Moving away from old SAARCy ways

The projects in the railways, power and port sectors are critical to creating jobs, growing the economy and improving lives in Bangladesh. Emerging as the major development partner, India also gains. A reminder that a partnership in which both countries gain is the only sure way to ensure peace, prosperity and growth in the region.

New Delhi: In these days of India's growing presence at the global high table, one can be forgiven for forgetting that New Delhi still has a neighbourhood to deal with. Which it is, one must say, doing with aplomb. The three India-assisted development projects in Bangladesh jointly inaugurated by Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday marks an important moment not just in the bilateral ties between both democracies, but is also regional foreign policy 101 as it should be. These projects are part of New Delhi's broader efforts to be a partner that seeks to address needs of identified neighbours, Sri Lanka being the other case. With Colombo, it's not just about infrastructure like railways but also about debt restructuring and ameliorating economic crises. These efforts should serve as demonstration of what a partnership with India looks like, and establish it as a viable alternative to other less-friendly partnership models.

India should look at expanding this cooperation to address existential challenges such as climate change and biodiversity loss to focus on the industries of the future that deal with clean energy, improving resilience and adaptive capacities. South Asia is particularly vulnerable to climate change damage. Regional cooperation in South Asia has moved a long way from the old Saarc days. The challenges that South Asian countries face are not only collective but also bilateral action.

India's approach of emerging as the 'major development partner' for countries in the region, one neighbour at a time, serves as a demonstration effect for others. It also helps counter concerns of a 'Big Brother India' that has understandably existed.

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