Major changes seen in Indian foreign policy
3 March 2015, Nirapad News: Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque said on Monday that, major changes have been seen in Indian foreign policy. He said this after his first bilateral talks with his new Indian counterpart, S Jaishankar.
He said they discussed a whole range of bilateral, sub-regional, regional and international issues during the “short” meeting. Jaishankar also met Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali. After the meeting, he told a large media contingent gathered at the lobby that “we want more cooperation”.
The secretary-to-secretary bilateral meeting had to be curtailed, as Jaishankar travelling in a special Indian Air Force aircraft arrived two hours behind schedule from Bhutan in the morning. His arrival was delayed due to a heavy snowfall at Paro, where Himalayan kingdom’s only international airport is located.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked Jaishankar to make a goodwill visit to all SAARC countries to give his neighbourhood outreach. But issues of bilateral interest, particularly the unresolved Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) and the Teesta water-sharing deal dominate public interest in Bangladesh amidst his goodwill visit.
Foreign Secretary Haque said they discussed all issues, including the LBA and Teesta, “but nothing specific” during the 40-minutes bilateral meetings. The LBA ratification is at the final stages awaiting parliament approval.
“We raised our concern on Teesta,” he said, replying to a question. “Their feedback was positive”. One thing that became clear is that they want to solve problems. They want to strengthen relations with regional countries and solve problems, if any, quickly”. “We see it as a major change in Indian foreign policy,” Haque said.
Asked whether the earlier Indian regime lacked a problem-solving commitment, he said “every government has a special focus. “But this (Modi) government has focused on neighbouring countries from the beginning by inviting all SAARC leaders (to his swearing-in ceremony)”.
He said they were hopeful that the LBA issue would be resolved soon. The secretary said this visit within a month of Jaishankar’s appointment indicated “India attaches importance to its relations with Bangladesh”.
He said the bilateral relation was “so deep” that “if you write two lines on every issue, it will become a 25-page document”. “Basically, we discussed details at the Foreign Office Consultation (FOC) and Joint Consultative Commission (JCC) level meetings”. He said both sides also agreed that the relation was “very good and it reached newer heights” in recent years. “It’ll go up by the day,” he said.
Haque said they did not discuss any specific dates for Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Dhaka as it has long been reported in both India and Bangladesh media that he will visit on Mar 26. “We did not discuss the date. He will visit at an appropriate time. Our Prime Minister had invited him earlier and he had accepted the invitation.”
He said, in the sub-regional context, they discussed water, power, connectivity, and transit issues among Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Bhutan. India is pushing ahead with sub-regional level cooperation as SAARC has failed to deliver collectively.
Many projects are being discussed at the official level in two segments – water and power; connectivity and transit. The next meeting of the officials of the four countries will be held in Dhaka during the second half of this year. “We both wanted more cooperation,” he said.
After meeting the foreign minister, Jaishankar met the Prime Minister’s adviser for international affairs, Gowher Rizvi, at the PM office.