Published On: Sun, Feb 8th, 2015

Initiative to Invite SAARC Leaders for Swearing-In Last Year must be followed, says President

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s2015020862033New Delhi: President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee today (February 8, 2015) met delegates to the Sixth Annual Heads of Mission Conference at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Addressing the Ambassadors and High Commissioners who head India’s Missions abroad, the President said India demonstrated dynamism and bold leadership by inviting leaders of SAARC countries to attend the swearing-in of the new Government in May last year. That initiative must be followed through to its logical conclusion through incisive diplomacy even as we remain firm in protecting our security and putting in place impregnable security mechanisms.

The President said the one adage which never goes stale in international politics is ‘You can choose your friend but not your neighbour’. A strong message was conveyed to our neighbours that the region must decide whether to live in perpetual tension or understanding. Our initiatives in the neighbourhood must be followed up with concrete steps to consolidate and make permanent the advances we make in our relations.

Speaking on the issue of the global war on terrorism, the President said we have in recent days witnessed the horrific killings of innocent hostages in Syria, the attack on the media in Paris and the tragic killing of school children and their teachers in Peshawar. Terrorism is today an industry of evil. It is not just a threat to peace and security but an attack on humanity as a whole and civilization as we understand.

The President said India is one of the oldest victims of terrorism. There is no good terrorism or bad terrorism. Terrorism respects no religion, ideology or nation. It is no longer a debating issue. The international community must assert itself and tackle the problem by taking concerted, coordinated and determined action. This great menace and challenge to human values should be faced firmly and squarely through international cooperation. The President called upon India’s Ambassadors and High Commissioners to apply themselves to how this challenge can be addressed and to come up with ideas on how to mobilize the world to take concrete action that will mitigate and end this menace.

The President said last eight months have seen new vigour and dynamism in India’s foreign policy. President Barak Obama was our honoured guest for Republic Day. The visit was of substantive importance and not just symbolic. We also had visits by President Putin of Russia and President Xi Jinping of China recently. We were able to strike a deal in the WTO that enabled progress in trade liberalisation without comprising on our freedom to take measures essential for our food security. The Prime Minister has been personally reaching out to the Indian diaspora.

Having entered the Parliament in 1969 and served as External Affairs Minister twice, the President said he has worked with many generations of Foreign Service officers. He was aware that the jobs of HoMs is not easy. He understood their difficulties. He was aware of how they have proved their mettle at times of crises and never let the Government down. The President recalled the role played by Missions during evacuation of Indian citizens from foreign countries affected by war and turmoil. He pointed out that Indian Missions have extended assistance to even people from neighbouring countries on such occasions.

The President India’s diplomats have shown exemplary courage, skill and willingness to help our people. The tasks of an HoM are exacting but he had no doubt that every one of them would live up to the high expectations that India had of them. He was confident they will do their utmost to ensure that India’s flag continues to fly high.

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