Listing India’s relations with Pakistan as one of the challenges in the neighbourhood, foreign secretary Harsh Shringla on Monday said the onus is on Islamabad to create a conducive atmosphere for a meaningful dialogue.
Shringla made the remarks while delivering an address on the theme “What next for the neighbourhood” at Ananta Aspen Centre. He gave an overview of India’s relations with neighbouring countries and connectivity initiatives to boost economic activity.
“India desires good neighbourly relations with Pakistan and is committed to addressing issues, if any, bilaterally and peacefully,” Shringla said.
“However, any meaningful dialogue can only be held in a conducive atmosphere and the onus is on Pakistan to create such an atmosphere,” he said.
The Indian and Pakistani armies recommitted themselves to the ceasefire on the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir from the midnight of February 24 – the apparent outcome of behind-the-scenes contacts between the two countries.
Shringla also listed the situation in Afghanistan and Myanmar as challenges in the political situation in the neighbourhood.
“We continue to follow the developments relating to the Afghan peace process. External affairs minister participated virtually at the opening of the intra-Afghan negotiations in September 2020 in Doha,” he said.
“The recent developments in Myanmar are a matter of deep concern. We remain concerned that the gains made by Myanmar over the last decades on the path towards democracy, should not be undermined,” Shringla said.
India has always been steadfast in its support to the process of democratic transition in Myanmar, “for it to emerge as a stable democratic federal union”, he said.
“Our developmental and humanitarian efforts in Myanmar have been aimed at the socio-economic development of the country. We need to continue with these efforts in the interest of the people of Myanmar,” he added.
Shringla further said: “We feel that people on the ground should not suffer. India will continue to closely monitor the situation and remain engaged with like-minded countries to meet the hopes and aspirations of the people of the country.”
The world community, he said, must work together and lend its meaningful support at this critical juncture so that the people of Myanmar do not suffer.
“We are working in the UN Security Council in a constructive manner to facilitate balanced outcomes that could assist in resolving the situation,” Shringla said.
The foreign secretary referred to India’s development and connectivity initiatives, noting that lines of credit to its neighbours had jumped from $3.27 billion in 2014 to $14.7 billion in 2020.
“In addition, we undertake a large number of quick gestation and high impact projects aimed at benefiting communities directly. We trade more. We invest more in each other. Total trade with Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka has increased from $19.44 billion to $26.455 billion in the last six years,” he said.
“These increases have both contributed to and have benefitted from significantly enhanced connectivity and improved border infrastructure,” he added.