The country needs to craft astute and strategic responses to challenges arising from its neighbouring countries, former Foreign Secretary Nirupama Menon Rao has said.

She was delivering the 22nd Sree Chithira Tirunal memorial lecture on ‘India in a tough neighbourhood’ here on Saturday.

“India has a central position is South Asia. The going has become tough in the surrounding region due to sectarian divides, radicalism, and the proliferation of arms. The right mix of strength and strategic restraint is needed in this situation. We need to follow a policy which focusses on contact and dialogue with the neighbours,” she said.

About the situation in Afghanistan, she said India should ensure that the elected government was not left on its own to fight battles with extremist elements.

The North-Eastern States would benefit by smoother entry to other parts of India through Bangladesh. It was vital to work together with Bangladesh to fight terrorism.

In Sri Lanka, the end of civil war had provided a historic opportunity for reconciliation.

India should ensure that the self-respect of Tamil minority should not be eroded.

As for dealing with China, she said the challenge was in managing the relationship between the two countries despite its inherent complexities. The dispute over territory with China was not new.

“There is a risk of these issues obfuscating our vision for the future. India has much work left on strengthening communication and transport in the border regions,” she said.