Good relations with neighbours basic to India's foreign policy: Rajnath Singh

05 August 2016

India has always striven for good relations with other countries, especially its neighbours and the BJP government that came to power two years ago has reaffirmed this right from the formation of our government, home minister Rajnath Singh told a Saarc meeting in Islamabad.

Home minister Rajnath SinghAddressing the seventh meeting of interior (home) ministers of Saarc member nations in Islamabad today, Rajnath Singh said, India has reaffirmed that good relations with our neighbours are our highest priority. Under our "neighbourhood first'' policy, we have spared no effort in further building our engagement, and working together with our partners in the region, to secure peace and prosperity for our people. I have come to this meeting with the same purpose, he said.

Singh reminded leaders of the commitment made at the 18th Saarc summit held in Kathmandu in November 2014 to deepen regional integration for peace, stability and prosperity in South Asia. ''With 30 years of Saarc's existence, today the need is more than ever that we take regional cooperation to a level that realizes the aspirations and expectations of our people,'' he said.

He said India's vision for the region, as outlined by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 18th Saarc Summit, rests on the pillars of trade, investments, wide-ranging development cooperation, contacts between our people - and, all through seamless connectivity.

Towards this, he said, the Indian government has taken certain initiatives, including the India business card scheme, which would facilitate eligible business leaders in their visits to India.

He said it is vital that the South Asian environment has necessary conditions for achieving greater regional prosperity, connectivity and cooperation, if our efforts to these objectives are to succeed.

''However, we are witness to mounting threats and incidents that endanger our region's peace and stability. Terrorism remains the biggest challenge and threat to our peace. South Asia continues to be deeply affected by this malady, as witnessed most recently in cowardly terrorist attacks in Pathankot, Dhaka, Kabul and other places. Merely strong condemnation of such terrorist attacks is not enough. We must harden our resolve to eradicate this menace and also take serious steps to this end, he said.

''It also needs to be ensured that terrorism is not glorified and is not patronised by any state. One country's terrorist cannot be a martyr or freedom fighter for anyone. I also speak for the entire humanity - not just for India or other Saarc members in urging that in no circumstances should terrorists be eulogised as martyrs. Those who provide support, encouragement, sanctuary, safe haven or any assistance to terrorism or terrorists must be isolated. Strongest possible steps need to be taken not only against terrorists and terrorist organisations but also those individuals, institutions, organisations or nations that support them. Only this will ensure that the forces engaged in promoting the heinous crime of terrorism against humanity are effectively countered.''

''The will and the mandate of international community against proscribed and wanted terrorists and their organisations must also be respected and implemented. If we are to rid ourselves of terrorism, we will have to genuinely believe that attempts to distinguish between 'good' and 'bad' terrorists are misleading. No type of terrorism or support to it can be justified on any grounds whatsoever. Immediate and effective action is required against all those who support or encourage international terrorism in any way, whether they are state actors or non-state. Only then justice will be ensured for the victims of terrorist attacks such as in Mumbai and Pathankot. We must have the approach of 'zero tolerance' against any type of terrorism,'' he said.

In this connection, he said, implementation of the Saarc Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism and its Additional Protocol becomes crucial in our common fight against terrorism . This also includes ensuring effective measures so that those committing terrorist acts do not escape prosecution and punishment, and are extradited or prosecuted, he said.

He said the menace of terrorism also manifests in the misuse of digital technology and in our efforts to tackle terrorism we should plug all possible avenues of cyber-crime, its linkages with the terrorist world. ''Attention and efforts need to be devoted to ensure that social media and other modern technology is not misused for misleading especially the youth or promoting terrorism in any way.

Saarc members have supported India's proposal to hold the second meeting of the High Level Group of Eminent Experts constituted to strengthen the Saarc Anti-Terrorism Mechanism from 22-23 September 2016 in New Delhi.

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