NEW DELHI: External affairs minister S Jaishankar on Thursday drew a comparison between the two regional groups of Saarc and BIMSTEC, explaining that the former has “certain problems” while the latter has “possibility”.
The newly-minted minister’s comment can be seen as a veiled reference to neighbouring Pakistan.
The former diplomat credited the “energy” in BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) as the reason for inviting member states for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s oath ceremony.
“Saarc has certain problems. I think we all know what it is, even if you were to put terrorism issue aside. There are issues related to connectivity and trade. If you look at why BIMSTEC leaders were invited for the PM’s swearing-in because we see energy, mindset and possibility in it,” he said at an event here.
BIMSTEC member states were invited for the grand swearing-in ceremony in line with India’s focus on the “Neighbourhood First” policy, while Saarc (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) leaders, unlike 2014, were not invited apparently to keep Pakistan out of the high-profile event.
On being asked whether he would choose China or the US, Jaishankar said that he would try to maximise the opportunity for India in the clash between the two major world powers. “In every clash, there is an opportunity. There are risks too. My job is to maximise opportunity and minimise the risks,” he said.
The minister said that he will be working to enhance connectivity in South Asia during his tenure.
He indicated that India will adopt a liberal approach towards the neighbouring countries and advocated incentivisation of cooperation.
Jaishankar said, “Primary responsibility is on India because we are the largest economy (in South Asia). In that sense our growth can serve as a lifting tide for all our neighbours, if that happens, I do not think we should over-negotiate that. We need to incentivise cooperation in the neighbourhood.”
Bhutan has leveraged its relationship with India brilliantly, he said.