Relationship with China Has to Be Based on ‘3 Mutuals’: Foreign Secretary


India has made it clear to China that peace and tranquillity in border areas is essential for the development of overall bilateral ties and the relationship has to be based on the “three mutuals” of respect, sensitivity and interest, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said on Wednesday. Shringla also said that India desires a good relationship with Pakistan, but it cannot be at the expense of its security.

The foreign secretary was speaking at an event at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration. “We have made it clear to China that peace and tranquillity in the border areas is essential for the development of our relationship.

“Development of India-China relationship has to be based on ‘three mutuals’ — mutual respect, mutual sensitivity and mutual interest,” Shringla said. His comments came two days ahead of the 15th round of Corps Commander-level talks between India and China on the eastern Ladakh standoff.

On ties with Afghanistan, Shringla said India has continued its “special relationship” with the friendly people of that country. “In response to the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, India has decided to gift 50,000 metric tonnes of wheat to the people of Afghanistan. The first convoy carrying wheat was flagged off last month from the Attari border,” he said.

Shringla also mentioned India’s relationship with Myanmar “We remain engaged with Myanmar, a country with which we share a nearly 1,700 km long border. In our engagement, we have emphasised India’s interest in seeing Myanmar’s return to democracy at the earliest,” he said. “We remain committed to a relationship that provides for our cooperation with Myanmar in the areas of security, economy and humanitarian assistance,” Shringla added.

The foreign secretary said the neighbourhood comes “first and foremost” in India’s foreign policy priorities. “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,” he said.

“It is these countries – with the exception of Pakistan – that we work most closely with,” he said. The foreign secretary said the countries in the neighbourhood are of special significance to India.

“Our ties with these countries are underpinned by a shared history and culture. Policy initiatives taken by India – and its neighbours – have implications for each other,” he said. Shringla noted that the neighbouring countries have direct relevance to India’s border states, adding that India realises that its prosperity and growth are linked to that of its neighbours.

“We cannot develop unless our neighbours develop. It was in this spirit that the cabinet secretary wrote to all government ministries and departments asking them to accord priority to India’s neighbours in their international activities, programmes and projects,” he said. The foreign secretary said mechanisms have been created to enable greater inter-ministerial coordination and enhanced focus on ‘neighbourhood first’.

“India’s foreign and security policies in this space operate at several levels and dimensions. We have separate bilateral relationships with each of our neighbours. We also interact with them on plurilateral constructs. We work with them within multilateral frameworks,” Shringla said.

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