Bolster Neighbourhood First policy, help Lanka, Afghanistan: Parliamentary panel | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Bolster Neighbourhood First policy, help Lanka, Afghanistan: Parliamentary panel

Jul 26, 2023 08:07 PM IST

The panel recommended the completion of pending development projects in Afghanistan and more financial support to help Sri Lanka tide over an economic crisis

NEW DELHI: The parliamentary standing committee on external affairs has recommended several measures to bolster India’s Neighbourhood First policy, including the completion of pending development projects in Afghanistan and more financial support to help Sri Lanka tide over an economic crisis.

The report said efforts should be made to establish a common platform to counter terror under the Neighbourhood First policy. (File Photo)
The report said efforts should be made to establish a common platform to counter terror under the Neighbourhood First policy. (File Photo)

The panel’s report on the policy, which has emerged as a key part of India’s engagements with countries in the region, also recommended that the government should sensitise regional and multilateral bodies about Pakistan’s role in fostering terrorism. It added that efforts may be made to establish a common platform to counter terror under the Neighbourhood First policy.

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The report noted that though the policy was first framed around 2008 to increase cooperation with countries in the region, it has had “more focus and more salience” since 2014 when the current government took over.

Before the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in mid-2021, India was the largest regional donor for the reconstruction of the war-torn country with pledges of about $3 billion for developmental projects. India’s development partnership with Afghanistan included more than 500 projects in areas such as power, water supply, road connectivity, healthcare and education, but work on these schemes stopped after the fall of the Ashraf Ghani government.

The committee noted that India continues to provide humanitarian aid to the Afghan people despite “changes in the political landscape” and recommended that this assistance should be continued.

“As far as pending projects committed earlier are concerned, concerted efforts should be made to complete them and hand them over at the earliest possible and also keep our arms open for other diplomatic gestures in the changed political scenario,” the report said.

India provided economic aid worth almost $4 billion to Sri Lanka to cope with an unprecedented economic crisis last year and the committee recommended that the government “should continue to be Sri Lanka’s biggest friend in times of crisis”. Additional support for the country can include favourable terms for lines of credit, currency swap and other financial measures, the panel said.

The committee further recommended that the government should resume negotiations for the early conclusion of the proposed Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) with Sri Lanka. Eleven rounds of talks on ECTA had been completed in September 2018 and Sri Lanka conveyed its willingness to resume the negotiations, the report said.

While noting that the economic uncertainty and acute scarcity of foreign exchange in Sri Lanka have hit India’s major exports to the island nation, the committee said the external affairs ministry should play a “more proactive role in resolving all the pending issues so that significant increase in Indian exports to Sri Lanka is achieved”.

The report made it clear that the committee’s members believe the onus is on Pakistan to improve bilateral relations. “One of our core concerns is terrorism emanating from territories under Pakistan’s control. Any meaningful dialogue with Pakistan can only be held in an atmosphere free from terror, hostility and violence,” the report said.

Noting that relations with Pakistan and China have been “plagued by contentious issues”, the report said: “In view of the belligerent attitude of Pakistan, the committee desire that the Government should continue to proactively engage with the regional and multilateral bodies/organisations extensively so as to sensitise them of the role played by Pakistan in fostering terrorism and win their support...”

It also urged the government to consider the establishment of economic ties with Pakistan “if they come forward and work towards broader people-to-people contacts”.

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