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Neighbours, Africa in focus for 2011

India sees itself has having three foreign policy priority areas in 2011: the neighbourhood, Africa and the Indian Ocean, senior government source has told HT.

delhi Updated: Dec 29, 2010 00:09 IST
HT Correspondent

India sees itself has having three foreign policy priority areas in 2011: the neighbourhood, Africa and the Indian Ocean, senior government source has told HT.

Nepal and Bangladesh are uppermost in New Delhi’s mind when it comes to the neighbourhood. “Nepal and Bangladesh have given a lot of help the past year,” said the source. “More than what we have got from them before.”

Their country locked in a political impasse this entire past year, many Nepalese players have taken to asking for Indian intervention. Delhi has refused. Based on statements and debates among the Maoists, however, Delhi is mildly optimistic “something will give” in the coming year.

Bangladesh is the relationship India hopes to “consolidate” in 2011. The two countries have made considerable progress on a variety of bilateral issues. According to other sources, the foreign minister, SM Krishna, will be go to Dhaka in a few months and the hope is that PM Manmohan Singh will follow.

Engagement with Pakistan remains hanging and will remain so until the Pakistan military decides otherwise. Africa will see further Indian diplomatic activity this coming year. The two sides will hold an Africa Forum sometime next year, though the venue has not been settled. And it will be South Africa’s turn to host the (India, Brazil, South Africa) summit.

India has also been looking for a means to resolve the Somali piracy problem. The pirates have now been found within 300 km of the Indian coastline. But New Delhi sees the “ultimate solution” is to be found on land, a path blocked by legal, military and sovereignty issues. African governments have asked for India to help them move their economy beyond just raw material exports. There is also talk of helping them with a green revolution.

The Africa priority overlaps the Indian Ocean rim policy — hence last year’s outreach to Mozambique.

One early manifestation of this third priority is the invitation of the Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as the coming Republic Day guest. “Indonesia wants to broaden relations with India on a variety of fronts, including defence.” Some of this will be a continuation of 2010’s hectic diplomacy, a year when 25 heads of state and government came to India. PM Singh made 10 overseas visits, while President Pratibha Patil made three. The visits included every neighbour except Pakistan, all five permanent Security Council members and many Indian Ocean countries.

1-2-3 of foreign policy priority list

So far not willing to interfere in Nepal’s internal political slugfest, India has mild hope something might give in 2011, bringing an end to the impasse next door.

Will look to consolidate relationship with Bangladesh. Things have been moving well on many bilateral issues. Krishna, even Manmohan, may pay visit.

Africa Forum slated for sometime in the new year. Somali piracy and African nations’ demand for help in agriculture sector on larger agenda.