Modi greets neighbourhood leaders on New Year

On the first day of the new year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated India’s commitment to its “neighbourhood first” policy and a “vision of shared peace and prosperity” in telephonic conversations with leaders of all countries in the region — with the exception of Pakistan PM Imran Khan.

The Prime Minister spelled out a commitment to prosperity and progress for all of India’s “friends and partners in the region”.

Sources said the current circumstances in bilateral ties between India and Pakistan didn’t lend themselves to a similar call to Khan though they didn’t rule out an exchange of greetings in some form later.

India’s already stuttering ties with Pakistan further dipped after the abrogation of Jammu & Kashmir’s special status last August, which led to Islamabad launching a diplomatic offensive.

Khan attacked India for the “anti-Muslim” measure and spoke of nuclear conflict in an effort to attract global attention. India’s counter-offensive sent bilateral ties into a deep freeze.

One of the first leaders Modi spoke to was Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina, whom he congratulated on being re-elected as president of the Awami League for the next three years. Modi also expressed his condolences on the untimely demise of former high commissioner of Bangladesh to India Syed Muazzem Ali. “He also mentioned the upcoming birth centenary of Bangabandhu and 50 years of the liberation of Bangladesh and establishment of bilateral diplomatic ties besides important milestones to further the progress in close India-Bangladesh ties, a priority of his government,” said an official statement.

The conversation is important in the context of heated politics over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act which has seen frequent references to illegal migrants from Bangladesh and the “persecution” of Hindus in that country.

In his conversation with PM K P Oli of Nepal, Modi expressed satisfaction at the progress of relations in 2019, with the completion of several projects. He specifically noted the completion of the Motihari (India)-Amlekhgunj (Nepal) petroleum product pipeline in record time. They also agreed on early inauguration of the integrated checkpost in the city Biratnagar and the housing reconstruction project in Nepal. Oli tweeted about his conversation in which he said there was mention of the need to address pending issues.

Modi also spoke to Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, PM Lotay Tshering, and Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and PM Mahinda Rajapaksa, and also Maldives President Ibrahim Solih. “The prime minister conveyed his New Year greetings and good wishes on behalf of the people of India and on his own behalf,” added the statement. In his conversation with the Bhutan king, Modi spoke of important achievements that led to further consolidation of ties between India and Bhutan. “The PM fondly recalled his last visit to Bhutan and the love and affection he received from the people there. He also emphasised the need to enhance youth exchanges between the two countries. The PM also mentioned that he was looking forward to forthcoming visit of the king to India,” said the government.

Gotabaya was said to have warmly reciprocated Modi’s wishes and expressed confidence that India and Sri Lanka would further enhance friendly ties in 2020. The two reiterated their commitment to closely work together towards this end. With Mahinda, Modi reiterated India’s commitment to further expand close and extensive cooperation with Sri Lanka. PM Rajapaksa reciprocated the wishes warmly and expressed a keen desire to further enhance relations between the two countries.

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