India to Place Special Emphasis on Neighbourhood: Swaraj

India will place special emphasis on its neighbourhood, stretching from West Asia to East Asia, while playing a role to fulfill its international responsibilities to build a peaceful and prosperous world, the government told Parliament today.

Making suo motu statements in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Brazil for the BRICS Summit, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said the new government has already "actively and decisively" followed that policy in the short time that it has been in office.

She made the statement on insistence by opposition Congress that the Prime Minister make a statement on the 6th BRICS Summit attended by him.

Hitting back, Swaraj said former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had attended five BRICS Summits during his tenure but no statement was made in Parliament.

"There has never been a tradition (of making a statement on BRICS Summit). We are starting a new tradition today," she said before making the statement.

Swaraj said the Prime Minister was very satisfied with the outcome of the BRICS Summit and his meetings with leaders of partner countries of the grouping -- Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa -- besides those of South American nations.

"In the emerging global environment, it is essential for India to pursue pro-active and broad-based international engagement to advance our national development and security and to fulfill our international responsibilities to build a peaceful and prosperous world," the minister said.

"We will continue to place special emphasis on our neighbourhood, stretching from West Asia to East Asia," she said.

Giving details, Swaraj said the Summit underlined the relevance and role of BRICS as an important additional instrument for promoting global economic growth and stability, economic development in resource-constrained countries and international peace.

"The prevailing political turmoil, economic weakness and general uncertainty in the world imposes greater responsibility on BRICS to strengthen collective international efforts to address these challenges," she said.

"The BRICS countries have the ability to take major decisions quickly, which encourages us to set higher ambitions for ourselves in the future," the External Affairs Minister said while referring to the agreements on the establishment of the New Development Bank and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement reached at the July 14-15 Summit.

The Bank not only offers additional long-term source of development finance for members, it has also generated hope and excitement in the developing world, she said.

The Contingency Reserve Arrangement will provide additional means of cushion against any sudden external pressures on the rupee and is particularly helpful at a time of persisting risk of volatility in international financial markets, the minister said.

During the Summit, the Prime Minister emphasised on the need for stronger international unity and partnership in combating terrorism, ensuring a peaceful and stable Afghanistan and addressing the turmoil in West Asia.

"We reaffirmed our commitment to contribute to a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the Arab-Israel conflict on the basis of universally-recognised international legal framework, including the relevant UN resolutions, the Madrid Principles and the Arab Peace Initiative."

"We believe the resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict is a fundamental component for building a sustainable peace in the Middle East," the minister said.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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