Economic Diplomacy to Guide Foreign Policy
Modi, in his individual meetings with Saarc heads, will talk about bilateral ties and other regional issues
Iam carrying the message of peace,” said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif before he left for India on Monday to attend the oathtaking ceremony of Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi, perhaps reciprocating the spirit with which Modi invited the leaders of neighbouring countries as he tries to strengthen bonds with each one of them. While little could be achieved in a 30-minute meeting between Sharif and Modi at the Hyderabad House on Tuesday, it's the gesture and optics that are more significant. In fact, never in the history of independent India a Pakistani PM or other foreign leaders have been invited to attend the swearing in of any Indian PM. But the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had said in its election manifesto that it is going to re-boot India’s foreign policy, and probably a beginning has been made with the invitation to Saarc leaders. Among the subjects that Modi and Sharif could touch upon include connectivity issues, energy partnership, Siachen, Sir Creek and cross-border terror, including expediting the 26/11 trial and Kashmir. This maiden meeting between the two leaders would go a long way in improving relations which could eventually help in addressing certain contentious issues. While common issues affecting the Saarc region is unlikely to be discussed in a structured and collective format, Modi in his individual meetings with each regional leader, would dwell on bilateral and regional issues, senior sources in the South Block indicated to ET. Lack of seamless connectivity, intra-regional trade and coordinated efforts to tackle the menace of terror are among the main challenges confronting the South Asian countries. South Asia continues to be one of the poorest regions of the world with rising inequalities. The other challenge for India is to maintain its position amid Chinese inroads in the neighbourhood.
Besides Sharif, Modi will meet Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, Bangladesh Parliament Speaker Shirin Chaudhury and Mauritius Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam separately for 30 minutes each on Tuesday morning. With Mauritius, the focus will be on maritime security and defence partnership as India wants to emerge as a power in the Indian Ocean Region. An official speaking on the condition of anonymity told ET that sending invites to SAARC leaders was a masterstroke by Modi.
Modi extends a hand of friendship to Pak PM Sharif