Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran says that the challenge for Indian diplomacy lies in convincing its neighbours that it is an opportunity not a threat.
Speaking at a seminar on ?India and its Neighbours?, at the India International Centre (IIC), last week, Saran said that there has to be a minimal consensual basis on which to pursue SAARC cooperation.
`That is the willingness to promote cross-border linkages, building upon intra-regional economic complementarities and encouraging the obvious cultural affinities that bind its peoples together.`
He said that if the there continues to be resistance to such linkages and initiatives of some members is seen to be patently hostile to India or motivated by a desire to contain it in some way, SAARC would continue to lack substance and energy.
` The challenge for Indian diplomacy lies in convincing its neighbours that it is an opportunity not a threat. That far from being besieged by India, they have a vast, productive hinterland that would give their economies greater opportunities for growth than if they were to rely on their domestic markets alone.`
He said it was true that as the largest country and with the strongest economy in the region, India has a greater responsibility to encourage the SAARC process.
`In the free markets that India has already established with Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan, we have accepted the principle of non-reciprocity. We are prepared to do more to throw open our markets to all our neighbours and invest capital in rebuilding and upgrading cross-border infrastructure with each one of them.`
Saran, said India was also prepared to make its neighbours full stakeholders in India`EDs economic destiny and, through such cooperation create a truly vibrant and globally competitive South Asian Economic Community.