india flag    Inclusive and people-centered dialogues on all outstanding issues with India’s neighbours should be the top priority in the pursuit of country’s goals in its foreign policy, while maintaining  eternal vigilance, said Nirupama Rao, ex-Foreign Secretary, here on Saturday.

“India should substantially develop the strategic partnership with the US as a lynchpin to the region. The country should also strengthen its coastal security mechanism,’’ she felt.

The unique centrality of India in the region and being the hub of South Asia warrants a mix of using strengths and strategies while handling the geo-politics to conserve the country’s interests, Nirupama added.

“A calculus is at work in Pakistan wherein domestic terrorism and radicalism leading to incursions along the Line of  Control with India and posing issues in Afghan security. While dealing with the biggest neighbour China, the relations are embedded in bilateral issues. We shall not go down a river of no return,’’ she reminded, calling for clear-headed policies with its neighbours.

Delivering the 22nd Sree Chithira Tirunal Memorial Lecture-2013 on ‘India in a Tough Neighbourhood’, Nirupama Rao, who was also the Ambassador to China and United States, underscored that Sino-Pak relations has an edge now, which is evidently clear with the inconsistent stand of  China on the Kashmir issue. “While addressing bilateral issues, it is also very important to keep China’s military capability in mind. India has to be more generous to Nepal and Bangladesh, apart from developing joint maritime initiatives with Sri Lanka. Nepal has abundant water resources enough to tap 1 lakh megawatts of electricity, which is capable to make that country to have the highest per capita income in the region. But for the prevailing mistrust Nepal has for India, we were not able to take up initiatives,’’ she pointed out.

India should also look at the options in Afghanistan and help the nation and see to it that the democratically-elected government there is not destabilised by the Taliban. ‘’Pakistan’s capability to spew trouble has to be taken into account. Its nuclear programme is solely developed as an arsenal against India. Pakistan is the only country in the world where a nuclear programme is under the full command of  the military and the civilian government has nothing to do with it,’’ she said.

“The Indian concerns based on Indian Ocean is not given sufficient importance in the Sri Lankan policy calculus. The pride and self-esteem of  Tamil minorities have still not eroded ,while the nation comprises the first wave diaspora of Sinhalese from India also’’.

She added that the development in Maldives has stabilised.

Nirupama, however, stressed that no region impinges India’s security like West Asia. “It is a crucible of extremism and radicalism,’’ she said.

Sree Chithira Tirunal Smaraka Samithi president T P Sreenivasan presided over the function. Pooyam Tirunal Gouri Parvathy Bayi was present. Samithi working president Palode Ravi MLA welcomed the gathering and general secretary V K Harikumar proposed a vote of thanks. (New Indian Express)

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