We must make the neighbourhood sensitive to our security concerns, he says

India must be non-reciprocal and generous with smaller neighbours of South Asia, said External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar at an event to celebrate the centenary of the late Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral here. The Minister said the Gujral Doctrine was crafted in the 1990s when relationship with Pakistan had “some optimism”, which was eroded after the series of cross-border terror attacks.

“In today’s circumstance, I would express it as the Neighbourhood First. It means that as the biggest country of the region, we must take the lead, must go the extra mile, must be non-reciprocal, must be generous, must invest in our neighbourhood. So that irrespective of issues that the neighbours might have vis-a-vis India, we should be able to create an environment so that the neighbourhood remains bound to us and sensitive to our core security concerns and we in turn go the extra mile in terms of their development aspirations,” said Mr. Jaishankar at an event regarding the relevance of the Gujral Doctrine in the 21st century.

Mr. Jaishankar was posted in the embassy in Moscow during the late 1970s when Gujral was the Ambassador to the Soviet Union and he recollected his memories of those days. The Minister indicated that unlike Gujral’s policy which was aimed at the entire region, the “Neighbourhood First” of the Modi government would keep Pakistan ‘aside’.

“The Gujral Doctrine was formulated when Gujral was the External Affairs Minister and as the Prime Minister when there were still grounds for some optimism as far as Pakistan was concerned. He belonged to a generation that brought a certain amount of sentiment, almost nostalgia into that relationship but if you look thereafter — the Parliament attack and 26/11 attack — as a result of which today a lot of those expectations of the 1990s are very difficult to justify and harbour,” said Mr. Jaishankar. His formulation of “Neighbourhood First” would keep Pakistan away and would include the rest of the neighbourhood.

Following Mr. Jaishankar, former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh also indicated that including Pakistan in a non-reciprocal relationship was no longer possible given the state of the relationship. Dr. Singh recalled that Gujral himself had observed at one point during the UPA years that Pakistan and China should be kept out of India’s non-reciprocal policy for its immediate neighbourhood.