Ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's first overseas visit to Russia in his second tenure, India on Friday outlined three key foreign policy priorities of the new government that includes a peaceful neighbourhood, improving ties with major powers and working with the international community to mitigate the economic downturn.
Manmohan Singh will leave for the Russian city of Yekaterinburg on Monday on a three-day visit to participate in the BRIC summit of the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India and China that has coincided with the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit June 16.
With the last term of the Manmohan Singh government preoccupied with the India-US civil nuclear deal, Menon indicated a renewed emphasis on building better relations with the country's volatile neighbours.
"A peaceful periphery and relationship with neighbours, improvement and transformation of relationship with major powers and to work with the international community to see a rapid recovery in world economy," Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said when replied about the three key priorities of the Manmohan Singh government in his second term.
"They help us to achieve our domestic goals in transforming India," he underlined.
In a way, the new approach is illustrated by the first overseas trip of Manmohan Singh in his second tenure since the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) won a fresh mandate in elections last month.
Despite the freezing of bilateral ties after the Mumbai attacks, the meeting between Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari on the sidelines of the summit also underlines India's resolve to build stronger relations with its neighbours.
This will be the first summit of the BRIC, an informal grouping that brings emerging economic powerhouses to expand regional cooperation on international issues.
The BRIC comprises a little over a quarter of the world's territory, 40 per cent of global GDP and 40 per cent of global population. "It's a sizable grouping that includes some of the fastest growing economies of the world," Menon told reporters in a curtain-raiser briefing here.
With the global economic downturn showing no visible signs of easing, the BRIC is set to play an important role in evolving collective response to the worst ever recession in nearly seven decades.
"There is a very strong economic cooperation component marked by a congruence of views on international issues like global economic crisis, climate change and terrorism," Menon said.
Stamping out extremist violence in Afghanistan will be a dominant theme in discussions among the leaders of BRIC countries. "We would all like to see the defeat of terrorism, the return of stability and economic growth in Afghanistan," Menon replied when asked about the kind of issues that will figure at the BRIC summit.
For India, Manmohan Singh's presence at the SCO summit promises to usher in a new chapter in India'a engagement with the six-nation grouping comprising Russia, China and Central Asian republics, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyztan and Tajikistan.
India, along with Pakistan and Iran and Mongolia, is an observer at SCO.
This will be the first SCO summit in which an Indian prime minister will be participating, Menon said. In the past, India was represented at the SCO at the level of foreign minister and petroleum minister.
The SCO relaxed rules for the participation of observers at its last summit in Dushanbe where it was decided that the leaders of observer countries could participate in the restricted discussions and will share the same table with the leaders of SCO members.
Menon, however, skirted a question on India joining the SCO as a member. "That's really for the members to decide," he said.