New Delhi, Aug 1 (IANS): Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai, who assumed office today, said he has been mandated to pursue "substantive dialogue" with Pakistan and underlined that constructive cooperation in the immediate neighbourhood would be one of his key priorities.
Mathai, who succeeds Nirupama Rao, India's next ambassador to the US, said continuity would be the watchword during his tenure and stressed that building "cooperative and strong relationships with all the major global players" would be amongst his key priorities. "The foreign secretary is as much an institution as an individual," Mathai told reporters here after joining his office in South Block in the morning.
He stressed the need for a holistic foreign policy that takes care of India's political and strategic interests, combines the economic and commercial interests of the country, and also keeps in mind the cultural image of the country and the way in which the country portrays itself in the world. "Constructive cooperation in the immediate neighbourhood is the main challenge, and I think that will be one of my priority tasks," he said. Mathai also spoke about the need for developing "very very strong relations with the countries of Africa, Latin America, of Central Asia, of South East Asia and the Gulf region". "I think managing all these would be the major challenge," he said.
Days after the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan held talks here, Mathai said he would continue the re-engagement process of restoring trust between the two neighbours. "My mandate is substantive dialogue on all issues of common concerns," said Mathai, when asked about the trajectory of the revived India-Pakistan dialogue process.
"As regards Pakistan, I would like to say that I have entered this office with a mandate, which is that we as foreign secretaries are expected to pave the way for a substantive dialogue with Pakistan, on all issues," he said. "...and I look forward to cooperating with the Pakistan foreign secretary on that and we have to try and work to restore trust and confidence."
Mathai, who was India's ambassador to France when he was appointed foreign secretary last month, will have a two-year term. A 1974 batch Indian Foreign Service officer, Mathai was India's ambassador to Israel February 1998 to June 2001, and to Qatar August 2001 to July 2005. He was joint secretary dealing with India's relations with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and the Maldives from January 1995 to February 1998. He has also served in the Indian embassies in Vienna, Colombo, Washington, Tehran and Brussels.