India and its neighbourhood-relations
India is the world’s largest democracy and according to UN estimates, its population is expected to overtake China’s in 2028 to become the world’s most populous nation. As a rising economic powerhouse and nuclear-armed state, India has emerged as an important regional power. But it is also tackling huge, social, economic and environmental problems.
Home to some of the world’s most ancient surviving civilizations, the Indian subcontinent – from the mountainous Afghan frontier to the jungles of Burma – is both vast and diverse in terms of its people, language and cultural traditions.
Foreign Policy of India
There is very thin line between allies and friends and India knows it very well. India has the particularity to be a neutral country, meaning that they are neutral toward all the nations in the world. India’s main opponents in the International Arena are China (Mostly Economic Rivalry) and Pakistan (Military Territorial conflict over Kashmir). Recently these two countries have become closer to Russia. Therefore the coming years would be of strategic importance for India.
India is neutral to almost all the nations except some of neighbours. Foreign policy is the international expression of a nation’s most urgent aspirations. Aspiration is dynamic, evolving with a country’s sense of itself and its place in the world. In the first half of the 20th century, Indians abandoned servitude, found a leader in Mahatma Gandhi who gave voice to this new spirit, and by winning freedom in 1947 ended Europe’s colonial project. Gandhi and India shifted the most powerful tide in history.
In the second half of the century, India met and defeated external forces hell-bent on sabotaging the country’s unity, but faltered on the economic front, thanks to the drag of pseudo-socialism. The 21st century is already a different place. India has corrected its economic compass, consolidated its economic and political strength, and is ready to claim a legitimate place in the forefront of the 21st century.
Foreign policy is, of necessity, a crucial part of the route map to this new horizon. In Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has a leader ready to shape this transformation and lay the foundations of New India’s rising role in world affairs. At the heart of Modi’s foreign policy is a humanitarian vision inspired by a fundamental tenet of Indian philosophy, that the world is one family. This conviction fits perfectly with the republican ethos of our times.
Empires have been replaced by nation states, inspired by the nationalism of people rather than of elites. Nationalism and humanism are thereby two sides of the same republican coin, and they constitute the fulcrum of Modi’s vision. Nations are no longer “big” or “small”; they are sovereign and equal, with the same rights and, indeed, the same obligations.
The frustration with Pakistan arises primarily from Islamabad’s relentless support for cross-border terrorism, which in turn makes peace and mutually beneficial economic growth a non-starter.
If the first fundamental right of every human being is the right to life, then terrorism becomes the very antithesis of human rights. Terrorists challenge the very concept of the nation state, and seek to reorder the world along the geography of faith. They believe in faith-supremacy, not faith-equality, and want to displace nations with faith-based concepts like a Caliphate. A regressive concept like faith-supremacy includes gender oppression, cultural hegemony and ever-widening ravines of extremism.
The most telling evidence of near-unanimous international support for Modi’s mobilisation against terrorism came in the wake of surgical strikes across the LoC. Privately, some countries wondered why this had not been done before.
Intensive diplomacy has delivered in substantive ways. A significant example is the expansion of relations with UAE. This correction has helped make UAE an important strategic partner and a major investor in India.
Equally impressive is the manner in which India has maintained relations across binaries. Better relations with UAE and Saudi Arabia have not come at the cost of traditional relations with Iran. The commissioning of the Chabahar port, developed by Iran and India, close to the Chinese-Pak port of Gwadar, tells its own story.
The foreign policy of the government concerns the policy initiatives made towards other states. The Ministry of External Affairs is responsible for carrying out the foreign policy of India. Foreign policy is currently focused on improving relations with neighboring countries in South Asia, engaging the extended neighbor-hood in Southeast Asia and the major global powers.
Even before independence, the Government of India maintained semi-autonomous diplomatic relations. After India gained independence it soon joined the Commonwealth of Nations and strongly supported independence movements in other colonies. During the Cold War, India adopted a foreign policy of not aligning itself with any major power bloc. However, India developed close ties with the Soviet Union and received extensive military support from it. The end of the Cold War significantly affected India’s foreign policy, as it did for much of the world.
1. New Delhi’s willingness to give political and diplomatic priority to its immediate neighbours and the Indian Ocean island states
2. Provide neighbours with support, as needed, in the form of resources, equipment, and training.
3. Greater connectivity and integration, so as to improve the free flow of goods, people, energy, capital, and information.
4. India has also become more forthcoming in providing support and in capacity building, whether concluding its biggest ever defense sale to Mauritius, or in providing humanitarian assistance to Nepal or Sri Lanka.
5. With Bangladesh, the completion of the Land Boundary Agreement, improvements in energy connectivity and steps taken towards accessing the port of Chittagong have all been crucial developments.
6. India’s focus on connectivity is also gradually extending outward, whether to Chabahar in Iran or Kaladan in Myanmar.
7. India has also expressed its willingness to develop issue-specific groupings that are not held hostage to consensus.
8. For example Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) grouping – meant to advance motor vehicle movement, water power management, and inter-grid connectivity
9. With respect to all of its neighbours, including Nepal, India has taken concrete steps over the past two years to promote goodwill and deepen economic and social connectivity
2. Bridging diplomacy and development
1. One of the major objectives of India’s foreign relations has been to leverage international partnerships to advance India’s domestic development.
2. This includes improving technological access, sourcing capital, adopting best practices, gaining market access, and securing natural resources.
3. The recently amended tax treaty with Mauritius is one example of how diplomacy can be used to benefit both investors and the government, and potentially increase India’s tax base.
4. The overall trajectory for India’s development is positive, and the diplomatic momentum has clearly increased.
5. India still has a mountain to climb to fully harness external inputs to advance economically, socially, and technologically.
3. Acting East as China rises
1. With ‘Act East,’ the purpose was to show greater intent in realising what had long been an aspiration for India: to become an integral part of Asia.
2. The new policy emphasizes a more proactive role for India in ASEAN and East Asian countries.
3. Indian concerns regarding China’s rise and the upsetting of Asia’s delicate balance of power.
4. Require a greater priority on improving border infrastructure, on overland connectivity to Southeast Asia via Bangladesh and India’s Northeast.
4. Pakistan: Engagement and Isolation
1. Terrorism emanating against India by entities based in Pakistan and supported by elements of the state remains a top priority.
2. Much of China’s historical support for Pakistan has been driven by its desire to balance against India.
3. The process of both engaging and isolating Pakistan despite repeated provocations will be long, frustrating, and politically unpopular at home.
4. India’s efforts at internationally isolating it and its offering a viable alternative model of South Asian engagement remain the only real prospect for resolving the Pakistan problem on India’s terms.
5. India as a leading power: Raising ambitions
1. India is not yet fully in a position to lead, or set the rules of the international order, but it is taking steps to seek full membership of the most important global governance platforms.
2. India is already a member of the G20, the East Asia Summit, and the BRICS coalition, a testament to its status as a large country with a fast-growing economy.
3. New Delhi also naturally aspires for permanent membership on the UN Security Council.
4. India has recently embarked upon institution building of its own. The International Solar Alliance represents one such effort.
6. Indian Ocean Outreach
1. Through this policy initiative, India started to reach out its maritime neighbours in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) with proposals of enhanced economic and security cooperation.
2. This policy was unfolded during the Indian Prime minister visit to Sri Lanka, Mauritius, and Seychelles.
3. With this India can project that it commands a strategic supremacy over the IOR and its relations with its maritime neighbors.
Link West policy
In an attempt to strengthen ties with India’s western neighbours specially the gulf countries government proposed this policy to complement its Act East policy concerning East Asia.
Shortcomings of India’s foreign policy
1. Country’s strategic thinking continues to be guided by bureaucracy rather than strategic thinkers and specialists.
2. Fundamental lacuna inherent in the country’s strategic behavior is it functions without a grand strategic blueprint.
3. Despite its stated global ambitions, India is confined to its South Asian geopolitical space.
4. New Delhi’s diplomatic efforts is revolving around the issue of Pakistan-backed terrorism and is talking about it at every major international forum instead of larger issues such as foreign direct investment, global partnerships, institutional reforms, economic diplomacy, etc.
5. Reducing India’s foreign policy focus to terrorism to such an extent demonstrates how tactical we are in our approach.
6. New Delhi’s relationship with Washington, especially the signing of the ‘Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement’ (LEMOA) is a clear departure from its traditional policy of not getting into military alliances.
7. Sustained negotiations are necessary for the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) membership: public spats with countries like China is not the solution.
8. India also does not have a comprehensive national security doctrine which could help pacify insurgencies, manage borders better or fight cross-border terror.
1. Even as India is increasing its geo-strategic sphere of South Asia, its influence within it is steadily weakened by Chinese economic and military power.
2. New Delhi’s focus on terrorism has compromised India’s strategic relationship with China.
3. India’s insufficient commercial integration with Southeast and East Asia.
4. Gaps between diplomatic efforts and agents of domestic implementation.
5. Political resistance to engagement with Pakistan.
6. Relative inexperience with leading on matters of global governance.
1. Long-term strategic thinking requires intellectual depth and an ability to look beyond the tactical considerations.
2. There needs to be institutional coordination and follow-up action on the government’s key initiatives.
3. If there are well-articulated strategic doctrines, institutions will learn to refer to them and adjust their policies accordingly, leading to a lot more coherence in the country’s strategic behavior.
4. A national security doctrine would require a great deal of political consultation, careful scenario building, and net assessment by experts.
5. Strategic thinking can flourish when the political class commits to institutional reform, intellectual investment and consensus building.
SAARC is an organization of eight countries located in South Asia. It stands for the South Asian Association for Regional Corporation. The Secretariat of this organization is located in Kathmandu which is capital of Nepal. 3% of the area of the world is represented by SAARC countries. It is around 1.7 billion of the world’s people and 21% of the world population.
All six member countries share boarders with the big brother of the SAARC nations, India. Only exception is Afghanistan.
Initial members of the SAARC countries were India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka. Later Afghanistan was awarded full membership and there are several other countries given observer memberships.
Objective of the SAARC to develop economies, collective self reliance in the South Asian countries and to step up the social and cultural development in South Asian countries.
SAARC has established permanent diplomatic relations with the European Union and United Nations as observers. Foreign Minsters of the SAARC counties meet twice a year and the official meeting of the leaders of the SAARC countries are held once a year.
Regional Centers have been established in member countries in order to promote regional cooperation. These centers are handled by Boards of representatives from all SAARC countries. Such regional centers are , Dhaka, Bangladesh, SAARC Meteorological Research Centre (SMRC), Dhaka, Bangladesh, SAARC Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS Centre (STAC), Kathmandu, Nepal, SAARC Documentation Centre (SDC), New Delhi, India, SAARC Human Resources Development Centre (SHRDC), Islamabad, Pakistan, SAARC Coastal Zone Management Centre (SCZMC), Maldives, SAARC Information Centre (SIC), Nepal, SAARC Energy Centre (SEC), Pakistan, SAARC Disaster Management Centre (SDMC), India, SAARC Forestry Centre (SFC), Bhutan and SAARC Cultural Centre (SCC), Sri Lanka.
The main objective of the SAARC organization is the lasting peace and prosperity of its member nations. Political situation is discussed at meetings and member countries are desist from interfering in the domestic issues of member countries.
Visa exemption scheme was instituted in the year 1992. On 29th and 31st December 1988 at the fourth SAARC summit which was held at Islamabad in Pakistan leaders realized the significance of having cooperation among the peoples of SAARC countries. It decided that certain categories of dignitaries should be entitled to a special travel document which would exempt them from visas within the SAARC countries. Visa exemption categories are Parlimentarians, judges of higher courts, Senior Government Officials, Jounalists, Businessmen and Sportsman.
India and Southeast Asia
India’s relationship with Southeast Asia has numerous components. Historically, trade between India’s coastal kingdoms of Orissa and Southern India and countries in Southeast Asia such as Thailand, Malaysia and Cambodia are well documented. In addition, Buddhism and Hinduism, both Indic religions, retain a strong influence in Southeast Asia, with epics like the Mahabharata and Ramayana being part of the ethos of Southeast Asia.
India’s first PM, Jawaharlal Nehru, underscored the necessity of closer ties with Southeast Asia as far back as 1944. In his book “The Discovery of India,” Nehru spoke about the economic and strategic relevance of the region and the inevitability of a larger role for India. He also invited leaders from Vietnam, Indonesia and Burma to the first Asian Conference in New Delhi in March 1947. Leaders from other Asian countries endorsed Nehru’s Pan-Asian vision, specifically his thrust on decolonization and economic cooperation.
Nehru had close ties with Southeast Asian leaders, especially Indonesia’s President Sukarno. Both were pioneers of the Non-Aligned Movement that emerged from the 1955 Bandung Conference of Asian and African states as they sought a path independent from either the Soviet Bloc or the West.
Apart from the Non-Alignment Movement, communism also influenced India’s relations with the region. During the Vietnam conflict, India supported North Vietnam due to its strong opposition at that time to the United States. While the cold war period influenced India’s ties with Southeast Asia, given its closeness to the Soviet Union, India also had reasonable ties with Malaysia and was amongst the first countries to grant diplomatic status to Singapore in 1965.
In the early 1990’s, two major transformations influenced India’s ties with the outside world, including Southeast Asia. First, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Cold War order ended. This led to a major shift in Indian foreign policy towards the US, where ideological blinkers gave way to pragmatism.
Second, this period ushered in economic reforms carried out by India in 1991, ensuring that Non Alignment was no longer the cornerstone of India’s Foreign Policy not only towards the West, but other parts of the world also. In the same year, India also became a dialogue partner with ASEAN.
The focus during this regime was not just on economic ties between India and Southeast Asia, but also bolstering security and defense cooperation. There were a number of reasons for reaching out to Southeast Asia.
Vietnam has offered India oil and natural gas blocks in the South China Sea, much to the chagrin of China. In addition to this, ONGC Videsh (the overseas arm of India’s state owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation) and PetroVietnam (the trading name of the Vietnam Oil and Gas Group) have also recently signed a memorandum of understanding to promote joint cooperation in the hydrocarbon sector.
In brief, the India-Southeast Asia relationship is multi-dimensional and there is a political consensus for maintaining good relations for a variety of economic and strategic reasons. Finally, it is not sensitive to issues such as ties with the US or other countries in the neighborhood.
Given these facts, it is fair to say the relationship will continue to grow. Trade reached 76 billion dollars in 2012-2013 and defense and strategic ties between India and Southeast Asia have strengthened. However, there are a number of obstacles which need to be addressed.
Unlike the Chinese government, India has not fully utilized its cultural and historical linkages and has been slow to build cultural centers in the region. India has also not attracted Southeast Asian students to Indian universities in sizable numbers, something which is feasible. Even the large Indian diaspora in these countries has not been channeled to its full potential. Furthermore, the pace of implementing initiatives like the Kaladan Transport Project, which will link India to Myanmar’s Sitwe port, and the proposed India-Myanmar-Thailand highway, has been disappointing. China has been much faster in this aspect. Also, in order to have a more meaningful economic relationship with ASEAN, it is imperative that India gets its own economy back on the rails.
The Look East Policy needs to be given another push to take it to the next level. India needs to send out a clear message that the relationship with Southeast Asia remains of immense importance.
India- Afghanistan Relations
India and Afghanistan have a strong relationship based on historical and cultural links. The relationship is not limited to the governments in New Delhi and Kabul, and has its foundations in the historical contacts and exchanges between the people. In recent past, Indo-Afghan relations have been further strengthened by the Strategic Partnership Agreement signed between the two countries in 2011.
As Afghanistan was undergoing three simultaneous political, security and economic transitions in 2015, India had allayed its fears about its future by making a long-term commitment to the security and development of Afghanistan.
The Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) between the two sides, inter alia, provides for assistance to help rebuild Afghanistan’s infrastructure and institutions, education and technical assistance to re-build indigenous Afghan capacity in different areas, encouraging investment in Afghanistan’s natural resources, providing duty free access to the Indian market for Afghanistan’s exports support for an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, broad-based and inclusive process of peace and reconciliation, and advocating the need for a sustained and long-term commitment to Afghanistan by the international community. As the lead country for Trade, Commerce and Investment CBM of Heart of Asia Process,
There also exists a high-level political engagement with Afghanistan, which is reflected in the large number of bilateral high-level visits. There have been frequent high level visits from both sides.
Bilaterally, India has played a significant role in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Afghanistan. India’s extensive developmental assistance programme, which now stands at around US 2 billion, is a strong signal of its abiding commitment to peace, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan during this critical period of security and governance transition. This makes India one of the leading donor nations to Afghanistan, and by far the largest from among the regional countries.
India believes that sustainable development of Afghanistan requires long-term investment in Afghanistan that can help it exploit its natural resource wealth. India is, thus, at the forefront of the promotion of investment in Afghanistan and a consortium of public and private Indian companies has been selected to make one of the biggest investments in the country’s mining sector, in the Hajigak iron ore reserves.
India has provided high protein biscuits through WFP in schools in Afghanistan in all provinces. India also gave US$ 1 Million assistance for flood relief programme in Badakshan in May 2014. During PM’s visit in December 2015, India assured to expedite the supply of 1,70,000 MT wheat to Afghanistan, which is part of 1.1 Million MT wheat donation committed by us.
India, under small development projects (SDPs) Phase I& II (US$ 20 million) and Phase III (US$ 100 million) along with Ministry of Economy of Afghanistan has undertaken/committed more than 200 projects of small projects with less gestation period covering Public Health, Education, and community infrastructure in various provinces of Afghanistan. During the Chief Executive of Afghanistan Dr Abdullah’s visit to India in 2016, Government of India conveyed the approval of the 3rd phase of Small Development Projects comprising of 92 projects in Afghanistan.
Under Aid to Afghanistan budget, India established Agriculture University ANASTU in Kandahar in 2014. In July 2015, the Embassy completed the ICCR scholarship cycle for the academic year 2015-2016, utilizing all the 1000 slots dedicated to Afghans. Besides a record of 100 % achievement, it also had record number of women students – 90. In May 2015, Prime Minister of India extended ICCR Scholarship for Afghan students till 2020. India also sent more than 500 Officials under ITEC programme for various capacity building courses in India.
Apart from the above training program, India also provides various training program for the Afghan government officials from various fields on ad-hoc basis under special discretionary slots.
India also realises that stability can result in Afghanistan only if all the major actors and countries have a stake in its stability, growth and prosperity. India has, thus, been championing efforts to attract regional and trans-regional investment into Afghanistan that provides a viable alternative to the dominant narrative of extremism and offers job opportunities to its population, by pioneering events like the Delhi Investment Summit on Afghanistan in June 2012. Recognising that the region holds the key to peace in Afghanistan, India is spearheading commercial Confidence Building Measures in the region within the purview of the Heart of Asia Process.
Multilaterally, it helped initiate a dialogue on Afghanistan through various platforms like the Afghanistan-India-US trilateral and the Afghanistan-India-Iran trilateral that seek to bring together international partners with disparate worldviews in pursuit of the common goal of securing peace and prosperity in Afghanistan. India also expressed its support to international cooperation on Afghanistan at the UN and at various international conferences focused on the future of Afghanistan, including the seminal Tokyo Developmental Conference in July 2012 and London Conference in December 2014.
Indo- Bangladesh Relations
It is beyond doubt that Bangladesh has transpired into a phase of momentous growth period — after a prolonged haul for decades. In the side-lines of China’s aggressive expansionism and Trump’s ‘unpredictability’ shrouding the region — Bangladesh garners immense strategic magnitude. As Dhaka grows at 6.5%, India emerges as an ‘all-weather’ friend that the former can’t do without. In this complex climate, India-Bangladesh relation can build primarily upon three pillars: trade and commerce, concerted counter-terror initiatives, and bilateral trust and confidence building efforts.
In 1975, Bangladesh was unravelled to the darkest chapter of history — assassination of the ‘Father of the Nation’ Mujibur Rahman. This inflicted a notable dip in Indo-Bangladesh ties. To date, Bangladesh is wary of and disenchanted over India’s purported hesitancy to intervene as Bangladesh was clouded with umpteen socio-economic roadblocks — conditions that propelled Rahman’s assassination.
It was only recently with Sheikh Hasina’s accession in 2008 that Bangladesh gravitated towards a stable economy. Additionally, India also buckled up to increasing exchanges with Bangladesh — on trade front and ironed out impending border issues.
India has extended a line of credit of $2 billion — expected to create over 50,000 jobs in Bangladesh. Alongside breaking ice over the Land Boundary Agreement — exchange of 162-adversely held enclaves — Indo-Bangladesh has forged key partnerships in energy and power sectors, including export of 600 megawatt power from India to Bangladesh. The two-way trade stands at a remarkable $7 billion and is anticipated to reach a record $10 billion by 2018.
During Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh — over 22 agreements were penned in addition to Reliance Power promising an investment of over US$3 billion to set up a 3,000 MW LNG-based power plant. Furthermore, to accelerate people-to-people interaction, both the countries resolved to ease visa regimes providing 5 year multiple entry visas to minors below 13 and elderly above 65.
Thus, Indo-Bangladesh relation is consolidated with heightening bilateral ties, including commerce, culture, military, and people-to-people links, which are deeply intertwined with inter-state trust. In an inter-state relation, trust implies a willingness to take risks on the behavior of others based on the belief that potential trustees will ‘do what is right’. In the context of Indo-Bangladesh relation, trust involves particular beliefs about the motivations of others. To that end, an issue that necessitates urgent deliberation by both parties is the ‘illegal’ immigration of Bangladeshis to India — figures for which are mired in contestation.
It is pre-eminent for the both the states to flesh out common threads to strengthen mutual ‘trust’ and build up cooperation on trade, security and military lines. One such common thorn is the rising threat of extremism, Islamic radicalism — in particular.
Over the years, Bangladesh has struggled to maintain stability and more so, in the face of proliferating Islamic extremism. With the advantage of technology accompanied by easy modes for spread of ideas such as the social media platforms, the transnational Jihadist organizations readily taps into the domestic fora.
Several homegrown extremist organizations — the likes of AQIS and Jaamat-ul Mujahideen — have adopted both conventional and non-traditional mediums for spreading radicalism in Bangladesh. In the immediate memory, the Holy Artisan incident has shaken up collective conscience, claiming lives of over 20 civilians — including many foreigners in Bangladesh.
In the Indo-Bangladesh relation, several strains leave dark marks, let it be the prolonged water dispute of Teesta river-water sharing. Another key factor that continues to imperil Indo-Bangladesh ties is China’s growing links with Bangladesh.
As Bangladesh deepens mutual trust and trade ties with Beijing, India has an urgency to drum up its Bangladesh policy. In countering terrorism, India’s intelligence sharing as well as agreements over building comprehensive counter-terror mechanisms — both cyber and space security is a must-do to strengthen bilateral ties. Both the countries being major stakeholders in regional as well as international groupings: IORA, BIMSTEC, SAARC, and the commonwealth have a range of options to cooperate and collaborate on.
Alongside, India has the onus to resolve issues pertaining to illegal immigration – supported by adequate facts (suggesting the exact number of refugees) whilst maintaining sensitivity towards Bangladesh’s historic tragedy. With the spiralling Rohingya refugee crisis inspired by occurrences in the neighbouring state Myanmar, India has a proactive role to play — not only as an advocate of democratic regimes but also as an endorser of international human right doctrines.
Indo- Bhutan Relations
Bhutan and India share strong bonds of friendship, understanding, trust and mutually beneficial cooperation. The strong foundations for the exemplary relations between the two close neighbours of very disparate size were laid by India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, the Third King of Bhutan. Successive leaders of the two nations, cutting across party lines, further cemented the close and special relations and brought a new level of trust to our bilateral relations.
Geography and culture have played a defining role in India-Bhutan relations. Buddhism was brought to Bhutan from India in the 7th century by Guru Padmasambhava. The Mahayana Buddhism of Bhutan shares very close affinity with Hinduism. India is looked upon with appreciation as the land of Lord Buddha and is an important destination for pilgrimage by Bhutanese.
Geographically, as a south facing Himalayan country, Bhutan’s border to the south opens up to the plains of Assam and West Bengal. India provides Bhutan with its access to the outside world for trade and commerce including with our neighbours like Bangladesh and Nepal. India’s geographic location and size provides the key to Bhutan’s economic growth and prosperity.
Politically, it was India that encouraged Bhutan to abandon its policy of self imposed isolation and start planned development in 1961. The first two Five Year Plans were financed entirely by India and technical expertise was also extended. India also supported and sponsored Bhutan’s membership to the United Nations in 1971. India continues to be Bhutan’s largest development partner and the two countries work very closely together on issues of mutual concern and interest.
As a genuine friend and close neighbour, Bhutan looks upon India’s rising economic power as an asset for us since we stand to benefit from India’s growth and prosperity. Mutual trust and understanding has always marked India-Bhutan relations. Bhutan has been genuine in its friendship with India and India has also responded in the same spirit.
As bilateral relations like all other relationships are always a work in progress, it is important for both sides not to take the exemplary relations for granted, but instead continue to work together to further strengthen the close friendship, understanding and cooperation between our two countries.
Under the 2007 India-Bhutan Friendship Treaty, the two sides have agreed to “cooperate closely with each other on issues relating to their national interests. Neither Government shall allow the use of its territory for activities harmful to the national security and interest of the other.”
Under the previous treaty, India was to “guide” Bhutan on foreign and defence policies. The language of the 2007 treaty, is meant to respect the sensitivities of Bhutan regarding its sovereignty. But the reality is that the Indian military is virtually responsible for protecting Bhutan from the kind of external threat that the Chinese military poses.
The Eastern Army Command and the Eastern Air Command both have integrated protection of Bhutan into their role. The Indian Military Training Team (IMTRAT), headed by a Major General, plays a critical role in training Bhutanese security personnel.
Indo Myanmar Relations
Myanmar (once known as Burma) was included as an Indian province by the British. However, in 1937, Burma was recognised as a separate country. Since Independence, bilateral relationship between India and Myanmar have stood the test of time.
Myanmar is located south of the north-eastern states of Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, and Arunachal Pradesh. The two countries share a border that stretches over 1,600 km as well as a maritime boundary in the Bay of Bengal.
Indo-Burmese relations are also rooted in shared cultural and religious practices. The Burmese script is influenced by India’s Grantha script, and it is said that 90 percent of the population follow Buddhism, which was founded in India.
In March 1962, the Myanmar military staged a coup and overthrew the democratic government. As India condemned the coup, it led to strained ties between India and Myanmar. India also openly supported the pro-democracy movement in the country. Myanmar, in retaliation to India’s condemnation, passed an order to expel the Burmese Indian community, leading to further isolation from the rest of the world. During this period, only China supported Myanmar’s military government.
India is reportedly Myanmar’s fourth largest trading partner, preceded by Thailand, China, and Singapore. The two countries began their formal trade relations in 1970 by signing a trade agreement. Another bilateral trade agreement signed in 1994 allowed border trade to be carried between the two countries at a designated point in Manipur, Mizoram, and Nagaland.
In 2001, the two countries inaugurated 250 Indo-Myanmar Friendship Road, built predominantly by the India’s Border Roads Organisation to provide a strategic transport route connecting South Asia to north-east India.
India and Myanmar have a long history of military cooperation. Myanmar’s location makes it strategically important for India to help protect the country from northeast insurgents. For decades, India has been working towards securing Myanmar’s cooperation for the same.
Indo China relations
The strategic emergence of India and China, the two Asian neighbours has shifted the gravity of world politics in to Asia and turned the vision of “Asian Century” into reality. However, the shared Asian vision seems falling apart due to the increasing Sino-Indian rivalry. Despite multiple socio-economic engagements, both the countries stand juxtaposed on various international and regional issues. This age of mistrust and rivalry started after the emergence of Tibetan revolution. But, for centuries, India and China shared friendly and cooperative relations.
The religious and economic ties between India and China stretched back to the First Century AD, when trade and pilgrimages was flourishing trough the ancient Silk Road corridor. Various Buddhist monks travelled to China to spread the message of Buddhism whereas, hundreds of Chinese pilgrims travelled into India and studied Buddhism in Nalanda University. These ancient ties even continued to thrive during the middle, modern and colonial eras. After independence, this age old relations developed further, when India offered its unconditional support to Chinese freedom struggle and extended its diplomatic reorganisation to China. However, this ancient relation only lasted up to the beginning of Tibetan uprising of 1959 and started shrinking after the emergence of Tibetan crisis.
Being the oldest civilizations, the bilateral relationship between India and China are believed to be dating back to ancient times. Even before the establishment of any kind of political relations, both the countries enjoyed wide range of economic and cultural relations. A trade relation between India and China was flourishing through the ‘Silk Road’ which eventually became the vital link of Sino-Indian cultural exchanges. Though the major contact between the ancient civilizations was initiated after the spread of Buddhism in China, historians believe that there was some kind of relation or the other between the two entities for centuries.
Perhaps due to the historical links, the reference of China can be found in the Indian epic of the Mahabharata (3139 BC) which was referred to as ‘Qin’ state, which later became the ‘Qin Dynasty’. The evidence of early Sino-Indian contacts can be traced in Kautilya’s Arthasastra. The first foreign words for Chinese silk were “Cinamsuka” (Chinese silk dress) and “Cinapatta” (Chinese silk bundle) enshrined in Kautilya’s Arthasastra which goes back to the Fourth Century BC.
The Historical and cultural ties were flourishing between India and China between first and tenth century mainly, due to the spread of Buddhism into China. These cultural links eventually became the vital force of Sino-Indian dialogue, which continued for centuries.
Though India and China has been sharing centuries-old relationship, there was hardly any political contact between the two neighbours till the mid-eighteenth century, mostly, due to the physical barrier of high Himalayas on one hand and the far flung sea routes on the other. Thus, Indo-China relations in the modern period appear to have begun with an armed conflict even before proper political or diplomatic relations were established.
Friendship with China and the promotion of Asian solidarity was one of the primary visions of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India. But, during initial years of independence, Indian government was more concerned about the administrative settlement and internal developments and did not pay much attention towards the foreign policies. However, a majority of political leadership, media and Indian public at large supported Chinese freedom movement and showed their solidarity towards the People’s Liberation War. Several rallies and agitations were conducted in India in the support of Chinese freedom struggle.
Amidst the Chinese civil war in early 1944, KMT Foreign Minister Sen We Te-Chen proposed an alliance with Burma, Thailand, Philippines and India to fight communism in their respective regions. India rejected the proposal immediately and vowed his support towards the anti-imperialist struggle of Chinese people.
The issue of Chinese freedom struggle was also discussed in Indian Parliament (Constituent Assembly as it was called earlier), which was widely supported by members across party line. Despite declining to join Chinese freedom struggle, Nehru continued to support the Mao Zedong led people’s movement against the Chiang Kai-shek (KMT) regime.
Throughout the Korean crisis, India always took modest stand to facilitate Chinese interest and introduced a resolution in UN General Assembly in 1953, regarding the question on Prisoner of war to accommodate the Chinese viewpoints. Similarly, India also refused to attend the San Francisco Conference as China was not invited to the meeting. The Chinese leaderships also admired the Indian position and praised Nehru’s statesmanship during the Korean crisis.
Though India is currently struggling to obtain a permanent membership at the UNSC and the Chinese wall seems to be the biggest obstacle in its way, in past India was one of the front line advocates of the Chinese admission into United Nations and UNSC. While most of the western countries including US opposed China’s entry into United Nations, India was one of the first Asian countries to sponsor the Soviet backed resolution
India China Agreement on Trade in Tibet 1954 (Panchsheel Agreement)
Four years after the Chinese incursion into Tibet, India and China signed the historic “Agreement on Trade and Intercourse between the Tibet Region of China and India”, which, in its preamble enunciates five principles of peaceful coexistence, popularly known as “Panchsheel”. The treaty was signed by N. Raghavan, Indian Ambassador to China and Chang Han-fu, Deputy Foreign Minister of China on April 29, 1954. The preamble of the treaty comprised of five important principles that eventually became the corner stone of India’s China policy. The five principles are:
1. Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty;
2. Mutual non-aggression;
3. Mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs;
4. Equality and mutual benefit: and
5. Peaceful coexistence.
Apart for the preamble the body of the treaty contains five articles that have been explained briefly below:
1. China to establish trade agencies at New Delhi, Calcutta and Kalimpong, on the other hand, India got rights to establish its trade agencies at Yatung, Gyantse, and Gartok. The trade agencies of both the countries are allowed to enjoy the traditional status, freedom and privileges to conduct their business and granted immunity from arrest and deportation. (Article 1)
2. Both the countries agree to allot three specified market places on each side for trade as per the customary practice. While China agrees to specify Yatung, Gyantse and Phari as markets for Indian traders, India allotted three markets at Kalimpong, Siliguri and Calcutta for trade of Chinese items. Both India and China also agree to identify the markets for common trade. (Article 2)
3. Both the Parties agree to allow pilgrimages to visit holy places of both the countries. While Indian pilgrimages are allowed to visit Kang Rimpoche (Kailash) and MavamTse (Mansarowar) in the Tibet region of China, Pilgrims from the Tibet region of China are allowed to visit Banaras, Sarnath, Gaya and Sanchi in India in accordance with custom. (Article 3)
4. India and China also agreed to open passes like Shipki La Pass, Mana Pass, Niti Pass, KungriBingri Pass, Dana Pass, and LipuLekh Pass for traders and pilgrimages. (Article 4)
5. Finally, Other than the traders and pilgrimages, all diplomatic personnel, officials and nations of the two countries shall hold passports issued by their own respective countries and visas by the other party to travel each other’s territories.(Article 5)
Though the agreement helped to improve India’s bilateral relation with China, for many scholars it was a major setback for India’s overall foreign and strategic policy. The treaty in no way had served India’s interest on Tibet, rather surrendered India’s traditional rights and interests on Tibet before China. In addition to this, mutual agreed notes had been exchanged that further abandoned India’s decades long stand on Tibet.
By signing the treaty and bringing China into the fold of the principle of “Panchsheel” India believed that it would permanently resolve the border disputes with China. Moreover, Nehru assumed that the five principles of peaceful coexistence would automatically reduce most of the existing differences and uphold peace in the region.
Due to their asymmetrical ideological perceptions and increasing suspicion over the Tibetan crisis, the differences between India and China started widening and led to an all out war in the Himalayan frontiers in 1962.
India and China, the oldest living civilizations of the world, had been warm, friendly and cooperative long before their independence. India and China had established greater linkages through cultural exchanges and trade throughout the history.
However, this momentum did not last long. The emergence of Tibetan uprising in 1959 and the Chinese allegation of Indian involvement in the armed struggle put these two neighbours apart. India’s decision to grant political asylum to Tibetan spiritual leader and its permission to run a Tibetan governmental in exile in the Indian soil further increased the Chinese suspicious towards the New Delhi.
Indo Pakistan Relations
India and Pakistan have had a complex history. When India became independent, it was divided into two parts. Muslim-majority areas became Pakistan. But for quite some time there were as many Muslims in the Indian territory as there were in Pakistan.
The Maharaja of the Muslim-majority region of Kashmir,decided to preserve the state of Kashmir as an independent entity, so he decided to neither join India nor Pakistan. Pakistan sent Pakhtun tribesmen to talk to Kashmiri to persuade it to join Pakistan. The Indian government saw Pakistan’s action as an incursion and sent troops to Kashmir. The result of the first war between India and Pakistan over Kashmir was Pakistan controlling 37pc of the area while India controlled 63pc.
Three more wars were fought between Pakistan and India. One was in 1965 AD, when fighting broke out in the Rann of Kach, a sparingly inhabited area along the Pak-India border.
Indian Prime Minister, Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri, and President Field Marshal Kublai Khan of Pakistan, met in Bangkok in January 1966. But Indo-Pakistan relations deteriorated once again when in 1971 BC civil war erupted in Pakistan, pitting the West Pakistanis against the East Pakistanis who were demanding greater autonomy. Bengal nationalists were being backed by the Indians, so Pakistan attacked Indian airfields in Kashmir, India attacked both East and West Pakistans. Under pressure from the US, the USSR and Chuna, a UN ceasefire was arranged in mid-December.
Anyway, tensions between India and Pakistan were eased by the historic Simla Accord of 1974 and after Pakistan recognised Bangladesh in 1974. In 1987, threat of yet another war between the two countries began looming when India accused Pakistan of funding an insurgency in Indian Punjab. Tensions between the two countries remained defused throughout the 1990s even when both the poverty-stricken countries tested their nuclear devices in 1998.
In 1999, Pakistan and India went to war again. A ceasefire was agreed upon due to pressure from the United States, Britain.
Indo Lanka Relations
The relationship between India and Sri Lanka is more than 2,500 years old. Both countries have a legacy of intellectual, cultural, religious and linguistic interaction. In recent years, the relationship has been marked by close contacts at all levels. Trade and investment have grown and there is cooperation in the fields of development, education, culture and defence. Both countries share a broad understanding on major issues of international interest. In recent years, significant progress in implementation of developmental assistance projects for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and disadvantaged sections of the population in Sri Lanka has helped further cement the bonds of friendship between the two countries. The nearly three-decade long armed conflict between Sri Lankan forces and the LTTE came to an end in May 2009. During the course of the conflict, India supported the right of the Government of Sri Lanka to act against terrorist forces.
At the same time, it conveyed its deep concern at the plight of the mostly Tamil civilian population, emphasizing that their rights and welfare should not get enmeshed in hostilities against the LTTE. The need for national reconciliation through a political settlement of the ethnic issue has been reiterated by India at the highest levels. India’s consistent position is in favour of a negotiated political settlement, which is acceptable to all communities within the framework of a united Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka has long been a priority destination for direct investment from India. Sri Lanka is one of India’s largest trading partner in SAARC. India in turn is Sri Lanka’s largest trade partner globally. Trade between the two countries grew particularly rapidly after the entry into force of the India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement in March 2000. According to Sri Lankan Customs, bilateral trade in 2016 amounted to US $ 4.38 billion. Exports from India to Sri Lanka in 2016 were US$ 3.83 billion, while exports from Sri Lanka to India were US$ 551 million.
A number of new investments from Indian companies are in the pipeline or under implementation. Notable among them are proposals of South City, Kolkota for real estate development in Colombo (US $ 400 million), Tata Housing Slave Island Development project along with Urban Development Authority of Sri Lanka (US $ 430 million), and ‘Colombo One’ project of ITC Ltd. (ITC has committed an investment of US$ 300 million, augmenting the earlier committed US 140 million). Dabur has set up a fruit juice manufacturing plant (US$ 17 million) in May 2013. On the other hand, the last few years have also witnessed an increasing trend of Sri Lankan investments into India. Significant examples include Brandix (about US$ 1 billion to set up a garment city in Vishakapatnam), MAS holdings, John Keels, Hayleys, and Aitken Spence (Hotels), apart from other investments in the freight servicing and logistics sector.
Sri Lanka is one of the major recipients of development credit given by the Government of India, with total commitment of around US$2.63 billion, including US$ 458 million as grants. Under a line of credit of $167.4 million, the tsunami-damaged Colombo-Matara rail link has been repaired and upgraded. Another line of credit of $800 million for track laying and supply of rolling stock to support construction railway lines in Northern Sri Lanka is already operational. In October 2014 the Pallai-Jaffna reconstructed railway track and signal system was inaugurated thereby reconnecting Jaffna to Colombo by rail.
The Cultural Cooperation Agreement signed by the Government of India and the Government of Sri Lanka on 29 November, 1977 at New Delhi forms the basis for periodic Cultural Exchange Programmes between the two countries. The Indian Cultural Centre in Colombo actively promotes awareness of Indian culture by offering classes in Indian music, dance, Hindi and Yoga. On 21 June 2015 the First International Day of Yoga was celebrated at the iconic ocean side promenade Galle Face Green. The event was attended by two thousand yoga enthusiasts.
In 2016, a similar event was organized at Mahavihara Devi Park to celebrate International Day of Yoga. Celebrations of the 3rd International Day of Yoga has already started in Sri Lanka by way of curtain raiser event and various road shows in different cities of Sri Lanka. Every year, cultural troupes from both countries exchange visits. Pursuant to an announcement made by the Prime Minister during his visit to Sri Lanka, a Festival of India in Sri Lanka was launched in November 2015, with ‘Nrityarupa’, a scintillating dance medley from different parts of India performed in Colombo, Kandy and Ga
The India-Sri Lanka Foundation, set up in December 1998 as an intergovernmental initiative, also aims towards enhancement of scientific, technical, educational and cultural cooperation through civil society exchanges and enhancing contact between the younger generations of the two countries. Education is an important area of cooperation. India now offers about 290 scholarship slots annually to Sri Lankan students. In addition, under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Scheme and the Colombo Plan, India offers 370 slots annually to Sri Lankan nationals.
Tourism also forms an important link between India and Sri Lanka. Government of India formally launched the e-Tourist Visa (eTV) scheme for Sri Lankan tourists on 14 April 2015. Subsequently, in a goodwill gesture, the visa fee for eTV was sharply reduced. In 2016, of the 2 million total tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka, 357,000 were from India constituting 14% of the total number of tourist arrival to Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan tourists too are among the top ten sources for the Indian tourism market. In 2016, around 215,000 visas were issued by the High Commission and other posts in Sri Lanka to facilitate travel between Indian and Sri Lanka.