Shri Narendra Modi showed unprecedented boldness and foresightedness in inviting Heads of Governments of all the SAARC countries, and Mauritius to attend his oath taking ceremony. By displaying his superb diplomatic and statesman-like acumen he silenced all his critics in one stroke who were hinting at lack of diplomatic experience of Modi. It was for the first time that all SAARC heads of government were invited to the swearing-in ceremony of an Indian Prime Minister. It is an important first step for cultivating harmonious international relations.
SAARC countries are located in a region which in English is called the Indian Subcontinent or Akhand Bharat. Word ‘Akhand Bharat’ is not a political but a geographical term. It was, therefore, an historic event to see political leaders representing their sovereign countries of Akhand Bharat coming together and promising to cooperate with each other. It may be noted that all Prime Ministers have busy schedules still all most all of them found time to honour invitation of Modi. This shows high importance given by our neighbours to the new Modi Government, and, by the Modi Government to our neighbours. Our general policy towards our neighbours should be to be generous on economic and trade fronts so as to increase dependence of their economies on Indian economy. Under the ITEC India should offer them more technical assistance for training of manpower including police, intelligence and military personnel, easy long term loans for setting up plants, industries and infrastructures. But on political and security matters there should be reciprocity.
Modi had good businesslike bilateral meetings with all his guests which was important from the point of view that Indian concerns were personally conveyed at the highest levels by Modi, and, that, concerns of our neighbours were personally heard at the highest level of the new Indian Government without any communication gap. And eight Prime Ministers conveying their concerns to host Prime Minister in one day in one city is really an historic event. Bangladesh delegation conveyed their interest for early conclusion of negotiations on Teesta waters and enclaves. India should make package deal covering all Indian concerns such as infiltration by Bangladeshi Muslims, transit facility to Tripura, terrorist camps, properties left behind by Hindu refugees etc.
Invitation to Pakistan Prime Minister was really a bold initiative. Till now our position was that talks and support to terrorism cannot go together. Modi did well to convey Indian concerns to Sharif about acts of terrorism being inflicted upon India from territories under Pak control, expediting legal process against accused of 26/11, fast tracking trade and MFN status etc. Modi-Sharif talks have created good atmospherics and Foreign Secretaries have got political go ahead to keep in touch to bring stalled dialogue process back on track but further progress will depend upon capability of Sharif to restrain India centric jihadi terrorists in Pakistan.
Mauritius is our neighbour in the Indian Ocean with a large proportion of persons of Indian origin and plays an important role in flow of foreign investments in India. Mauritius Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam who attended the oath taking ceremony assured Modi that Mauritius will cooperate in increasing transparency in investment matters. The Mauritius Government will play an important role in unearthing black money of Indians held abroad so the importance of inviting Mauritius. Till arrival of Modi on the national stage the foreign policy of India especially under the UPA II was seen as moribund, lackluster and reactive from event to event. Now there is hope for more pro-active Indian foreign policy has been revived. Modi has thus proved that he is truly worthy of the trust reposed in him by the Indian electorate.
-OP Gupta, (Retd) IFS, The writer belongs to the 1971 batch of Indian Foreign Service and served as Ambassador/High Commissioner to many countries