India’s Rejuvenated Foreign Policy Focuses on Neighbourhood First: V Muraleedharan


New Delhi: The 12th South Asia Conference on “India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ Policy: Regional Perceptions”, organised by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) concluded in New Delhi on January 29.

In his keynote address, Minister of State (MoS) for External Affairs V Muraleedharan described ‘five Cs’ – Collective Cooperation, Capacity Building, Connectivity, Cultural Crosscurrents, and enhancing Community Connect as integral to the implementation of India’s ‘Neighbourhood First Policy’.

Highlighting the core of India’s foreign policy principles, the Minster said Panchsheel (five principles) which had formed the essence of the Indian approach for a long time, was now been supplemented by the principle, Panchamrit (five nectars) – Dignity, Dialogue, Security, Shared Prosperity and Culture.

Stating that India’s relations with its neighbours are the most important component of India’s foreign policy, the Minister said the sentiment that India, as the largest country with the largest economy and population can and would share its capacities with its partners in the region on a non-reciprocal basis, forms the focal point of the Government’s policy towards its neighbours in South Asia.

The ancient tradition of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam is deeply enshrined in Indian thought, philosophy and action and continues to guide India’s foreign policy in general and its approach to its neighbourhood in particular, said the Minister.

In his welcome address, Director General, IDSA, Amb Sujan R Chinoy, while emphasising on the need for regional economic integration as the binding glue for structures that ensure regional peace and collective prosperity, said India has demonstrated its commitment to participate in the growth and development of the individual countries and the region, and to enable a web of relationships among states to unleash the latent economic potential of the region.

Commenting on the ambivalence felt by some neighbours with regard to the growing presence and activities of an extra-regional power like China, Amb Chinoy said the Indian approach has neither been mercantilist nor predatory. The country adopts a non-reciprocal approach and expects neighbours to be sensitive to its key concerns, even as they seek strategic autonomy in their own foreign policy.

Reflecting on the deliberations on day one of the Conference, Amb. Chinoy hailed the appreciation shown by the foreign participants towards India’s foreign and security policies and their willingness to benefit from India’s developmental diplomacy.

The two-day conference saw rich participation from academics, policymakers, intellectuals, semi-government and government officials from India and neighbouring South Asian countries, including Afghanistan and Myanmar, to discuss issues of mutual concern and explore avenues of cooperation.