India wants to create peaceful environment with neighbours, says Nirupama Rao

New Delhi, Sep 21 (ANI): Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao has said India wants to strengthen economic relations with her neighbours since a peaceful neighbourhood is mandatory for the 'realisation of our own vision of economic growth'.

"Any visualization of India's global role must begin in our immediate neighbourhood because situational factors in that environment affect our internal security and therefore merit our greatest attention. The Indian economy with its rapid growth and the impact this exerts beyond our borders, is fast becoming an anchoring element in the region," said Nirupama Rao.

"We have articulated a policy in our neighbourhood that stresses the advantage of building networks of inter-connectivity, trade, and investment so that prosperity can be shared and that the region can benefit from India's rapid economic growth and rising prosperity," she added, while speaking on Monday at Harvard University on 'India's Global Role'.

Nirupama Rao said with sustained high economic growth rates over the past decade, India is in a better position to offer a significant stake to her neighbours .

"The close and contiguous geographies we share with our seven neighbours who together with us make up the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation or SAARC, compel increasing acknowledgement and recognition of the common destiny we share when it comes to issues such as food security, health, poverty alleviation, climate change, disaster management, women's empowerment, and economic development," said Rao.

"We have made unilateral gestures and extended economic concessions such as the facility of duty free access to Indian market for imports from Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka. We have put forward proposals multilaterally within the framework of the SAARC where we have assumed asymmetric responsibilities," she added.

Nirupama Rao said India has potential to be a great power by virtue of its population, resources and strategic location.

"A fundamental goal of India's foreign policy is to create an external environment that promotes the fulfillment of our economic growth targets and ambitions. And, these include three dimensions - capital inflows, access to technology and innovation, as well as the promotion of a free, fair and open world trading system that recognizes the development imperatives of a country like India," said Nirupama Rao.

This requires a peaceful and stable neighbourhood and external environment, a balanced relationship with the major powers and a durable and equitable multilateral global order," she added.

Nirupama Rao said Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh has spoken of the critical need to remove mass poverty in India for which we need a fast expanding economy.

"Where our global role, and our foreign policy comes into this growth story is to ensure that we create an environment, an external environment that is conducive to an increased flow of capital into the country. We also need to make increasing use of modern science and technology to boost our development profile - the import of such technology therefore becomes an important constituent in our quest to accelerate the pace of our socio-economic development," said Rao.

"Of late, India's global role has been mentioned frequently against the backdrop of what we would call a shift of economic power to Asia. Today, it is almost de rigeur to speak of the dynamic Indian growth story despite the ravages of the global economic crisis," said Nirupama Rao.

"But, to put our arms around the Indian experience, you have to beyond just the factor of fast economic growth. And that would lead us onto the quest of India's attributes and its enduring stability as a modern and democratic nation state," she added.

Talking of India's economic transformation, Nirupama Rao said she expects India at an average growth of a minimum of 7.5 percent growth in GDP per year to achieve a ten-fold increase in per capita income in the next 30 years and join the ranks of the developed countries.

"At this rate of growth, by 2020, we should be able to be categorized as a middle income developing country. We do not underestimate the challenges we face of meeting the education, health, energy and infrastructure needs of our population. 66 percent of our population lives in the rural sector, which at present contributes only around 20 per cent of our GDP," said Rao.

"The issue of increasing agricultural productivity, planning urban growth, ensuring sustainable development while controlling and reducing emissions intensity as a proportion of our GDP, reducing income inequalities, meeting the surge in education demand and ensuring that education access becomes a driver of equality, increasing power generation, and building infrastructure - roads, railways, airports and ports - better management of water resources, are all challenges we have to meet on the road ahead," she added.

The Foreign Secretary said India has to ensure that its growth is inclusive, equitable and empowers the most disadvantaged sections of the population.

"This approach has shaped and defined India's role on the global stage today, as the policies we seek to articulate and endorse internationally are based on our own domestic experience," she claimed. (ANI)

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