India to focus on diplomacy for development in 2015, says Swaraj

Sushma SwarajNew Delhi, Dec 31 : External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has said that 2014 was a year of breakthrough diplomacy for India, and added that New Delhi will in the next year focus on diplomacy for development with a new vision and renewed vigour.

A statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs ( MEA) quoted External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj as saying that the Indian Government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given a place of special significance to our foreign policy and diplomatic out-reach.

"Revitalizing traditional ties, re-setting strategic relations and reaching out to Indians abroad have been primary to India's diplomatic efforts," the statement said.

"In keeping with the government's diplomatic priority of 'Neighbourhood First', the Prime Minister invited leaders of all SAARC countries for the oath-taking ceremony in May 2014. Prime Minister then travelled to Bhutan and Nepal; our two northern neighbours and traditional friends, for his first two visits abroad," the statement added.

Swaraj said, as the External Affairs Minister, she has already visited five of the seven South Asian neighbours and hosted the Sri Lankan External Affairs Minister at home.

"At times of agony and pain, we have reached out to Pakistan," she added.

Swaraj further said the recent engagements with our South Asian neighbours; be it bilateral- 'Operation Neer', when Maldives faced a grave water crisis, the support for a national memorial at the site of the gift of the largest national flag to the people of Afghanistan as a symbol of India's commitment to our neighbour's unity and stability, helping to re-open the Colombo-Jaffna rail link after 24 years and 'Made in India' defense exports to Nepal, Maldives, Mauritius; or multilateral- the SAARC satellite by 2016; they are all a reflection of our Government's vision of India's shared future as an integral part of a peaceful, secure and prosperous comity of nations in South Asia, and the world beyond.

She added that the Prime Minister- through his historic address to the Constituent Assembly of Nepal; and his healing words at the Parliament in Fiji; a society which just held their first elections without 'separate electoral rolls' and his epoch making 'B4B' speech to the fledgling Parliamentary democracy in Bhutan; has made it clear that India continues to shine brightly as a beacon of hope for democracy across the world.

Swaraj further said the Prime Minister's first bilateral visit outside the sub-continent to Japan, the first visit by the present Chinese President to India, multilateral engagements in Myanmar at ASEAN-EAS Summits and bilateral visit to Australia as well as active participation at the G-20 Summit in Brisbane, the first ever Forum for India-Pacific Islands Co-operation (FIPIC) plus three high level diplomatic engagements with Vietnam, exchange of several Ministerial visits with Singapore and my recent visit to Republic of Korea, taken together, have activated India's 'Act East' policy.

"Summit Level engagements with Strategic Partners like United States and Russia with major substantive outcomes, were a major part of our diplomatic success story of the past six months.

India's engagement with West Asia- our traditional partners; reflected in Prime Minister's recent meetings with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and the Prime Minister of Israel and my own visits to Bahrain and UAE, have been intense and wide-ranging," said Swaraj.

"On 24 November, on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people, Prime Minister re-affirmed India's continued support for the cause of Palestine. As 2014 draws to an end, the uncertainty about the fate of 39 Indians in Iraq continues to weigh deeply on all of us. Our efforts will continue unabated.

The Indian Diaspora, thanks to our unprecedented diplomatic outreach, felt connected to India like never before!" she added.

Swaraj further said, "While Prime Minister addressed major gatherings in New York and Sydney; I travelled to the United Kingdom for the regional Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, and to Mauritius for the 180th Anniversary commemoration of the 'Arrival of the Girmityas
(Indentured Labour)'."

"Wherever Indian citizens were in peril, from Libya and Iraq to Sydney in Australia and Lugansk in Ukraine, our Government was right besides them to re-assure, rescue and bring them back home safely. Over the past six months, we have successfully secured the release of more than 550 Indian fishermen from the Sri Lankan jails," she added.

The External Affairs Minister also said that multilateral engagements provided platforms to bring the economic underpinnings of our foreign policy to the forefront.

"At the BRICS Summit in July, we laid the foundation for a New Development Bank meant to cater to the needs of the developing world. An Indian will be the first President of this unique new initiative," she added.

Swaraj said at the heart of India's international engagements have been efforts to promote cooperation on skill development; advanced medical research for diseases like the agreement on research for malaria and TB with the United States; food security, such as our work with Australia on agricultural research; education, such as the collaboration with the United States on a new generation Indian Institute of Technology.

"Kyoto-Varanasi, Ahmedabad-Guangzhou and Mumbai-Shanghai city twinning arrangements, high-speed rail links across Indian metros, the agreement with the United States on developing three smart cities; will all provide impetus to India's rapid urbanization.

Indian culture and ethos has been gaining new global recognition. On 11 December 2014, United Nations, with an unprecedented 177 countries as 'co-sponsors', took the historic decision to declare 21 June as 'International Yoga Day'," she added.

Swaraj said that in June, India and China; jointly brought out an 'Encyclopedia of Cultural Contacts'; a historic initiative to chronicle the millennia old civilizational ties between our two countries.

"Indian diplomacy, for timely dissemination of information, has harnessed technology- particularly social and new media platforms; and is working to streamline and speed up the passport-issuance process," she added.

Asserting that 2014 has truly been a Year of Breakthrough Diplomacy, Swaraj said: "India's star is today shining ever brighter on the global firmament. This booklet highlights the expanded canvas of our diplomatic discourse."

"Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, coinciding with the centenary of Mahatma Gandhi's return to India, scheduled visit of President Obama to India for the Republic Day, plans for the largest ever India-Africa Summit and new steps to 'Link West'; all promise to make 2015 an even more grand affair!" she added.

Swaraj further said, "With 'Diplomacy for Development' as the overarching theme of our global engagements in 2015, we will pursue the vision of a Rising India, with new vigour and even greater resolve." (ANI)