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Modi's invitation to Saarc leaders a sound move for building new policy

comment Updated: Jun 23, 2014 14:09 IST

This is a clear indication that the careful thought that went into the spectacular election campaign that swept Narendra Modi to power is very much evident in the functioning of the future government.

Prime minister-designate Modi pulled off a coup off sorts by inviting all the leaders of the Saarc countries, including Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif for his swearing-in ceremony. At the time of going to press, Mr Sharif has still not indicated whether he is coming or not.

This suggests that Mr Sharif is not calling all the shots. This is at best a symbolic visit, but even that does not seem to meet with the approval of the army and other sections of the polity in Pakistan.

It is clear that the BJP wants to strengthen ties in India’s neighbourhood as it gets off to a start.

As PM, Mr Modi will look to improve ties with Dhaka considering how cooperative Sheikh Hasina has been to India especially on the issue of insurgency. Had it not been for a hissy fit thrown by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, UPA 2 may have sown up the Teesta water-sharing deal. And this should be a priority for the Modi government.

Nepal has always looked to India to strengthen its democratic process.

It is strategically an important country for India and in the absence of any policy, China had begun to make many inroads into the nation, much to India’s disquiet.

Bhutan too has been looking for reassurance from India that its interests would be taken care of, though UPA 2 did not do much on that front. In Sri Lanka, President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government has repeatedly stressed on the need for stronger ties with India although there were tensions over India’s lack of support for the island nation in the United Nations on the issue of human rights violations during the civil war.

Again, with the Chinese circling the waters around Sri Lanka, it is vital that India build on traditional ties with the country. President Rajapaksa’s attendance at the swearing-in is the fillip that the ties need now.

If India improves its relations with its neighbours, it will not just benefit the region economically but also make it a safer place.

At the moment, Saarc has been held hostage to the hostilities between India and Pakistan and the new PM will have to work his way around this.

The invitations will also assuage fears that India wants to play the role of big brother.

Rather, the message that is being conveyed is that India will be the locomotive that will pull the region ahead. This is a sound and positive foundation on which to build a new, proactive foreign policy.