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Neighbourhood watch on agenda

Pranab Mukherjee is familiar with many of the challenges of the office, writes Nilova Roy Chaudhury.
None | By Nilova Roy Chaudhury, New Delhi
UPDATED ON OCT 25, 2006 02:05 AM IST

Analysts say that during his new tenure, Pranab Mukherjee will need to focus on neighbouring countries, particularly Nepal and Sri Lanka where internal dissension threatens to spiral into armed conflict.

“There is a need for a much higher level of engagement with neighbouring countries,” said former Foreign Secretary Shashank, “because their internal problems directly impact on us.”

Also, an analyst said, Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri will not be able to crib as there will be a counterpart with whom he can interact directly. Combating terrorism and the formulation of a joint terror mechanism with Pakistan are other key areas the new external affairs minister will need to focus on.

Other areas include a high-level meeting of aid donors for Afghanistan in November. Also in November, the US administration will aim to schedule a crucial Senate vote for the Indo-US civil nuclear deal to go through. Discussions with members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group will have to be followed up simultaneously, to ensure India returns to the international nuclear mainstream as soon as possible.

High-level visits, including those of Chinese President Hu Jintao in November and Russian President Vladimir Putin in January, will require crucial monitoring by Mukherjee. “Morale in the foreign office also needs to be raised,” Shashank said.

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