India should focus on engaging with smaller neighbours keeping China in mind, says Parliamentary panel

India should focus on engaging with smaller neighbours keeping China in mind, says Parliamentary panel. — IANS

New Delhi, July 25 (IANS) A high-level Parliamentary panel has said that it is in India’s strategic interests and foreign policy requirements to focus on wider engagements and deepening of ties with smaller neighbours, especially keeping in mind China’s Belt and Road vision and America’s Indo-Pacific vision.

The Standing Committee on External Affairs, in its report presented in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday on the subject of India’s “Neighbourhood First” policy, said that it is a dynamic policy that “adjusts to our renewed interests in the region while evolving according to regional circumstances”.

“Being aware of China’s Belt and Road vision and America’s Indo-Pacific vision, the committee have been of the considered view that it is in India’s strategic interests and foreign policy requirements to focus on wider engagements and deepening of ties with smaller neighbours,” it said in the report.

It further added that the opportunities presented by an open and competitive South Asian market may also be grasped and consolidated from both security and economic perspectives.

The committee noted that India’s Neighbourhood First Policy as a concept came about in 2008 but after 2014, it got more focus and salience. It also suggested having a roadmap to promote trade connectivity and contact among people of neighbouring countries.

The panel, headed by BJP’s P.P. Chaudhary, urged the government to maintain synergy between Neighbourhood First Policy and Act East Policy. “While considering the principles and objectives of ‘Neighbourhood First Policy’ and ‘Act East Policy’, the Committee have noted that the Neighbourhood First Policy exclusively focuses on India’s immediate neighbourhood while the Act East Policy focuses on the extended neighbourhood in the Asia-Pacific region,” the committee said.

The committee have also been seized of the fact that India is facing continuing threats from cross-border terrorism, illegal migration, smuggling of fake currency and contrabands, trafficking in drugs and weapons, etc. and have found it imperative to enhance security infrastructure at the borders, it noted.

It also noted that India has been pursuing the humanitarian issue of release of prisoners and fishermen in Pakistan’s custody. Since 2014, India has been successful in securing the release and repatriation of more than 2,700 Indian prisoners including 40 Indian fishermen and five Indian civilian prisoners. “The committee are aware that many more Indian nationals including fishermen have been languishing in Pakistani prisons for a long time and have desired that the ministry should step up its diplomatic efforts to secure their early release and repatriation to India,” the report said.

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