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Congress manifesto pledges to engage with Pakistan depending on its willingness to end cross-border terrorism

New Delhi: The Congress party will repair India's relations with the Maldives and will engage with Pakistan on its willingness and ability to end cross-border terrorism if it is voted to power following the Lok Sabha elections poised to be held from April 19, as per the party manifesto released on Friday.

"We will repair relations with the Maldives and work with Myanmar to protect the political and human rights of the people of Myanmar. Engagement with Pakistan depends fundamentally on its willingness and ability to end cross-border Terrorism. Congress will significantly increase the size of the Indian Foreign Service, open more missions abroad, leverage our economic strengths, and acquire a position of leadership through the country's values and mutually beneficial economic relationships," the manifesto said.

"There was a consensus on foreign policy since Independence. Unfortunately, in many areas, foreign policy under the BJP/NDA government has witnessed marked departures from this consensus, notably on the ongoing Gaza conflict. Congress pledges to restore India's global reputation as a voice of peace and moderation in world affairs," it added.

Emphasising improving bilateral relations with China, Congress promised to work on restoring the status quo ante on India-China borders to ensure the revival of armies patrolling in the areas which were accessible in past.

"Congress recognises that national security is not enhanced by chest-thumping or exaggerated claims but by quiet attention to our borders and resolute defence preparedness. We will work to restore the status quo ante on our borders with China and to ensure that areas where both armies patrolled in the past are again accessible to our soldiers. We will take the necessary steps to adjust our policy towards China until this is achieved," the manifesto read.

"Congress will pay greater attention to our immediate neighbours. We will re-establish the primacy of our special relationships with Nepal and Bhutan and strengthen them to our mutual benefit. We will enhance economic and cultural relations between India and Bangladesh that are the two most populous countries in South Asia," it added.

Congress also vowed to work with Sri Lanka to restore the political and commercial relations between the two countries.

"We will work with Sri Lanka to restore the political and commercial relations between the two countries and help Sri Lanka resolve its political issues, especially with the Tamils," it said vowing to strengthen economic and cultural ties with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Earlier, External Affairs Minister, S Jaishankar refuted any doubts regarding India's relation with its neighbours, adding that there might be "forces" inside India and in the neighbourhood "who want to create problems."

He further said that barring Pakistan and China, India's relationship with the neighbourhood is much better that it has been for a long time.

"If we talk about neighbours, please go to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and ask people what they think. During their deepest economic trouble, who stood by? Go to Nepal and ask them where do you get your vaccines, who gave you fertilizer and fuel when the Ukraine trouble happened.

So, I won't agree that our neighbourhood is not in our favour. There may be forces in the neighbourhood and 'forces behind forces' who create problems...there may be people in India who like to play out this problem," the EAM said.

He added, "As I said we have a very abnormal relation with China. With Pakistan, you all know what is the state of current relationship. But, barring those two, our relationship with the neighbourhood has been much better than it has been for a long time." 

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