‘Substantive dialogue with Pakistan among priorities'

New Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai. — Photo: V.V.Krishnan

New Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai. — Photo: V.V.Krishnan  

Ranjan Mathai on Monday took over as Foreign Secretary and declared the immediate neighbourhood, including “substantive dialogue'' with Pakistan, and public services as his priority areas.

Addressing a press conference, Mr. Mathai said the other focus area would be strong ties with all the major global players.

The veteran diplomat described the new assignment as “very complex'' and “full of many challenges.”

“The Ministry of External Affairs is part of the structure of foreign policy making. But we have to be scrupulous and efficient managers of the policies.

“We are in a world of flux and we have to be innovative and adapt to the situation as it develops, but at the same time we have to be clear-eyed about our national priorities and interests, many of which remain permanent. Obviously in dealing with the foreign policy challenges we have to take a holistic view of our political, strategic, economic, commercial, cultural as well as public aspects of our image as a country.

“Within this broad framework obviously the main challenges are maintaining an area, if I may put it, of constructive cooperation in the immediate neighbourhood, that is the main challenge, and I think that will be one of my priority tasks,'' he said.

India will have to be in close touch with countries of Africa, Latin America, Central Asia, South East Asia and the Gulf region.

On Pakistan, he pointed out that Foreign Secretaries are expected to pave the way for a substantive dialogue on all issues and “I look forward to cooperating with the Pakistan Foreign Secretary. We have to try and work to restore trust and confidence.''

He also wanted priority to be given to the public service dimension — work of the Ministry of External Affairs here and the embassies abroad — basically passport and consular services.

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