New Delhi: Asserting that ‘Neighbourhood First’ must deliver in difficult times, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Wednesday said this is a time for India to step up its support to its neighbours by understanding their problems and help out.

Speaking at the Asia Economic Dialogue via video conferencing, he cited the Indian government’s efforts to deal with the Covid pandemic, saying free rations were given to 800 million people.

“We have been putting money into the accounts of 400 million people. All this is being done without leakage, in a country which once upon a time was notorious for leakage,” Jaishankar said during the online session in which Sri Lankan Health Minister Dr Keheliya Rambukwella and Bhutanese Finance Minister Lyonpo Namgay Tshering also participated.

“We keep saying neighbourhood first…it must deliver in times of difficulty,” he said.

Noting that some countries like Sri Lanka have had to take a higher degree of a hit during Covid, he also said there are still countries going through health problems.

“We are are now supplying vaccines to Afghanistan and Myanmar,” he said.

“The message I have is that this is a time for India to actually step up its support to its neighbours, to look at each one of them, sit with them, understand what their problems are and see what we can do,” Jaishankar said.

Underlining that Sri Lanka has a balance of payments issue and needs a regular supply of fuel and essential commodities, Jaishankar asserted that India will be a reliable friend to it.

“This is the time for us to demonstrate that neighbourhood first really delivers. Not just in terms of lines of credit but also in terms of investments. If Indian tourists go out, if Indian businesses go out, also if Indian government’s investments can shore up other people’s economy and expand employment…and I can assure them that India will rise to that occasion,” he said.

Also read | Will not agree to any change in status quo: Jaishankar on eastern Ladakh standoff

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