New Delhi: While there was no direct mention of Pakistan, President Pranab Mukherjee said that "an end to export of terrorism" to neighbours and sensitivity to security concerns has to be "foundation of stability" in the South Asian region.
In his first speech to both houses of parliament after the general elections on Monday, Mukherjee said that while Saarc revitalization was an important agenda, the government will not shy away “from raising issues concern to us at a bilateral level”.
“We emphasize that the future of shared prosperity can only be built on the foundation of stability in the region, which requires sensitivity to security concerns and an end to export of terrorism to neighbours,” he said.
Both Afghanistan and India point their fingers towards Pakistan for continuing to shelter terrorist groups.
There was no mention of Pakistan in this speech, compared to the President’s 2013 speech where he had talked about the need for Islamabad to adhere to its commitments to bridge the trust deficit.
But, the reference to terrorism was again a clear signal to Pakistan on the position made clear to PM Nawaz Sharif that India was ready to resume dialogue, only after there was a substantial dismantling of the terrorism infrastructure. It was again an indication to Islamabad that the ball was in its court for even a formal face-to-face meeting of the two foreign secretaries.
The President spoke about the “unique and bold signal send to the South Asian world and the world” by the presence of all South Asian leaders and Mauritius Prime Minister at the swearing-in ceremony.
“This shows my government’s commitment and determination to work towards building a peaceful, stable and economically inter-linked neighbourhood which is essential for the collective development and prosperity of the South Asian Region. We will further work together with South Asian leaders to revitalise SAARC as an effective instrument for regional cooperation and as a united voice on global issues,” he said.
Besides SAARC, the President also named China, Japan, Russia, United States and European Union in his speech as being the focus of improving bilateral relations.
With regards to China, he said that India will work towards developing strategic and cooperative partnership, while wooing Japan to help in improving Indian infrastructure is a key priority.
“Russia remains a privileged and strategic partner and my government will build further on the firm foundations of this relationship,” he said.
With United States, President Mukherjee said that his government “will bring a renewed vigour to our engagement and intensify it in all areas, including trade, investment, science and technology, energy and education. India also values its broad-based cooperation with Europe”.
“The government will make concerted efforts to achieve progress in key areas with the European Union as well as its leading members,” he said.
Laying emphasis on engaging with Indian diaspora, he noted that the next Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in January 2015 will be a “special occasion” as it will mark 100 years since India’s “greatest” expatriate Mahatma Gandhi returned home.
“As we celebrate the centenary of Gandhiji’s return to India, we would also take steps that would deepen every Pravasi Bharatiya’s connection with India and involve them in India’s development,” he said.
There was also a specific mention about harnessing “softpower potential” by putting emphasis on “spiritual, cultural and philosophical heritage”. “The government will revive Brand India riding on our strengths of 5T’s: Tradition, Talent, Tourism, Trade and Technology,” said the President.
The main difference in the foreign policy section between the President’s latest speech and his 2013 speech during UPA-2 was that it did not go into details about specific countries. For Example, the 2013 speech talked about issues related to Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, as well the government’s position on disputes in West Asia and North Africa, along with ASEAN.