File photo: PM Narendra Modi Photograph:( AFP )
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken some immediate steps which reflect a big diplomatic outreach to the regional neighbours and Prime Minister's resolve to win the trust of minorities in his second term.
After coming back to power with a bigger mandate than what it got in 2014, Narendra Modi-led NDA government has taken some immediate steps which reflect a big diplomatic outreach to the regional neighbours and Prime Minister's resolve to win the trust of minorities in his second term.
The nation comes first and so it was deeply heartening to see kin of Pulwama martyrs attending the oath-taking ceremony of Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister for his second consecutive term.
The family members of BJP workers, who were killed in the political violence in West Bengal, were also invited to the ceremony.
On the global front, Modi had invited leaders of BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) that shows a continuance of his government's commitment to the 'Neighbourhood First' policy. BIMSTEC comprises Bangladesh, Myanmar, India, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Thailand and Nepal.
After URI attack, India had boycotted the SAARC summit which was being organised in Islamabad in November 2016. No further action has been taken to resume the SAARC summit since then. SAARC, or South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, comprises Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, the Maldives, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
Inviting BIMSTEC leaders indicates that India is shaping an alternative regional platform.
The Prime Minister had also extended separate invitations to the leaders of Kyrgyzstan and Mauritius. Kyrgyzstan holds importance here because the country is holding the annual summit of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) next month which will see Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan as attendees.
Modi's move is in line with the government's 'Neighbourhood First' policy and has sent out the right signal regarding his focus on regional cooperation.
Furthermore, Modi will start his second-term bilateral visits with the Maldives, where China has been trying to expand its influence. He will also address the Maldivian Parliament during his visit.
On his way back from the Maldives, Modi will make a stopover at Colombo to express his solidarity after easter attacks which killed over 250 civilians. It's important to recall here that India had shared intelligence inputs with Sri Lanka before the deadly blasts rocked the country.
The visit can be seen as a clear message that India stands united with Sri Lanka in its fight against terrorism.
India's Stern Message to Pakistan
India has turned down several talks initiatives from Pakistan since 2016 when an Air Force station in Pathankot was attacked by heavily-armed Pakistan-based terrorists. The tension between the South Asia neighbours has escalated since the February 2019 Pulwama attack and India's subsequent airstrike in Balakot - deep Inside Pakistan.
Unlike 2014, the Pakistani premier was not invited to the oath-taking ceremony of Modi this time. When Imran Khan dialled Modi to congratulate him on his second term and expressed his desire to work together for the betterment of their people, Modi made it clear that diplomatic dialogue can't be resumed unless Islamabad stops targetting India by exporting terrorism to Jammu and Kashmir.
Imran Khan and Narendra Modi will be attending the SCO summit in Kyrgyzstan next week but no meeting has been announced between the two so far.
In the last 5 years, India has firmly stood against Pakistan's soil being used by terrorists for plotting and launching attacks on India. After the Pulwama attack, the US, UK and France too backed India to have Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azahar designated as a global terrorist by the UN. Under pressure, China, after a decade, finally lifted the technical hold that was shielding Azhar.
Furthermore, the Prime Minister is likely to host the Chinese President Xi Jinping later this year in Varanasi for an informal summit.
The development comes after the nailing of Masood Azhar which has visibly improved relations between India and China. Reaching out to China for the informal summit is significant because China is an 'all-weather' friend of Islamabad.
Talks with Pakistan won't yield any results unless Islamabad decides to shut its terror export industry, and thus, Modi did the right thing by telling Imran Khan that creating trust and an environment free of violence and terrorism were essential for fostering cooperation for peace.
Message for Minorities
In his first speech after winning the Lok Sabha elections 2019 with a thumping majority, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for 'inclusive politics' and broke his silence on minorities. Modi said his government will work to win the trust of minorities.
Modi expanded his 2014 slogan to - "Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikaas, Sabka Vishwas," and asked his MPs to work for everyone without discriminating on the basis of caste and religion.
Many critics of BJP have downplayed PM's speech. Modi's assurance to minorities should be welcomed by people - liberals too. The appreciable thing will be to give his new government some time to deliver the commitments and promises.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)