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Modi’s speech in Nepal shows India ispaying attention to its neighbors


NEW DELHI — After two decades of aspiringto economic and strategic clout in the Western world, India is now payingattention to those closer to home.

India's newly elected Prime MinisterNarendra Modi wants to focus on India's immediate neighborhood. His trip toNepal this week, the first by an Indian prime minister in 17 years, is anunambiguous shift in New Delhi's diplomatic priorities, long obsessed withwooing the West.
The first sign came when Modi pulled adiplomatic coup of sorts by inviting leaders of South Asian nations to his swearing-inceremony after his resounding election victory in May.
His first foreign trip was to Bhutan.His foreign minister Sushma Swaraj's first visit was to Bangladesh.
In Nepal, Modi pledged notto meddle in Nepal's internal affairs, announced $1 billion in creditassistance and performed an elaborate prayer ritual in the 5th century Hindutemple. In return, Modi said, Nepal can help end India's darkness.
"Nepal can free India of its darknesswith its electricity," saidModi referring to Nepal's hydro-power potential. "But we don't want freeelectricity, we want to buy it. Just by selling electricity to India, Nepal canfind a place in the developed countries of the world."
The metaphoric elephant in the room that noone spoke about was Chinaand its deepening investment and ties in Nepal during the years that Indialooked elsewhere.
"Modi pulls out all the stops forNepal trip: Is this enough to counter China?" askednews portal Firstpost.
Analysts say Modi's hardnosed economicpragmatism is behind India's zooming-in on the immediate neighborhood. Theright-of-center news Web site NitiCentral said Modi wants to turn India's "hostile borders benign andultimately gateways for free trade and commerce." Modi told lawmakers inKathmandu that "borders must be bridges not barriers."
分析家认为,莫迪的经济实用主义政策使得印度把焦点放在了邻国身上。中右翼新闻网站Niti Central 称莫迪想让敌对的边境变得友好并且使之成为自由贸易和商业的最终通道。莫迪对加德满都的立法者们说“边境一定要成为桥梁而不是障碍。”
"Modi mantra warms Nepal'shearts," said the Kathmandu Post newspaper. Nepali social media wasabuzz.
In contrast, the centerpiece of the 10-yearrule of former prime minister Manmohan Singh was the landmarkcivil nuclear agreement with the United States and the strategic alignmentbetween the two democracies. Singh also worked hard to repair relations withnuclear-armed neighbor Pakistan but failed to leave behind much of a peacelegacy.
India's "special emphasis" on itsneighborhood, said foreign minister Swaraj last month, should not bemisunderstood.
"India is not the big brother, it isjust an elder brother," Swarajsaid in Nepal. Swaraj is scheduled to travel to Myanmar next week.
Modi also punned on old fears of India'sregional dominance.
"I thought I should hit Nepal. Then Ithought you would feel bad," Modi said in Nepal's Constituent Assembly,and paused for effect. "But when I talk of hitting Nepal, I mean H-I-T.Highways, Infoways and Transways. You too would want this kind of a hitquickly," hesaid with a laugh.