President Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday urged the government to take the initiative of inviting SAARC leaders for its swearing-in to ‘its logical conclusion’, through incisive diplomacy. He also reminded the government of the old adage in international politics that one can choose one’s friend but not one’s neighbour.
Mukherjee was speaking at the sixth annual conclave of the Indian heads of missions. His remarks are being read as a signal to the government to review its policy on Pakistan, with which Delhi has refused to talk ever since Pakistan high commissioner met Kashmiri separatist leaders.
Mukherjee added that a strong message had been conveyed to the neighbours that the region must decide whether to live in perpetual tension or understanding.
Under the neighbourhood first policy, the Modi government has reached out to the neighbours in the last eight months. The President also highlighted the other diplomatic achievements of the government including high-level visits.
Referring to terrorism as an ‘industry of evil’ and highlighting recent terror attacks in Peshawar, Paris, and Syria, the President said India was among the oldest victims of terrorism.
He asked the heads of missions to think of ways in which this challenge could be addressed, and how world opinion could be mobilised to take concerted action.
Meanwhile, in a fresh shakeup, the government appointed Navdeep Suri — currently ambassador to Egypt — as ambassador to Australia, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited last year.
Vishnu Prakash — ambassador in South Korea — will be the new envoy in Canada, where the PM is headed this year.
There has been no decision on who would be the envoy to US — foreign secretary S Jaishankar’s old job.