Indian foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla has said the country must contend with “geopolitical realities and extant threats” such as cross-border terrorism and crime. He also noted that India has taken the lead in expanding maritime security in the region.
“We’ll be resolute in dealing with them. We’ll continue to expand our capacities to do so,” he said.
The Indian foreign secretary mentioned that they will build alliances and networks through multilateral and plurilateral constructs such as the UN, Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and closer home through Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and Indian Ocean Naval Symposium to deal with security challenges.
Shringla made the remarks at the inaugural session of the training module on “India’s Neighbourhood’ at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration on Wednesday.
He also said maritime domain awareness has been enhanced through linked radar systems with their Indian Ocean neighbours.
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 our neighbourhood
“Coordinated patrolling with Bangladesh, counter-terrorism exercises with our BIMSTEC neighbours, Search and Rescue and Pollution Control operations with Sri Lanka are just some examples of activity in this area,” he said.
Shringla said India has also assisted in upgrading security capacities and capabilities of some of its neighbours.
The “neighbourhood first” approach to foreign policy accords the “highest priority” to India’s relations with Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, the Maldives, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, the Indian Foreign Secretary said.
“It is these countries – with the exception of Pakistan – that we work most closely with,” he added.
Shringla said globalisation begins with their neighbourhood, and it is the neighbourhood that comes first and foremost amongst all their foreign policy priorities.
“We have made it clear to China that peace and tranquillity in the border areas is essential for the development of our relationship,” he said, adding that “Development of India-China relationship has to be based on ‘three mutuals’ – mutual respect, mutual sensitivity and mutual interest.”
On the Pakistan issue, Shringla said while they desire a good relationship with the country, it cannot be “at the expense of” their security.
He also said India remains engaged with Myanmar, a country with which they share a nearly 1,700km border.
“We remain committed to a relationship that provides for our cooperation with Myanmar in security, economy and humanitarian assistance.”
He requested the participants to keep India’s neighbours in mind when they have policy formulation positions in their future careers. “Please remember that domestic policies might have unintended consequences in the neighbourhood.”
“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 our neighbourhood,” Shringla added.