In a move apparently aimed at countering China’s increasing economic and diplomatic leverage in South Asia, national security advisor Shiv Shankar Menon has called a meeting of all Indian envoys posted in neighbouring countries on Tuesday to strengthen bilateral ties and increase stakes in infrastructure development in the region.
The meeting —- which will focus primarily on Nepal and Bhutan -- comes at a time when India has decided to centralise assistance to neighbours and African countries under a newly created Development Partnership Agency (DPA) in the ministry of external affairs. The DPA is being envisaged on the lines of the American and British assistance agencies USAID and DFID.
The discussions will be held in the context of China upping its economic stakes in South Asia and promoting bilateral projects in neighbouring countries.
China is assisting more than 36 major projects in Nepal, 12 in Sri Lanka, 20 in Pakistan, seven in Afghanistan, nine in Bangladesh and eight in the Maldives.
Senior officials said Menon will review the progress of all bilateral projects to ensure that they are not kept on the backburner but completed on time.
“Slow progress of bilateral projects is the bane of Indian diplomacy as a result of which China has been able to make inroads into South Asia. The basic purpose of the DPA is to ensure deliveries and accountability,” said a senior official.
Government sources said Indian envoys, including Jayant Prasad (Nepal), Pavan Verma (Bhutan) and Pankaj Saran (Bangladesh) will meet Menon to discuss how to increase developmental and economic ties with the countries they are posted in.
The head of the newly created DPA, additional secretary PS Raghavan, will also attend the meeting along with foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai.