House panel quizzes govt. on ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy

Kallol Bhattacherjee – (29 December 2017) – Despite the recent Maldives-China Free Trade Agreement, the Modi government says it remains firmly committed to its “Neighbours First” policy and has bolstered defence cooperation with Male in the past year.

Sources familiar with the proceedings of the Consultative Committee of Parliament on External Affairs, which met on December 21, said MPs from the Congress, the NCP and the Left parties said India’s ties with several South Asian neighbours faced challenges.

Seeking an explanation on the situation in the Maldives, a senior MP supposedly asked: “Why is India unable to address concerns of an island nation whose size is equal to that of [the Delhi neighbourhood of] Maharani Bagh?”

The question created a stir at the meeting, which examined ties with Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Nepal, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Myanmar and Afghanistan. The meeting was attended by D. Raja of the CPI, Dr. Karan Singh, Anand Sharma and Shashi Tharoor of the Congress and Dr. Subramanian Swamy (BJP), among others.

“India has always been there for Maldives and will continue our commitment to be the “first” friend,” said the MEA, which also acknowledged that the 2015 visit to Maldives by Prime Minister Narendra Modi “was cancelled at the last minute due to political developments in Maldives.”

People familiar with the meeting said that a Rajya Sabha MP also raised the issues before India-Nepal ties following the return of K.P. Sharma Oli as the newly elected leader of Nepal as Mr Oli is known to be a critic of India’s policies towards Nepal. “For the first time, a party campaigned on clearly anti-India platform and people have voted that party to power. Developments in Nepal remain of serious concern to us,” the MP said.





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