Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday reaffirmed India's resolve to tackle cross-border terrorism and called upon the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) nations to unite to defeat the global menace.
India is fully capable of giving a firm response to cross-border terror, and the strikes in the wake of terrorist attacks in 2016 and 2019 demonstrated the nation's firm resolve to defeat terrorism, the Minister said while addressing the 12th South Asian Conference at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis in Delhi.
Singh reiterated the Modi government's stand that talks and terror cannot go together and asked Pakistan to take demonstrable steps against terror groups responsible for launching attacks from across the border on Indian soil.
The Minister said that India was engaged in a dialogue with its neighbours to develop joint approaches for regional peace and security.
Singh said that with the exception of Pakistan, other SAARC countries have adhered to the principles of non-interference in each other's internal affairs and not support cross-border terrorism.
Without naming any country, the Defence Minister said that the full potential of SAARC has not been realised so far due to the conduct and policies of a single country and pointed out how the SAARC motor vehicles agreement was stalled at the last Kathmandu session in 2015.
He said that the same country preferred to use terror as a state policy towards India, rather than peaceful settlement of disputes through dialogue.
Singh said that misuse of terror as an instrument of foreign and security policy has promoted radicalism and terrorism in the region and posed critical challenges to the security of all the states in the subcontinent.
He said that the Easter bomb attacks in Sri Lanka in April 2019 were the latest instance of how dangerous such a policy has been for the region and beyond.
The Minister stressed that the terror attacks in Mumbai, Pathankot, Uri and Pulwama in India were grim reminders of state-sponsored terrorism by a neighbouring country.
The minister said that as the largest country in the subcontinent, India had always made efforts to share its prosperity with its neighbours.
Explaining the contours of the Modi government's Neighbourhood First Policy or NFP, he said that a mutually beneficial and broad-based approach, comprising both components of development and security, was inclusive and sensitive to the priorities of the neighbouring countries.
The Minister said that the Indian government recognised the neighbourhood as the most important foreign policy priority.
Pointing out that the government had committed about $13.14 billion in credit lines and about $4 billion in assistance in India's neighbourhood over the last decade, the Minister said that India is willing to play a leading and critical role on the developmental front under the NFP, by making resources available to neighbours to build necessary infrastructure for enhanced inter-connectivity and easy flow of goods, services, people and ideas.
Asserting that South Asia is at a critical juncture of history where a world of opportunity is beckoning, Singh said that regional prosperity should not be held hostage to the interests of a select few states obstructing efforts aimed at regional cooperation.
He said that intra-regional trade has so far been abysmally low, and underlined the need to transcend the limitations.
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