One of the biggest challenges before the country is to get the confidence of the neighbouring countries and to ensure political stability in the neighbourhood so that they do not fall into the hands of forces inimical towards India, Chief of Army Staff General V. K Singh has said.

The General was giving a lecture on ‘India's role in South Asia: Strategic Challenges and Opportunities in the 21st Century' at Pondicherry University on Friday.

India as an emerging economic power has the responsibility to create confidence with its neighbours so that “they can walk with us and not pull us in different directions.” One of the biggest challenges before Indian foreign policy makers is how to instil this confidence, he said.

Stating that “the younger brother, elder brother syndrome will not work,” he said that if South Asia had to get the right place among the comity of nations, the neighbours had to work together with mutual respect and understanding.

In this respect he said, “India's role will be significant because of the reason that we are a very large, strong, vibrant, secular and multicultural democracy. We were able to unify our diversity for a better gain. That is something which others can follow. ”

“South Asia is an area which has got more security challenges at present than any other part of the world. We have relationships that are defined at times by a lot of animosity and mistrust. There is large number of historically existing inter and intra State conflicts in this region and therefore there is the problem of working together towards a common aim in this region,” Gen. Singh said.

The General went on to add that “a time will come when we may have much more free trade among nations in South Asia, like in Europe.” The economic necessities can bring the nations in this region closer, he said. He stressed the need for close military cooperation with neighbouring countries.

The General touched upon the situation in Afghanistan, relationship with Pakistan, China, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Referring to Afghanistan, he said the situation there remained a concern. “A Taliban rule in Afghanistan or a takeover will spell doom to the entire region,” he pointed out.

Saying that he would not like to use the word “failed state” to describe Pakistan, he said, however, the condition there was “serious” from the security point of view. Touching upon the affairs in Sri Lanka, he said though the country was successful in fighting terrorism within the country, a lot depended on how Sri Lanka dealt with rehabilitation of internally displaced people.