India for better relations with neighbours: Pranab

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Guwahati, Jun 15 (UNI) External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee today made it clear that India was only concerned about improving relations with neighbours and not bothered about the format of the government in those countries.

Snubbing the western country's advice that India should play bigger role in establishing democracy in its neighborhood, the Eternal Affairs Minister said it was not his responsibility.

''The West knows that we have been like this position for past 60 years. Now our only aim is to improve the relationship with our neighbours. There are boundary problems and our job is to iron out those as much as possible'', he said.

He was referring to Myanmar as he inaugurated the fourth branch office of the Ministry of External Affairs in Guwahati.

The need of this branch office has arisen as India was increasingly trying to open the economy and border with its South East Asian neighbours as part of the ''Look East'' policy.

The opening of the new office was one step closer to achieving the dream of Northeast doing the trade with the South East Asia through a land route.

''The major objective of our government has been and continues to be to strengthen the development process of the north eastern region through integration with the larger regional processes,'' he said.

''This is reflected in our gradual yet well grounded forms of cooperative endeavours in the context of our successful cooperation in the ASEAN, BIMSTEC, Mekong-Ganga Cooperation (MCG) and East Asia Summit (EAS) framework'', he added.

''The formation development of these groups has provided an elastic yet energetic framework to promote deeper economic integration between India and the countries of East and South. It has also provided a structure to discuss political and security issues, to enhance understanding of each other's view'' he said.

The Northeast has been patiently waiting to unlock itself with the South East Asian countries and over the past decade, that is slowly being achieved through a variety of measure including two car rallies.

Land routes from India to Myanmar, Thailand and other South East Asian countries have immense potential. The process was well underway, he said. He,however, wanted that to derive full benefit from such linkage, a focus on completion of infrastructure development, including transportation linkages, amongst the state of the Northeast was extremely important. This would accelerate economic development by converting the Northeast from being land locked to being land linked.

Union Minister of Panchyati Raj and North Eastern region Mani Shankar Aiyar was also present on the occasion.

Mr Aiyar said flawed foreign policies for over four decades had led to the isolation of the North Eastern region.

He hoped that Sittwe project through the Kaladan river would change the communication to the North Eastern region and for that he too stressed on harmonial relationship with the neighbours.

Assam Chief Minster Tarun Gogoi and his Manipur counterpart O Idobi Singh were also present on this occasion.

UNI MT PC AKJ BST1844

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