India following bold, proactive foreign policy: President

New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday said that India is following a bold and proactive foreign policy and has reached out to the world both on land and sea.

“My government has continued to pursue a bold and proactive foreign policy,” the President said, addressing the joint sitting of both houses of parliament that marked the traditional launch of the budget session.

“The primary objective has been to accelerate national development with emphasis on improving India’s access to capital, technology, resources, energy and skills. States have been made partners in our diplomatic efforts,” he said.

Stating that India was committed to the principle of “the world is one family”, Mukherjee said this expression was most resonant in the steps New Delhi took in reaching out to its neighbours.

“Last year, my government adopted the historic land boundary agreement with Bangladesh, leading to the peaceful exchange of disputed territories between our two countries,” he recalled.

“The signing of the Motor Vehicles Agreement between Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal, will provide seamless connectivity and further strengthen ties.”

The President said that India was a friend in need to Nepal during the devastating earthquake of April 2015 in the Himalayan country.

“We opened our skies, became a key transit hub and essential enabler so that assistance from other countries could reach Nepal in its hour of need,” he said.

As for Pakistan, the President said India was committed to forging a mutually respectful relationship with its western neighbour and in creating an environment of cooperation in combating cross-border terrorism.

“My government believes in a secure and prosperous future for our neighbourhood. India remains committed to providing support to the people of Afghanistan in realising their dream of building a stable, inclusive and democratic nation,” he said, adding that the dedication of the Afghan parliament’s new building by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in December was India’s contribution to Afghanistan’s pursuit of peace and prosperity.

Referring to the India-Africa Forum Summit held here in October last year, Mukherjee said: “We reached out to the world, both on land and sea. Of 54 participating nations, the India-Africa Summit, attended by heads of states and governments from 41 countries, has rejuvenated India’s relations with the continent, ushering in a new era of engagement and fraternity.

“My government will not let oceans separate us, and has activated engagement with the 14 Pacific Island countries and revitalised civilisational links with our vibrant Act East Policy. India’s second International Fleet Review, attended by 50 foreign navies, reinforced our cultural, commercial and strategic connect with our immediate and extended maritime neighbourhood.”

The President said that India has played a proactive role in addressing climate change by launching an International Solar Alliance (ISA) that has been universally acknowledged.

An initiative of Prime Minister Modi, the ISA is an alliance of some 120 countries situated between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn that receive sunlight for 300 or more days in a year.

He also said that India remained at the forefront of the global fight against terrorism.

“Sustained Indian efforts have led to concrete action for reforming the UN Security Council,” Mukherjee said.

“India has also provided strong leadership and new vision to regional and international groupings like BRICS, G-20, WTO, East Asia Summit, ASEAN and the SCO.”

He said the government’s policy towards the Indian diaspora has enhanced NRI and PIO engagement by making it easier for them to get passports and offered visa on arrival by extending Electronic Travel Authorisation facility to a large number of countries.

“Today, our citizens living and working abroad know that the government is committed to protecting their interests and helping them in distress. This was manifested in Operation Rahat, in which we successfully evacuated 4,748 Indians from Yemen.”

“We also extended our assistance to other nationalities. We evacuated 1,962 foreigners belonging to 48 countries,” the President said.