NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday had telephonic conversations with heads of government in the neighbourhood to exchange New Year pleasantries and emphasize India’s commitment to the ‘neighbourhood first’ policy. But it was the call he did not make that became the talking point of the day.
Modi snubbed his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan by giving him a miss. India-Pak relations have remained frosty ever since the Pulwama terror attack that killed over 40 CRPF men.
New Delhi blamed Pakistan-based terror outfits for the attack. In retaliation, the Indian Air Force struck a terrorist camp in Balakot deep inside Pakistan. It was followed by a short military skirmish between the neighbours. Relations further nosedived when India scrapped Article 370 in J&K on August 5, with Pakistan flagging it at all fora, saying Kashmir could become the flashpoint for a nuclear conflagration.
Clearly, Modi does not see the need to break the ice with the adversary. He, however, began his diplomatic outreach with the rest of the neighbours, sharing India’s vision of peace, security, prosperity and progress for all its “friends and partners” in the region.
He spoke to Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and his Prime Minister Lyonchhen Lotay; Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa; Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih; Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina; and Nepal Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli. While talking to Gotabaya, Modi reiterated India’s commitment to further expanding the close and extensive cooperation with Sri Lanka.
Solih expressed his desire to further deepen and strengthen cooperation and explore new areas to work together. Speaking to Sheikh Hasina, Modi said the upcoming birth centenary of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the 50 years of the liberation of Bangladesh provided the platform for closer mutual cooperation. In his conversation with the Bhutanese King, Modi recalled last year’s high points in bilateral relationship, adding he was looking forward to the forthcoming visit of the King to India.
Bid to broaden and deepen bilateral ties
By calling up the heads of state, Modi tried to deepen and broaden bilateral ties with the smaller neighbours, trying to build on the personal rapport he already has with some of them