India’s growing neighbourhood dilemmas – Navigating a Challenging Neighbourhood: India’s Foreign Policy Dilemmas | 8 December 2023 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about?

  • This article examines the challenges India faces in its South Asian neighbourhood, analyzing the causes and potential solutions.


  • GS2: India and its Neighborhood- Relations; Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests, Indian Diaspora


  • This article examines the challenges faced by India in its South Asian neighborhood. It argues that India's traditional approach and assumptions about the region are no longer effective, and that it needs to adapt to a new reality characterized by a rising China and increasingly assertive neighbors.


New Delhi's Dilemmas:

  • Rise of Anti-India Regimes:
    • Maldives' new government is pushing India out.
    • Potential anti-India government in Bangladesh under Khaleda Zia.
  • China's Growing Influence:
    • Small states are drawn to China's Belt and Road Initiative and other projects.
    • China actively engages with states ostracized by the international community.
    • China resolves border disputes to win over the region.

Causes of the Dilemma:

  • Regional Geopolitical Architecture:
    • Diminishing US presence creates power vacuum filled by China.
    • China's rise serves as a “geopolitical buffer” for smaller states.
    • Smaller states use the “China card” to negotiate with India.
  • India's Policy Stance:
    • Deep-seated status quo bias towards regional domestic politics.
    • Focus on dealing with elected officials, neglecting other power centers.
    • Mistaken assumptions about South Asia's amenability and India's cultural advantage.

Possible Solutions:

  • Acknowledge the Change:
    • Accept that India no longer enjoys primacy in South Asia.
    • Recognize China as a major contender for regional leadership.
    • Adapt to the new “Southern Asia” landscape.
  • Engage External Actors:
    • Proactively involve friendly countries to counter China's influence.
    • Create a counter-balance to prevent China-centric regional dominance.
  • Pursue Flexible Diplomacy:
    • Engage with multiple actors in each neighboring country.
    • Aim to reduce anti-India sentiment rather than seeking complete loyalty.
    • Engage with both government and opposition leaders.
  • Increase Diplomatic Capacity:
    • India lacks enough diplomats to implement its foreign policy effectively.
    • Address personnel shortage to effectively engage with the region and world.

Way Forward:

  • India needs to adapt to the changing South Asian landscape. Recognizing China's growing influence, engaging with external actors, pursuing flexible diplomacy, and increasing diplomatic capacity are crucial for navigating the new regional dynamics and securing India's interests.

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