The New Year has begun for Indian diplomacy with “Neighbourhood First” mantra in the spotlight as Prime Minister Narendra Modi heralded 2020 with separate telephone calls to the leaders of Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and the Maldives.
Not surprisingly, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan did not get the New Year call from the Indian leader, which reinforced yet again PM Modi’s neighbourhood-minus Pakistan policy.
Mr Modi “conveyed to the leaders his New Year greetings and good wishes on behalf of the people of India and on his own behalf. He emphasized India’s commitment to ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy and the vision of shared peace, security, prosperity and progress for all of India’s friends and partners in the region”, said a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.
“Calling leaders of neighbouring countries was an imaginative gesture by Prime Minister Modi and signalled his key priority of improving relations with South Asian countries,” said Manish Chand, Editor-in-Chief, India and the World magazine and India Writes Network.
“The decision not to call Imran Khan was also a clear signal that India is ready intensify its relations with the region sans Pakistan. This approach was clear from the beginning of his second term when Modi invited the leaders of BIMSTEC countries for his swearing-in,” said Mr Chand.
In his conversation with Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, PM Modi congratulated her on being re-elected as the president of the Awami League for the next three years. “He also stated that the upcoming birth centenary of Bangbandhu and 50 years of the liberation of Bangladesh and establishment of bilateral diplomatic ties provided important milestones to further progress of the close India-Bangladesh ties, which is a priority of his government,” the PMO said.
PM Modi is expected to visit Bangladesh in March, which will highlight the unfolding transformation of India-Bangladesh relations.
In his conversation with the Bhutanese King, PM Modi showcased important achievements of the last year which have led to further consolidation of special ties between India and Bhutan.
The prime minister also mentioned that he was looking forward to the forthcoming visit of the King to India.
In his talks with Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, PM Modi expressed confidence that India and Sri Lanka would further enhance their friendly ties in the year 2020.
In his telephonic conversation with PM Oli, PM Modi expressed satisfaction over the progress in India-Nepal relations in 2019 with the completion of several projects. “Both the leaders also agreed to an early inauguration of the Integrated Check Post in Biratnagar and the housing reconstruction project in Nepal through video conference,” said the PMO statement.