We desire a ‘good relationship’ with Pakistan, but not at the expense of our security, says Indian foreign secretary

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FILE PHOTO: A farmer carries a sack of grass as he walks near the fenced border between India-Pakistan in Ranbir Singh Pura sector near Jammu March 1, 2019. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi//File Photo

New Delhi desires a “good relationship” with Pakistan but it can’t be at the expense of our security, Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said on Wednesday, adding that India continues to deepen its cooperation with all neighboring countries— “with the exception of Pakistan” —under the Neighborhood First Policy.

Shringla’s remark came on Wednesday while inaugurating the first three-day training module for Indian diplomats on India’s neighborhood organized by the Sushma Swaraj Institute of Foreign Service. The training module aims to mainstream the Neighbourhood First policy in the functioning of all Ministries and Departments of the government.

“The Neighbourhood First Policy, at the instance of the Prime Minister, accords the highest priority to our relations with Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. It is these countries – with the exception of Pakistan – that we work most closely with,” Shringla said.

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On the importance of closely working with neighboring countries, he said, “India also realizes its prosperity and growth are linked to that of its neighbors. We cannot develop unless our neighbors develop.”

However, he added, many “foreign policy and security challenges” also arise from the neighborhood due to “physical proximity.”

“You are all aware of the major problems such as cross-border terrorism, political volatility and instability, fundamentalist and radical ideologies, illegal movements across borders, narcotics, and arms trafficking,” Shringla said.

In a tacit reference to Pakistan, Shringla said, “Some of our neighbors remain trapped in interpretations of history that do not allow them to adopt a progressive vision for the region.”

In his speech delivered at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie, Shringla outlined, in detail, how New Delhi enhanced its bilateral cooperations with almost all neighboring countries in multiple sectors.

“Our ties with these countries are underpinned by a shared history and culture. Policy initiatives, taken by India and its neighbors, have implications for each other,” Shringla said, adding “ties with the neighboring countries have direct relevance to our States bordering these countries.”

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