|Demand of the question Introduction. Contextual introduction. Body. Discuss how peaceful relations with its neighbours is important for the realisation of India’s global ambitions. Conclusion. Way forward.|
India shares its geographical boundary with Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Far more than east, south-east Asia or west Asia, it is India’s immediate neighbourhood that directly impacts it geopolitically, geo-strategically and economically. Whatever be the ambition of India’s reach elsewhere, India’s principal focus will need to be on its neighbourhood. The neighbourhood first policy actively focuses on improving ties with India’s immediate neighbours.
Significance of India’s Neighbourhood for its global ambitions:
- Economy: Trade and economic cooperation would become the linchpin of regional progress. With India as the economic hub, the smaller neighbours would constitute a great role in India’s economic rise. For instance, a good relation with its neighbour is important for India to become an export centre.
- Security: Priority is to improve the relations with immediate neighbours as peace and tranquillity in South Asia is essential for realising development agenda. It is important for India to work with its neighbour especially Pakistan to stop terrorism and risks to its citizens.
- Working with China: The importance of India-China relations in India’s overall foreign policy cannot be overstated. India’s China policy is profoundly consequential for the Indian government. It entails opportunities as well as risks with implications across India’s global status and effectiveness in international institutions, geopolitical security and economic transformation.
- Connectivity: India’s connectivity to other continents and countries goes through its neighbour. Thus it is important to build infrastructure in its neighbour. For instance, Afghanistan is key to connecting India to Central Asia. To ensure a free flow of resources, energy, goods, labour, and information across borders, India’s neighbourhood is critical.
- International cooperation: It is important for India to get support from its neighbour at international platforms. A peaceful relations with its neighbourhood would enhance India’s image and will attract investment in the region. For instance, it is important for India’s ambitions for a permanent seat at the UNSC
- Environmental cooperation: India is actively working towards reducing its emissions and building green technology. For instance, India has established an International solar alliance and is emerging as a hub for renewable technologies and energy. India’s neighbour can be a potential market for this green technology and energy which would enhance India’s efforts to reduce emission but will also contribute economically.
- Countering China: China’s influence in the region is increasing more than ever with initiatives like CPEC, strings of pearls etc. To tackle its influence India needs to effectively engage and work with its neighbours.
- Relation with Pakistan: Relation with Pakistan, remains India’s biggest diplomatic and security challenge. India’s challenge is to manage relationships with a state which, openly, uses terror as an instrument of state policy and has fractured, multiple power centres.
- Unstable Afghanistan: Afghanistan remains a challenge too. Fragile within and facing state- sponsored external threat from Pakistan, a possible state collapse would spawn jihadist terrorism in all directions from which India is unlikely to remain immune. Indian diplomacy is active in international efforts to stabilise the country.
- China: China is another big challenge that is increasing its presence around India. The relationship is marked with suspicion over China’s policy towards Pakistan, including the construction of the Gwadar port and the China-Pakistan economic corridor running through POK.
- Anti-Indian sentiments: Anti-Indian sentiments are getting rooted in the minds of people of region due to perceived notion of India’s big brother attitude and its economic dependence to India. Further, domestic politics and various political parties of neighbouring countries invariably have pro and anti india stance that cater to their constituency.
- Transportation: As the largest country, India should be leading to establish cross-border transport and communication links.
- Cooperation: Sustained and respectful leader-level diplomacy can open opportunities for cooperation.
- Economic assistance: Carefully targeted economic and financial assistance, though costly, and sometimes a consequence of China-related indebtedness can pay diplomatic dividends.
- Strengthening Markets: India should work with its neighbour in strengthening their markets and its own infrastructure to its neighbours.
- Dialogue: India must ensure its neighbour of continuous support for their development. Efforts must be made to strengthen Indian exports in the region.
- Soft power: India’s soft power and common culture provide an opportunity for India to strengthen its cultural roots further in the region.
India’s immediate neighbourhood directly impacts it geopolitically, geo-strategically and geo-economically because of its vicinity. Thus, working with them is important for India to rise as a superpower. Emphasis must be on sustainable and inclusive development. India’s neighbourhood first policy, SAGAR initiative etc. are critical for this.