India’s Relations with its Near-Abroad
Asia Center, IAS Officers’ Association, Bangalore, August 20, 2016
M. Mayilvaganan, Assistant Professor, National Institute of Advanced Studies
Abstract of Lecture: India’s security and well-being are interlinked with its immediate neighbourhood. However, India’s relations with its neighbours have never been entirely free of problems. This was perhaps inevitable as there are huge differences in every aspect – geographic, political, economic and military- between India and its neighbours with which it shares its borders.
New Delhi aspires to a major role in the world, however, for about four decades after independence had been focused on the major powers, while unresolved issues with its neighbours festered. Particularly, Kashmir issue kept New Delhi much on fire fighting – dealing – with Pakistan in the region, the US internationally, and domestically Kashmir and, in between tackling China (1962). Besides, this forced New Delhi to maintain undemanding relations with its immediate neighbours, even when some incidents affected its strategic interest. The US and later China have stepped into the breach, and has made energetic strides in economic cooperation and military relations with neighbours which India has been unable or unwilling to satisfy their aspirations. Nevertheless, India’s more energetic efforts to shape its environment occasionally too have been met with accusations of hegemonism.
The talk focused mainly on Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka as a case study. First reviewed briefly the history of India’s relations with these neighbours, identified shortcomings in policy, if any, and particularly, looked into the manner in which the BJP-led NDA coalition government and later UPA government has conducted foreign policy with its neighbours with reference to Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka from 1998 to 2014. Finally, reviewed recent developments under the current NDA government and discussed the way ahead for improving relations with neighbour. And, in doing so, the aim was to examine whether there is much change in India’s approach today than earlier.