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India to boost connectivity with Bangladesh & Nepal with new rail links, says foreign secy

Harsh Vardhan Shringla said Wednesday that the neighbourhood is a priority for India, and it works closely with all neighbours, ‘except Pakistan’.

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New Delhi: Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said Wednesday that India will soon set up several rail linkages with Nepal and Bangladesh, in a major boost to New Delhi’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy.

Addressing the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA) in Mussoorie, Uttarakhand, the foreign secretary said, “Globalisation begins with our neighbourhood”.

Shringla emphasised that the neighbourhood has “first and foremost priority” in India’s foreign policy, adding that India works closely with all neighbours, except Pakistan.

“Greater economic integration within regions is known to produce a whole that exceeds the sum of parts. Our policies in the region therefore lay the greatest emphasis on augmenting connectivity physical, economic, energy and digital,” he said, introducing the first ever training module on India’s neighbourhood at the academy.

“We believe that this will, among other things, induce a virtuous cycle in which connectivity and growth feed each other.”

Elaborating on how connectivity with the neighbourhhood has shown “striking results”, Shringla said: “The first is connectivity. Connectivity within parts of our neighbourhood by road, water, rail and air, and often by multi-modal transport, has steadily improved.”

“Railways between countries are causing a rapid shrinking of South Asia’s geography. India and Bangladesh will soon be connected through six rail links, and India and Nepal by two rail links,” he added.

In terms of connectivity with Bangladesh, the foreign secretary said that goods can now reach Tripura using multi-modal networks through Chittagong and inland water routes.

“Recently an inland waterways vessel carrying food grains sailed from Patna and reached Pandu in Assam. The vessel travelled from India’s National Waterway-1 to National Waterway-2, through the waterways of Bangladesh,” Shringla added.

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‘India works closely with all neighbours, except Pakistan’

The ‘Neighbourhood First Policy’ of the Narendra Modi government accords the highest priority to India’s relations with Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives, Myanmar, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the foreign secretary said.

“It is the neighbourhood that comes first and foremost amongst all our foreign policy priorities,” he stressed, while addressing foreign service trainees at LBSNAA. “It is these countries with the exception of Pakistan that we work most closely with.”

“Countries in our neighbourhood are of special significance to us. Our ties with these countries are underpinned by a shared history and culture. Policy initiatives taken by India and its neighbours have implications for each other,” Shringla highlighted.

“Ties with the neighbouring countries have a direct relevance to our states bordering these countries. India also realises its prosperity and growth are linked to that of its neighbours. We cannot develop unless our neighbours develop,” he also emphasised.

(Edited by Gitanjali Das)

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