‘Think Like South Asians’, Rajnath Singh Tells Participants of South Asia Conference

January 28, 2020

New Delhi: The Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) is organising the 12th South Asia Conference on “India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ Policy: Regional Perceptions” on January 28-29, 2020.

Delivering The Inaugural Address on the opening day, Shri Rajnath Singh, Hon’ble Raksha Mantri, Government of India and President, IDSA highlighted the essential contours of the country’s ‘Neighbourhood First Policy’ (NFP) as mutually beneficial, consultative, broad-based, inclusive and sensitive to the priorities of its neighbours, with both developmental and security components.

Stating that India regards peace and prosperity in the neighbourhood as critical to its own growth and in its enlightened self-interest, Shri Singh observed that as the largest country in the region, India is mindful of its asymmetric preponderance and the developmental aspirations of its neighbours, and has always made efforts to share its prosperity with its neighbours. Under the ‘Neighbourhood First Policy’, intensified bilateral developmental partnership with countries in the region would create the necessary impulse for regional cooperation in South Asia in the long run, he added.

Dwelling on India’s Regional initiatives such as ‘Act East Policy’, SAGAR, SECURE, and Project Mausam, the Minister said that these form the bed-rock of the country’s co-operation and outreach efforts in the extended neighbourhood.

Urging the conference participants, including those from the neighbouring countries, to ‘think like South Asians’ and not just as nationals of their own country, Shri Singh said that South Asia is at a critical juncture of history, with a world of opportunity beckoning the region. Regional prosperity should not be held hostage to the interests of select states who are obstructing all efforts aimed at regional cooperation, he added.

Delivering the Welcome Address, Director General, IDSA, Amb. Sujan R. Chinoy observed that India, as a country accounting for about 70 per cent of the region’s area, population, GDP and defence expenditure, has a special role to play in fostering regional cooperation. India’s initiatives over the last five years in this regard are anchored in its ‘Neighbourhood First’ Policy, he said.

Describing the common challenge of poverty, climate change, natural disasters, and food and energy security as the greatest challenges before South Asia, Amb. Chinoy said that co-operation on these issues would help the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Citing connectivity as integral to regional security and economic growth, both Raksha Mantri and Amb. Chinoy noted that better connectivity could help nations overcome their political differences by conceiving of their borders as bridges and not barriers. They expressed their disappointment with Pakistan for having stalled connectivity arrangements like SAARC Motor Vehicles Agreement.

The South Asia Conference series, which commenced in 2007, plays a key role in bringing together scholars, academicians and officials from India’s neighbouring countries in a common endeavour to deepen mutual understanding and cooperation. It covers a broad array of issues including connectivity, economic, defence and energy cooperation etc.