New Delhi, June 9: The government would follow a foreign policy based on “enlightened national interest” and a “doctrine of mutually beneficial relationships”, focusing on the immediate South Asian neighbourhood first, President Pranab Mukherjee said on Monday.

Addressing a joint session of parliament, President Mukherjee said the invite to the South Asian leaders for the swearing in of Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent a “unique and bold signal” to South Asia and the world. It was indicative of the government’s determination to build a “strong and interlinked neighbourhood”.

“We will pursue our international engagement based on enlightened national interest, combining the strength of our values with pragmatism, leading to a doctrine of mutually beneficial relationships. My government is committed to building a strong, self-reliant and self-confident India; regaining its rightful place in the comity of nations,” he said.

The president said the government was grateful to the SAARC leaders for accepting the invite at short notice and their participation at the swearing-in ceremony “added sheen to the ceremony and also represented a celebration of democracy in the region and convergence of our shared hopes and aspirations”.

He said the government would work together with South Asian leaders to revitalise the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) “as an effective instrument for regional cooperation and as a united voice on global issues”. But India would “never shy away from raising issues of concern to us at a bilateral level”.

“The future of shared prosperity can only be built on the foundation of stability in the region, which requires sensitivity to security concerns and an end to export of terrorism to neighbours”, the president said in an oblique reference to Pakistan. India would “engage energetically” with neighbours like China, Japan and Russia and bring in “renewed vigour” to its ties with the US, President Mukherjee said.

The government would engage with China to further develop India’s strategic and cooperative partnership, he said. The comments come as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is in the national capital on a two-day visit to make contact with the new government headed by Modi.

The president said that with Japan, the government would “strive to make progress in the many initiatives that are ongoing, especially in the field of building modern infrastructure in our country. Russia remains a privileged and strategic partner and my government will build further on the firm foundations of this relationship.”

On ties with the US, which are seen to have plateaued, the president said: “India and the US have made significant progress in developing strategic partnership over the years. My government will bring a renewed vigour to our engagement and intensify it in all areas, including trade, investment, science and technology, energy and education.”

Referring to ties with Europe, the president said the government “will make concerted efforts to achieve progress in key areas with the European Union as well as its leading members”. The president said the government would operationalize the international civil nuclear agreements with different countries and “nuclear power projects for civilian purposes will be developed”. He also emphasized on harnessing the country’s soft power potential and “revive Brand India riding on our strengths of Five T’s: Tradition, Talent, Tourism, Trade and Technology”.

He said India’s vibrant, talented and industrious diaspora is a source of great pride for the country. “They have done pioneering work in diverse fields, held the highest public offices and have worked hard to support their localities and families in India.” He said the 2015 Pravasi Bharatiya Divas would mark a centenary of Mahatma Gandhi’s return home.