It’s about time, India contrives a bona fide Neighbourhood Policy

6 months ago 35

The world was yet to grapple with the effects of the US-China Trade War when an appalling non-state actor drove the world out of the frying pan and straight into the fire. COVID 19, as officially termed by the WHO has also brought to light, an already weakened multilateral paradigm that is fraught with frequent and grisly contestations between US and China. Amidst all the chaos and the geopolitical challenges posed by her unwelcoming neighbours, India must carefully map her foreign policy groundwork. 

The developed world, the guardians of democracy and multilateralism, as they like to call themselves have failed miserably in guiding the pandemic-stricken world to a new normal. The United States of America, the very promoter of human rights is now facing charges of systemic racial discrimination. On the other side of the world, a restive China is conducting itself violently in different parts of the Asian continent, also proudly avowing an ill-advised foreign policy as wolf warrior diplomacy.1 Relating to reasons of accountability and transparency, nations of the world have lost faith in international cooperation and are gradually gravitating towards nationalist and protectionist policies. As a result, the world is witnessing reverse-globalization.2

In times as such, India must lead by example and reinvigorate global cooperation via its foreign policies. However, any efforts to realize the above goal necessitates big wins in safeguarding her regional stability to advance her external strategy. Traditional security challenges and disputes over unsettled land and water lines have always been a bone of contention for India. The recent skirmish between Indian and Chinese troops at the Line of Actual Control, and India’s response by banning Chinese made applications has sent the Indo-China diplomatic relations to the brink of collapse.3

To make matters worse, Nepal and Pakistan have also jumped on the bandwagon vicariously by releasing politically spurious border maps.4,5 By devising a Neighbourly Policy, India must resolve such unnerving and delicate issues at multi-level bilateral and regional dialogues lest the further escalation of problems. India must also actively revive the SAARC, by going beyond dialogues and pledging assistance to integrating and capacitating the region to absorb any subsequent economic and political shocks. She must push for strong regional legislation, management and enforcement mechanisms.

Likewise, she must invest in building infrastructure and technology systems and come up with guidelines and regulations for achieving better financial inclusivity and integrity. India must also rethink its transnational security plan for building peace and sustaining stability in the region by promoting mutual trust and confidence among regional defence agencies via dialogue, exchange of information and transparency. Rather purposeful engagement with Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN), Mekong-Ganga Cooperation (MGC) and the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) should be on the forefront of India’s regional policy agenda. 

In conclusion, it remains highly unlikely that the PRC6 and IRP7 will give in their inane vendetta against India. India, as she innately does, must seek peaceful co-existence in the South Asian Region by leading amenable and amicable dialogues with her neighbours. The world seems to fall apart, country by country and in these difficult times, India must seek a lasting solution over a band-aid one.

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