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Concrete steps needed after bold invite to SAARC leaders: President Pranab

Concrete steps needed after bold invite to SAARC leaders: President Pranab

New Delhi: India needs to take to logical conclusion its "bold" initiative to invite SAARC leaders to Prime Minister's swearing-in and pursue concrete steps to make permanent the advances in its relations with neighbours, President Pranab Mukherjee said on Sunday.

Addressing the sixth conference of Ambassadors and High Commissioners, the President termed extension of invitation by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to SAARC countries to attend his swearing-in last May as a demonstration of "dynamism and bold leadership" by India.

"That initiative must be followed through to its logical conclusion through incisive diplomacy even as we remain firm in protecting our security and putting in place impregnable security mechanisms," he said.

The President said last eight months have seen "new vigour and dynamism in India's foreign policy" and listed the visit of US President Barack Obama. "The visit was of substantive importance and not just symbolic," he said.

Mukherjee said one adage which never goes stale in international politics is 'You can choose your friend but not your neighbour.'

Without naming Pakistan, he said, "A strong message was conveyed to our neighbours that the region must decide whether to live in perpetual tension or understanding. Our initiatives in the neighbourhood must be followed up with concrete steps to consolidate and make permanent the advances we make in our relations."

During Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's visit to attend Modi's swearing-in May, the two leaders had agreed on talks between their Foreign Secretaries in a bid to break the two-year-old stalemate in bilateral dialogue process.

However, angered by Pakistan's consultations with Kashmiri separatists, India had called off the talks in August.

The US President was "our honoured guest for Republic Day. The visit was of substantive importance and not just symbolic. This has happened for the first time that the US President has visited India twice in office. Obama even had detailed interactions and summit level talks here," Mukherjee said.

Visits by Russain President Vladmir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping recently were a result of India's new vigour in its foreign policy, he added.

Talking about challenges posed by terrorism across the globe, he cited the horrific killings in Syria, France and in a Peshawar school and said international community must assert itself and take concerted and determined action against terrorism of which India is one of the oldest victims.

"Terrorism is today an industry of evil. It is not just a threat to peace and security but an attack on humanity as a whole and civilisation as we understand.... The international community must assert itself and tackle the problem by taking concerted, coordinated and determined action," he said.

The President stressed that this great challenge to human values should be faced firmly and squarely through international cooperation and efforts should be made to mobilise the world to take concerted and determined action against the menace.

"We have, in recent days, witnessed the horrific killings of innocent hostages in Syria, the attack on the media in Paris and the tragic killing of school children and their teachers in Peshawar.

"India is one of the oldest victims of terrorism. There is no good terrorism or bad terrorism. Terrorism respects no religion, ideology or nation. It is no longer a debating issue. The international community must assert itself and tackle the problem by taking concerted, coordinated and determined action," Mukherjee said.

The President called upon India's Ambassadors and High Commissioners to apply themselves to how this challenge can be addressed and to come up with ideas on how to mobilise the world to take concrete action that will mitigate and end this menace.

The President said India and its diplomatic Corps have a important role to play in the new changed world order and avenues like the Doha talks or WTO trade and commerce meetings.

"We were able to strike a deal in the WTO that enabled progress in trade liberalisation without comprising on our freedom to take measures essential for our food security. The Prime Minister has been personally reaching out to the Indian diaspora," he added.

"The institutional arrangements of converting the globe into a global village have been initiated. Those days are gone when balance of power was the most important element in foreign policies of countries," he said.

He urged the diplomats to take forward India's stand in international foras like the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and Doha trade talks.

Mukherjee said the concept of food security that is promoted by India is that food should be available to the needy and trade facilitations should be enhanced.

Mukherjee said he appreciated the hard work, exemplary courage and diplomatic skills of these officials.

He also congratulated newly appointed Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar and said his selection has come at a "very crucial stage" when India's external affairs and foreign relations are taking a "new turn of policies after a new government began its journey."

The President said many opportunities are opening up in terms of Indian students going abroad for higher studies and overseas scholars coming to India for the same and the diplomats have to work to enhance these liaisons.

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