India has witnessed multiple trends when it comes to its relationship with its neighbors at a time when vaccine diplomacy is gaining prominence and Beijing is picking up the pace to become an Asian superpower, making these reasons valid for New Delhi has a clear foreign policy towards its neighborhood.
The Covid pandemic has led to increased uncertainty in the global order with regards to power dynamics, the role of international organizations. New Delhi has tried to spare no effort when it comes to dealing with its immediate neighbours. He distributed medical aid and vaccines to smaller countries to improve his image abroad at a time when he witnessed conflicts with China and a change of government in Myanmar. These developments compel New Delhi to focus more on regionalism and pursue international engagement where this opportunity could be used tactically amid a pandemic using economic and health aid.
According to Dr. Arvind Gupta, New Delhi faces threats from multiple fronts and different tactics where it is essential for New Delhi to save energy by using soft means rather than coercive measures. India under Vaccine Maitri provided many doses of COVAXIN to Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka where many appreciated the move. The urgency to ensure humanitarian assistance during these times of unprecedented uncertainty is central to Prime Minister Modi’s Security and Growth for All (SAGAR) initiative, which focuses on initiating inclusive growth as well as than on cooperation in the Indian Ocean region.
This pandemic has seen various threats coming to India’s neighborhood through multiple dimensions which include maritime, land, cyber and air threats where adversaries use them to pressure New Delhi to settle land and maritime disputes as per their terms. These encirclement strategies have compelled India to open up various options such as holding joint maritime exercises with like-minded countries, developing partnerships, providing economic and health support to weaker countries , as well as a clear view of changing global dynamics and action. according to them.
This piece will discuss various changing tactics, advantages and disadvantages that India has with regards to developing its national security vis a vis its neighborhood, why should it prioritize its neighborhood in the first place ?
India’s neighborhood is filled with many complexities and a lot of mistrust between countries with some considering India due to its size and geography as well as its economic weight as a tyrant where it wants to dominate in the region putting others aside. This led New Delhi to play an increased role in strengthening ties first with its neighbors with whom it had multiple conflicts as well as misunderstandings leading the latter to consider Beijing as a good alternative in order to keep India under control. .
Since Prime Minister Modi took charge of 7 RCR, India’s Neighborhood First Policy has been increasingly followed to develop relations, enhance understanding and ensure mutual cooperation and benefits with its neighbours. Relations with Islamabad have not improved so much compared to other rulers in the past. Although former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was invited for the 1st Swearing-in ceremony in 2014, terrorist activities have never ceased as evidenced by the terrorist attacks in Pathankot, Uri and Pulwama which killed many Indian soldiers. Even though surgical strikes have been carried out on terrorist camps in retaliation for these bombings, Islamabad has not changed its mind at all on its security or regional claims. New strategies and friendships are developing where Beijing has played a major role in controlling power dynamics.
The Belt and Road Initiative, first mentioned during President Xi’s speech in Kazakhstan in 2013 and then officially in 2015, focuses on realizing a Chinese dream of bringing countries together under one roof, to ensure their safety, to provide them with infrastructure projects such as ports, railways, pipelines, highways, etc. The main bottleneck is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as far as security threats from India are concerned, running through the disputed borders of Gilgit and Baltistan through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to Gwadar. Other projects have been initiated in Chittagong, Hambantota, Gwadar, Kyapkyou. These projects form a string of pearls in the Indo-Pacific where New Delhi is balanced by economic and development incentives given to member countries under the project. This is why, in the recent past, New Delhi has asserted its influence in the region, examining new dimensional threats where Beijing’s threats in the maritime domain in the islands of the East and South China Seas are not perceived. favorably in many countries such as ASEAN, USA, Australia and Japan, which gives India an opportunity to turn to countries with a common threat. In the midst of this great power struggle between Washington and Beijing, New Delhi is stuck between the rock and the hard place of having a clear and strong foreign policy with its neighbors.
In this region, India has only one threat which is mainly Beijing where the latter has achieved technological and military prowess where New Delhi is twenty times behind. It is therefore necessary to improvise military technology, to increase economic activities with countries, to reduce dependence on foreign aid, to ensure autonomy.
South Asia lags behind in economic development, human development and is home to the majority of the world’s population who live below the poverty line. Colonial rule left an endless impact on divisions based on communal, linguistic and ethnic grounds. Even, in terms of infrastructure and connectivity, New Delhi lags far behind Beijing in the district, as the latter is at the forefront when it comes to bringing countries together under one roof. Due to this, many initiatives have been taken by New Delhi to develop infrastructure and provide humanitarian aid to needy countries.
India has made many efforts to reach out to neighbors in 2020 through the establishment of the SAARC Covid Fund, where many neighboring countries such as Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have made contributions to ensure cooperation , joint scientific research, information sharing. , healthcare kits where the countries jointly contributed USD 18 million to this fund where New Delhi made an initial bid of USD 10 million.
New Delhi has even forged links with the Association of Southeast Asian Countries during the pandemic as part of its Act East policy where good connectivity through the North East could be helpful in facilitating the movement of goods, but currently the North East infrastructure needs more improvements when issues such as unemployment, poor connectivity prevails which disconnects it from the rest of the other states. This region could play an important role in linking Bangladesh, Myanmar to New Delhi with the India-Thailand-Myanmar trilateral corridor project. Emphasis has also been placed on the development of inland waterways, rail links and pipelines to facilitate connections between countries, making trade free and more efficient.
India is focusing on the development of Sittwe and Paletwa Ports in Myanmar under the Kaladan Development Corridor at a cost of INR 517.9 crore to provide a beneficial alternative online route to the northeast for access to maritime transport.
These above developments and the show of power of a powerful adversary give good reasons for New Delhi to adopt collective security mechanisms through QUAD, SIMBEX and JIMEX with a common perception of having safe and open waters respecting UNCLOS that China does not show too much interest in, seen through the monitoring units, the installation of artificial islands on disputed territories that countries like India are facing in the context of sovereignty and territorial integrity. These developments make it important for India to consider strategic threats by approaching countries with similar interests vis-à-vis the Chinese threat.
There is a need for India to develop and harness its strength through connectivity and its self-reliance initiative (Aatmanirbharta) so that it is not dependent on any foreign power in times of need. Good coordination between political decision makers and government officials could make decision making even easier, which does not completely exist due to ideological differences, different ideas that make it important for political leaders to coordinate jointly with government. army in times of border threats. Autonomy can only come from preparation and strategy.