Neighbours first: India’s South Asia diplomacy in New York

1549_1_Untitled-1_copy_copyNEW YORK –Neighbourhood first has been a key tenet of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s foreign policy initiative as evident from the invites he extended to the heads of neighbouring countries at his swearing-in ceremony in May.

Once again this was showcased in New York when the Prime Minister met leaders of Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh and discussed with them issues of mutual and global relevance on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly on September 27.

Briefing the media on these meetings, Syed Akbaruddin, Spokesperson of India’s External Affairs Ministry said that all the leaders congratulated Modi on his speech and even endorsed his suggestion to declare an International Yoga Day in the cause of better health for all.

“All did indicate their support for Prime Minister’s initiative and proposal for International Yoga Day. All three have committed that they would support this initiative of designating a day in United Nations as International Yoga Day,” said the Spokesperson.

During the meeting, the leaders are reported to have responded on a positive note to host Modi at a mutually convenient date and venue for further discussions.

The leaders also discussed common efforts of SAARC and congratulated Modi on India’s successful space mission to Mars. Further they expressed their desire to the launch and operation of SAARC satellite that India had earlier announced, said Akbaruddin.

This was Modi’s first meeting with Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Highlighting this meeting, Akbaruddin said, “They discussed issues that are perennial or staple in our relationship and that relate to both the Teesta issue as well as land boundary agreement.”

Modi also thanked Hasina for the permission given for transit of food grains to the flood ravaged states in India’s North-East through Bangladesh.

In the course of his parleys with the Indian Prime Minister, Sri Lanka’s President Mahendra Rajapaksa extended his written support for Modi’s initiative on International Day on Yoga.

The two leaders discussed the progress of developmental projects in Sri Lanka which India has extended technical, logistic and even financial assistance. They also discussed Sampur thermal power project and its progress.

Modi is reported to have told Rajapaksa that during his meeting with the TNA delegation in India, he had made it clear that dialogue is best way to proceed in trying to reconcile the differences that they may have with the Sri Lankan government on this.

They also had detailed discussions on the matters relating to Indian fishermen being detained by the personnel of Sri Lanka’s Navy and Coast Guard.

“We understand that currently 76 Indian fishermen are still in Sri Lankan custody and Prime Minister raised this issue, saying that this is a humanitarian issue and needs to be dealt with sensitivity and President Rajapaksa did acknowledge that both sides need to work on finding a long term solution to it. He did mention that for his part they are ready to work on it; but he did mention environmental concern regarding bottom trawling,” said Akbaruddin.

Modi also held a constructive meeting with Nepal’s Prime Minister Sushil Koirala. The two leaders reviewed the progress of decisions made during Modi’s recent visit to Nepal.

“Koirala thanked Prime Minister for swift implementation of two of the major decisions that were taken at the time of Prime Minister’s visit about couple of months ago. These related to power trading agreement and power development agreement and both these instances there have been substantive movement,” added Akbaruddin.

The two leaders also discussed the forthcoming SAARC Summit to be hosted by Nepal in November.

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