New Delhi : Expanded economic connectivity through trade and investment is the precondition for political stability in South Asia, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said here Friday.
He was speaking at the launch of the book “India’s Neighbourhood Challenges in the Next Two Decades” at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA).
Pointing out that South Asia is changing rapidly, he underlined the fact that India needs to fine tune its policy responses and set an example for others by being proactive rather than reactive in adapting to such change.
While the 21st century is an Asian century and has “led to a discernible eastward shift of global political and economic centres of gravity”, it “has also created unprecedented challenges for policy makers and strategic establishments that have to grapple with difficult and often unfamiliar problems”, introspected the foreign secretary.
Some of the envisioned challenges, according to him, are sustaining the growth trajectory, possible backlash by certain powers who are unable to adapt to a shift in the global balance of power, especially those at the losing end of the spectrum.
He also observed that the “promotion of a politically stable and economically secure periphery is a paramount foreign policy objective for India” and India has been working towards “fostering inter-connectivity and mutual confidence in multiple areas, in promoting trade and investment, and in trying to leverage India’s rapid economic growth into win-win arrangements with our neighbours”.
On regional cooperation, Mathai said that the challenge is to create structures for South Asian cooperation. While the idea of a South Asian Union is a “distant dream”, some of the challenges listed by him were demarcation of borders in a globalised world, the challenge of using demography as a dividend, the existence of “fragile or weak states”, fast erosion of the division between terrorism and trans-national crimes, shrinking boundaries due to technology and existence of cyber criminals. He also drew attention to India’s efforts to engage different region like the South East Asia, Central Asia and West Asia.
He mentioned that India is building an Indian Ocean Littoral Community.
Terming the report as a collaborative effort between the IDSA and the ministry of external affairs (MEA), Mathai said it provides a useful contribution to the pathways the South Asian neighbourhood would take in the next 20 years.
In his welcome address, IDSA Director General Arvind Gupta said: “The study offers a critical survey of developments in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and it explores the complexities of India’s relations with its neighbours, develops plausible scenarios for each country and proposes options for Indian policy makers. It particularly focuses on likely challenges that Indian policy makers will face in the next twenty years.”
Throwing more light on the study, Gupta added: “Each country (in the subcontinent) is in the throes of deep political, economic and social change. Chronic instability in some parts of the sub-continent, demographic pressures, migrations and climate change are likely to accentuate the existing security dilemmas. Terrorism and fundamentalism will continue to dominate the security agenda.”
“On the positive side, trends towards regional cooperation and democracy will strengthen. The role of external powers is critical for regional stability. India will need to adopt proactive approach and be on the look-out for opportunities amidst uncertainties.”