New Delhi, Feb. 21 (ANI): Emphasizing that India attaches the highest priority to relations with its immediate neighbours, President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday said New Delhi has made progress towards normalization of relations, strengthening mechanisms for bilateral trade and facilitating greater people-to-people contact with Pakistan.
President Mukherjee said the government's foreign policy continues to be driven by the objectives of creating an enabling environment for our national development, ensuring the security of the nation and fulfilling our international responsibilities.
"We continue to seek peace, stability, cooperation and economic development in the sub-continent. We attach the highest priority to relations with our immediate neighbours. With Pakistan, we have made progress towards normalization of relations, strengthening mechanisms for bilateral trade and facilitating greater people-to-people contact," said President Mukherjee.
"While we remain committed to taking the process forward, it is also important that Pakistan abides by its commitments and desists from acts that contribute to a trust deficit. As Afghanistan prepares for the political and security transition in 2014 and beyond, we will continue to help Afghanistan evolve peacefully and fight terrorism and extremism," he added.
President Mukherjee said the government proposes to introduce a Constitutional Amendment Bill in Parliament to give effect to the provisions of the Land Boundary Agreement with Bangladesh and its 2011 Protocol, which will strengthen border management and our security.
"We are making progress in our engagement with Sri Lanka, including in our efforts to resettle and rehabilitate the internally displaced persons there and to ensure a life of peace, dignity and equality for the Tamil people," said President Mukherjee.
"In West Asia and North Africa, my government supports efforts to promote peaceful settlement of conflicts and resolution of disputes in a manner that accommodates the democratic aspirations of the people. We are also mindful of the fact that the Gulf region is home to nearly six million Indians who live and work there and that we depend on the region for the bulk of our energy requirements. We have further enhanced our political engagement with and economic assistance to countries of Africa," he added.
President Mukherjee further said India has also elevated its relations with ASEAN to a strategic partnership
"At the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit in New Delhi in December 2012, which marked the tenth anniversary of the annual ASEAN-India Summits, we elevated our relations with ASEAN to a strategic partnership and concluded negotiations on an ASEAN-India Free Trade Agreement on services and investment," he added.
President Mukherjee said the government intends to work with the new Chinese leadership to reinforce the positive direction of the relationship.
"Our multi-faceted relationship with Japan, which is also a major partner in our infrastructure development efforts, is making good progress. The privileged and strategic partnership we have built with Russia received a further boost during the visit of President Valdimir Putin in December 2012," he added in his address to the joint sitting of the two Houses for the first time as President.
President Mukherjee said 'the strategic partnership with the United States has deepened, with progress across all areas of our relationship and we look forward to intensifying this engagement during the second term of President Obama'.
"India's traditionally strong relations with Europe will continue to develop. The visit of President Francois Hollande to Delhi in February 2013, his first Asian destination as President, will further strengthen our friendship and broad-based strategic cooperation with France," he added.
President Mukherjee further said India played an important role in the Council's efforts to promote international peace and security as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council during the last two years.
" We intensified efforts to generate momentum for early reform of the United Nations Security Council. We are also seeking concerted international action against piracy. In addition, a Piracy Bill was introduced in the Parliament last year for prosecution in India of persons committing piracy," said President Mukherjee.
"India also remained constructively engaged in global multilateral diplomacy. We hosted the fourth BRICS Summit in New Delhi in March 2012 and the ministerial meet of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation in October 2012," he added.
President Mukherjee also informed that the government has established a Development Partnership Administration in the Ministry of External Affairs for more efficient and effective administration of our wide-ranging assistance programme, which covers financial aid, capacity building and training and the sharing of our development experience and expertise.
"My Government has successfully completed the implementation of the Passport Seva Project, one of the mission-mode projects under the National e-Governance Plan, to deliver passport related services to our citizens in a timely, convenient and transparent manner," he said.
Asserting that the government is deeply committed to promoting the interests and welfare of overseas Indians, President Mukherjee said: " The government launched the Mahatma Gandhi Pravasi Suraksha Yojana on a pilot basis in May 2012 to provide emigrant Indian workers benefits like life insurance cover, pensions and Return and Resettlement savings."
"We also signed Social Security Agreements with Finland, Canada, Japan and Sweden. Similar agreements with Austria and Portugal will be signed soon," he added. (ANI)