President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday said India needs to make full use of the opportunities offered by the recent Iranian nuclear deal, including pursuing the TAPI pipeline project and reviving the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline.
“We need to make full use of the opportunities offered by the recent Iranian nuclear deal which opens the possibility of establishing connectivity with the region through the development of Chahbahar Port in Iran,” Mukherjee said after inaugurating the concluding conference of a programme on “Cooperative Development, Peace and Security in South and Central Asia”, organised by the Centre for Rural and Industrial Development in Chandigarh.
“This also opens up the possibility of implementing the International North South Corridor for a competitive and quick route to Eurasia for India.”
“India’s future dependence on imported energy, mainly oil and gas, is a stark reality that will also require creative and diversifying sources of supply.”
“The Central Asian States have considerable surplus and the TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) pipeline project is worth pursuing both for sourcing energy supplies and its collateral geo-strategic benefits.”
“The Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline can also be revived since Iran has already built the section of the pipeline in its territory. Such energy projects could also prove to be game changers for geo-strategic stability,” Mukherjee pointed out.
“While India enjoys goodwill and a cultural connect with the Central Asian nations, the lack of physical connectivity so far has hindered the realisation of full potential of trade and economic cooperation with the region,” he said.
While admitting that regional integration had eluded countries in South Asia and the goals of SAARC had been undermined, Mukherjee said: “This approach of foreign policy for economic progress and development is nowhere more relevant than in our South Asian neighbourhood and the extended neighbourhood, including Central Asia.
“Both South and Central Asia face enormous challenges with regard to development as well as security. These range from ensuring economic growth and stability to dealing with transnational security threats such as the scourge of drug-trafficking and terrorism.
“Our approach to both the regions has been to build bridges of friendship and cooperation, establish greater physical and people-to-people connectivity and foster closer integration for overall progress and well-being,” he said.
“South Asian neighbours are clearly our highest priority in keeping with our neighbourhood first policy. Our approach to South Asia has always been one of seeking shared prosperity and security.”
“Our South Asian neighbours are our most indispensable partners. However, it is also a fact that the region remains amongst the least integrated and developed. Clearly, there is need for greater effort and energy to meet our many shared challenges,” he pointed out.
Commending the Narendra Modi government for trying to foster closer ties with neighbouring countries in South Asia by inviting leaders for the swearing-in ceremony in May 2014, Mukherjee said the government had “articulated a desire to pursue a policy of three Cs — greater connectivity, closer cooperation and broader contacts to promote closer ties in the region”.
“It has conveyed a clear message that India wishes to use its size and scale to pull the entire subcontinent along on the path to growth and development,” he said.
“All this has yielded positive results. The resolution of the decades-old Land Boundary Agreement and settling the maritime boundary with Bangladesh, supply of water to the Maldives suffering from breakdown of water supply system, India’s immediate assistance to Nepal after the devastating earthquake, continuing its close cooperation with Bhutan, and pursuing proactive cooperation with the new government in Sri Lanka have all signalled India’s willingness to pursue this strategy.”
“With Pakistan, our efforts have not yielded the desired progress for reasons that are known to all of you,” he said.
“The South Asian landscape and its geo-politics present its own set of challenges. Despite geographical contiguity, the promise of regional integration has eluded us and undermined the goals of SAARC, solemnly adopted at summit-level meetings.
“Hence, India must push ahead with sub-regional cooperation such as through the BBIN Growth Quadrangle and pursue its bilateral ties with like-minded countries in the region in areas such as road transport, energy and water resources,” he said.