Is India a good neighbour?: 

Is India a good neighbour?

Context

  • India’s foreign policy of late has come under sharp public scrutiny especially the direction in which it is moving.
  • There is no single yardstick to measure foreign policy successes and failures but the absence of crises is broadly viewed as a sound criterion.

Sour relations

  • India shares an extremely frosty relationship with Pakistan and on the other, the relationship of stability with China built over three decades has been falling apart despite increased diplomatic engagement.
  • Equation with China suffers not only because of Chinese mistakes but also because of the absence of innovative thinking in India to deal with its biggest neighbour.
  • India lacks a coherent means to contain China except for nurturing some myopic ideas.
  • The old time-tested friendship with Russia has been allowed to slip through our fingers by downscaling the levels of engagements and limiting the areas of interest over time.
  • The tragedy is that China has shrewdly neutralised India’s close proximity with Russia while at the same time sustaining its nexus with Pakistan.

Indian Foreign Policy

  • Indian foreign policy relied on its deep resources of wisdom and inner strength based on a percept of it being a civilizational state, that was reflected in its international conduct.
  • To that effect, foreign policy has been driven by peace rather than security. It gives India a global persona of benign international influence.
  • Priority to security has distorted India’s image vis-à-vis its neighbours, especially when policies are pursued through the precolonial security-centric “zero-sum” or “frontier mindset” or even from a Cold War political prism.
  •  In fact, this approach has failed to stop China’s influence in India’s neighbourhood despite the “neighbourhood-first policy”.
  • There is a clear lack of finesse in India’s approach, more so when the world has moved away from a bilateral to a multilateral context.
  • A better option to probe future ties would be to return to the strategic fundamentals.

India – China equation

  •  India might not see China as an object of disdain in perpetuity.
  • An honest attempt to build a new paradigm of India-China trust grounded on the shared historical and cultural awareness, as also on the collective wisdom of ordinary citizens on both sides, may prove to be more effective.
  • For India to emerge as a global power of any reckoning, it has to realize that a narrow tactical pursuit devoid of strategic thinking will lead to nowhere.
  • India needs to reframe its terms of relationship with China; rethink its own posture; rescue it from experiencing a delusion of grandeur and instead persevere to emerge as a confident and aspiring regional power.
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