WION Edit: 'Neighbourhood First' policy must show in New Delhi's actions

WION Delhi Jan 03, 2020, 04.36 PM(IST) Written By: WION

Protests erupted in Kalburgi and Mangalore districts as well despite the prohibitory orders in place. Photograph:( WION )

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The External Affairs Ministry has informed neighbours that the Citizenship Law does not violate the Constitution and more importantly, it is India's internal issue.

Six months ago, soon after the re-election of the BJP in 2019, President Ram Nath Kovind delivered a speech to both houses of Parliament.

During the address, the President said, "My government's 'neighbourhood first' policy is evidence of our approach of according priority to south Asia and countries in the adjoining region'.

Neighbourhood first is the cornerstone of Narendra Modi's foreign policy, but neighbours, as we saw, have been extremely critical of India's Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

On WION Edit, we discuss what this means and what Delhi should do to address this. 

We have seen some reactions on CAA - Pakistan's anti-India propaganda, Bangladesh's narrative war and Afghanistan's sense of hurt.

But there are other countries and groups too. For instance, Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in Tamil Nadu have yet not reacted.

There are nearly 59,000 Sri Lankan Tamil refugees living in over 100 refugee camps in Tamil Nadu. Another 30,000 live outside camps. There is a small section of Bhutanese refugees here and Rohingya Muslims persecuted in Myanmar. They are all over India, from Jammu to Chennai.

The exclusion of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees has provoked criticism in the political circles of Tamil Nadu, but Colombo hasn't spoken.

The local media in Sri Lanka has highlighted the violent protests in India. In Bhutan too, it's a similar story. The government has steered clear of the issue but sections of the media have slammed New Delhi's decision.

Myanmar too is tongue-tied. A recent meeting between Myanmar government and Rohingya groups over restoring citizenship to minorities failed. Given the government's own record, it has wisely remained quiet about India.

On its part, New Delhi is reaching out to all neighbours. As we said Prime Minister Narendra Modi called all heads of state, except Pakistan for new year greetings and a word of reassurance.

The External Affairs Ministry has informed neighbours that the Citizenship Law does not violate the Constitution and more importantly, it is India's internal issue.

That's where the bulk of the challenge lies for the government internally. Bringing all sides together - it's a wise, though belated move.