Newly sworn-in External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar announced a shift in focus from SAARC to BIMSTEC vis-a-vis neighbourhood cooperation on Thursday
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar affirmed that neighbourhood cooperation on connectivity would shift focus from SAARC to BIMSTEC.
Indian foreign policy will be used to facilitate new markets, said the newly appointed Foreign Minister at a function in New Delhi on Thursday.
He averred, “Most South Asian countries understand that resisting connectivity is holding them back. SAARC has certain problems… even if you put terrorism aside, there are connectivity issues.”
The Foreign Minister further added, “BIMSTEC has an energy, we want to progress with that.”
Members of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation include Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal and Bhutan.
Asserting the need to increase connectivity, Jaishankar said, “A lot of attention was given in the last five years to this. To make it [India] more connected and I’m very confident that it will be among our top priorities for the next five years.”
In recent years, India has refrained from participating in the SAARC summit. The avoidance has come amid continued incursions by Pakistan-based terrorist units on Indian soil.
Pakistan has been scheduled to hold the summit since 2016. Indian leadership holds a firm anti-terrorism stance and has refused to negotiate further until Pakistan takes action.
The SAARC summit was first postponed after the 2016 Uri Attack. Relations have soured further after the 2019 Pulwama Attack in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.
During his first public address after assuming office, Jaishankar also vowed to prioritise his predecessor Sushma Swaraj’s Twitter outreach legacy.
Under Twitter outreach, the MEA has been offering assistance to distressed Indians anywhere in the world through the social networking app since 2015.
The Foreign Minister asserted, “We have an obligation to look after our people better.” He added, “India’s standing in the world has gone up and this matters to Indians. The elections were a vote of confidence in this government’s ability to manage national security.”