from Bhutan. India has also created 2100 MW of hydropower capacity in Bhutan and more is being created. India is constructing the 1320 MW Maitree Super Thermal Power Project in Bangladesh. Cross-border hydrocarbon pipelines link India and Nepal. An India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline is under construction and a LNG cross border pipeline and LNG terminal are being explored. India’s energy grids are increasingly being integrated with those of its neighbours, he added. India’s Lines of Credit to its neighbours have jumped from US$ 3.27 billion in 2014 to US$ 14.7 billion in 2020. The bulk of India’s worldwide soft lending, almost 50%, goes to its partners in the neighbourhood. He said that the India supported projects in the neighbourhood are people-centric, which makes them stand out. “Physical proximity means that we often share solutions. It also means, unfortunately, that many of our major foreign policy and security challenges arise from the neighbourhood.You are all aware of the major problems such as cross-border terrorism, political volatility and instability, fundamentalist and radical ideologies, illegal movements across borders, narcotics, and arms trafficking. “Some of our neighbours remain trapped in interpretations of history that do not allow them to adopt a progressive vision for the region,” he said, in oblique reference to China and Pakistan. “ In addition, we also have to contend with other challenges such as maritime security, natural disasters, etc. “We must persevere on the path to a better tomorrow for the region while dealing with these considerable threats,” he said, and added that India has an established record of being a net security provider in the region.” India is also the first responder to many humanitarian disasters in the neighbourhood. “Unfortunately, we must also contend with geo-political realities and extant threats such as cross-border terrorism and crime,” he added. “We will be resolute in dealing with them. We will continue to expand our capacities to do so. We will build alliances and networks through multilateral and plurilateral constructs such as the UN, the FATF, SCO and closer home through BIMSTEC and IORA and IONS, to deal with security challenges,” the FS said. He said India’s Neighbourhood First initiatives are a “whole of government efforts”. “Whichever branch of government you work in, whichever part of India you are posted to, your work will have a component that is linked to globalisation and to our neighbourhood,” he added. RN

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