India and Its Neighbours
India has a long land frontier and coastline. It shares boundaries with Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, China, Bangladesh, Myanmar (Burma) and Sri Lanka. India has official political relations with most nations. India is considered as the world’s second most populous and democratic country. Foreign policy of India has always regarded the concept of neighbourhood as one of broadening concentric circles, around a central axis of historical and cultural commonalities.
India and China
In terms of geographic and demographic dimensions, skilled manpower, civilizational depth, China is the only country in the region which qualifies for comparison with India.The relation between these two nations are changeable. The two countries have a long history of civilisational links.
When the Communists came to power in China, India had welcomed the change and was one of the first countries to recognise her. She also advocated China’s admission to the UN.
n 1954, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the Chinese Prime Minister, Chou- en-lai, had signed the “Panchsheel” agreement.
They adopted five principles:
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.
5. Peaceful coexistence.
In spite of this, in 1962, China attacked India in the North-East and occupied a part of Indian Territory. The war ended soon but relations between India and China remained strained for a long time to come.
The visits of the Indian Prime Ministers Rajiv Gandhi (in 1988) and Narasimha Rao (in 1993) to China have improved the situation to some extent. Several trade agreements have also been signed. But it is not an easy task to restore peace and mutual trust between the two countries.
India wants good solution of the boundary issues. But China wants to delay solution to the border issue.
Since 2004, the economic growth of China and India has also helped furnace closer relations. Sino-Indian trade reached US$65.47 billion in 2013-14, making China the single largest trading partner of India. The growing economic reliance between India and China has also bought the two nations closer administratively, with both India and China excited to resolve their boundary dispute. They have also worked together on several issues ranging from WTO’s Doha round in 2008 to regional free trade agreement.
Recently A Chinese road building project in the Himalayas has become the center of an escalating border dispute between India and China, with both sides accusing the other of territorial intrusions. the controversial road runs through the disputed Doklam Plateau, on the unmarked border between China and Bhutan.
Though not a part of Indian territory, the plateau holds immense strategic importance for Delhi and is vital to its geopolitical interests.
India and Bhutan have maintained historically strong relations. Bhutan co-operates closely with India in determining its foreign policy, and the Indian Army is involved in the training of its armed forces.
China, which does not have formal diplomatic ties with Bhutan, has denied that it has violated any treaties.
India and Afghanistan:
India’s relations with Afghanistan are healthy and there is co-operation in economic, technical and cultural fields. India applauded the UN-sponsored Geneva Agreement on Afghanistan in 1988. India recapped its stand for an independent, non-aligned Afghanistan.
India offers aid programs for Afghanistan include infrastructure development, institutional capacity building, small development projects, as well as food security assistance in the form of ongoing deliveries of wheat to Afghanistan.
Despite many transit obstacles, the volume of Indo-Afghan trade stood at $680 million during 2013-2014, which is continually rising, following the full implementation of the Afghanistan and Pakistan Trade and Transit Agreement (APTTA).
Links between Afghanistan and India go beyond the traditionally strong relations at the government level. Since ancient time, the peoples of Afghanistan and India have interacted with each other through trade and commerce, peacefully coexisting on the basis of their shared cultural values and commonalities.
India and Bangladesh:
Indian government believe in maintaining good relations with neighbouring countries. Bangladesh is one of its close neighbour. India had recognised Bangladesh as a separate and independent state, did so on 6 December 1971. India fought together with the Bangladeshis to liberate Bangladesh from West Pakistan in 1971. Bangladesh and India share a common tradition. They are pleasant and both nations make great efforts to solve the problem of waters of Ganga at Farakka and Tin Bigha corridor in a spirit of give and take. India has helped Bangladesh in the recovery of cyclone victims in 1985. In broad sense, the relations between the two nations continue to be amiable. But major issues in relation with these two nation is that of about 145,000 Chakma refugees who crossed over to India. Bangladesh’s relationship with India has been difficult in terms of irrigation and land border disputes post 1976. Nevertheless, India has maintained favourable relationship with Bangladesh during governments formed by the Awami League in 1972 and 1996.
Presently, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina have completed a revolutionary deal redrawing their disordered shared border and there by solving disputes between India and Bangladesh. Bangladesh and India have signed a historic agreement to simplify their border by exchanging more than 150 enclaves of land.
India and Bangladesh also have free trade agreement in June 7, 2015. Both nations solved its border dispute on June 6, 2015. To connect Kolkata with Tripura via Bangladesh through railway, the Union Government on 10 February 2016 sanctioned about 580 crore rupees. The funds were sanctioned for constructing the 15-kilometer railway track between Kolkata and Tripura. The project that is expected to be completed by 2017 will pass through Bangladesh. The Agartala-Akhaura rail-link between Indian Railway and Bangladesh Railway will reduce the current 1700 km road distance between Kolkata to Agartala via Siliguri to just 350-kilometer by railway. These projects are high level and on Prime Minister’s ‘Act East’ Policy.
India and Bhutan:
Relations between India and Bhutan are friendly since past and it is strengthened recently. Co-operation in economic field between the two countries has advanced them. India has helped Bhutan in industry development such as in the field of telecommunications, hydel survey, education and forestry. Historically, there have been strong ties with India. Both countries signed a friendship treaty in 1949, where India would support Bhutan in foreign relations.
The Indo-Bhutan Friendship Treaty of 2007 supports Bhutan’s position as an independent and sovereign nation. The hydropower sector is one of the main supports of bilateral cooperation. It demonstrates mutually beneficial synergy by providing clean energy to India and exports revenue to Bhutan (power contributes 14% to the Bhutanese GDP, comprising about 35% of Bhutan’s total exports). Three hydroelectric projects (HEPs) totaling 1416 MW, (336 MW Chukha HEP, the 60 MW Kurichu HEP, and the 1020 MW Tala HEP), are already exporting electricity to India.
The First Five Year Plan (FYP) of Bhutan was launched in 1961. Since then, India has been extending financial assistance to Bhutan’s FYPs.
India and Burma/Myanmar:
India maintained political relations after Burma’s independence from Great Britain in 1948. Burma is located to the south of the states of Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh in Northeast India and the proximity of the People’s Republic of China gives strategic importance to Indo-Burmese relations.
When serious turbulence erupted in Burma in 1988, India expressed sympathy for the democratic aspirations of the people in that country. Additionally, India allowed Burmese inhabitants to stay in camps in Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh.
India offered good support when Burma struggled with regional rebellions.
India announced a plan to develop the Sittwe port, which enabled ocean access from Indian North-eastern states like Mizoram, via the Kaladan River.
India is a major purchaser of Burmese oil and gas. In 2007, Indian exports to Burma totalled US$185 million, while its imports from Burma were estimated US$810 million, consisting mostly of oil and gas. India has granted US$100 million credit to fund highway infrastructure projects in Burma, while US$57 million has been offered to advancement of Burmese railways.
India and Maldives:
India has retained cordial relations with Maldives. Maldives is located south of India’s Lakshadweep Islands in the Indian Ocean. As friendly neighbours, India and Maldives share ethnic, linguistic, cultural, religious and commercial links steeped in antiquity and enjoy cordial and multi-dimensional relations.
India has considerable influence over Maldives’ foreign policy and offers extensive security co-operation especially after the Operation Cactus in 1988 during which India repelled Tamil mercenaries who occupied the country.
India and Maldives signed a trade agreement in 1981, which provides for export of vital commodities.
India has begun the process to bring the island country into India’s security grid. The move comes after the moderate Islamic nation approached New Delhi earlier over fears that one of its island resorts could be taken over by terrorists given its lack of military assets and surveillance capabilities.
Maldives has coastal radars on only two of its 26 atolls. India will support set up radars on all 26 for seamless coverage of approaching vessels and aircraft.
India and Nepal:
Nepal is also friendly neighbour country of India. There has been a long tradition of free movement of people across the borders. Nepal has an area of 147,181 sq. kms and a population of 29 million. It shares a border of over 1850 kms in the east, south and west with five Indian States – Sikkim, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and in the north with the Tibet Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China.
Relations between India and Nepal weakened during 1989 when India imposed a 13-month-long economic barrier of Nepal. But Indian PM Narendra Modi visited Nepal in 2014 and normalized relations.
In devastating earthquake occurred in Nepal on 25 April 2015, the Government of India swiftly dispatched National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams and special aircrafts with rescue and relief materials to Nepal.
India and Nepal has strong economic ties also. Since 1996, Nepal’s exports to India have grown rapidly and bilateral trade more than seven times.
Government of India offers significant financial and technical development assistance to Nepal, which is a broad-based programme focusing on creation of infrastructure at the grass-root level, under which various projects have been implemented in the fields of infrastructure, health, water resources, education and rural & community development.
India has also helped Nepal in the field of education and prove to be best neighbour.
In cultural arena, Government of India initiatives to promote people-to-people contacts in the area of art & culture, academics and media include cultural programmes.
India and Pakistan:
Pakistan has been antagonistic when maintaining relations with India. But India has made extreme efforts to improve and stabilize relations with Pakistan. Pakistan has been buying arms from the USA.
Pakistan has been raising the Kashmir issue on various international media. India has conveyed its concern to Pakistan over all these issues. India has assured Pakistan that it would never attack Pakistan, but the actions of Pakistan are conflicting to the ideologies of bilateralism enshrined in the Simla Agreement. Thus the relations between India and Pakistan are bitter.
Major cause of dispute between India and Pakistan has been the Kashmir conflict. After an invasion by Pashtun tribesmen and Pakistani paramilitary forces, the Hindu Maharaja of the Dogra Kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir, Hari Singh, and its Muslim Prime Minister, Sheikh Abdullah, signed an Instrument of Accession with New Delhi. The First Kashmir War started after the Indian Army entered Srinagar, the capital of the state, to secure the area from the occupying forces. The war ended in December 1948 with the Line of Control dividing the erstwhile princely state into territories administered by Pakistan and India. Pakistan challenged the legality of the Instrument of Accession since the Dogra Kingdom has signed a standstill agreement with it. The Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 began following the failure of Pakistan’s Operation Gibraltar, which was designed to infiltrate forces into Jammu and Kashmir to precipitate an insurgency against rule by India.
In 1971, India and Pakistan went to war again. This time the conflict being over East Pakistan. The large-scale atrocities committed there by the Pakistan army led to millions of Bengali refugees entering into India.
In 1998, India performed the Pokhran-II nuclear tests which was followed by Pakistan’s Chagai-I tests. Following the Lahore Declaration in February 1999, relations between two nations slightly improved. A few months later, Pakistani paramilitary forces and Pakistan Army, penetrated in huge numbers into the Kargil district of Indian Kashmir. This started the Kargil War after India moved in thousands of troops to successfully kick out the infiltrators.
India again tried to make friendly relations and came forward to organize the Agra summit held in July 2001, but it also failed. Some devastating events, an attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001, which was blamed on Pakistan. This resulted in military standoff between the two countries which lasted for nearly a year raising fears of a nuclear warfare. However, a peace process, started in 2003, led to improved relations in the following years.
The 2008 Mumbai assaults seriously destabilised the relations between the two countries. India alleged Pakistan of harbouring militants on their land, while Pakistan fervently denies such claims.
India and Sri Lanka:
India and Sri Lanka has conventionally close to each other. Huge numbers of Tamil of Indian origin live in Sri Lanka. This created cultural problem in Sri Lanka. Although the problem of the people of Indian origin settled in Sri Lanka was solved by P.M. Lal Bahadur Shastri in a friendly manner, but the killings of the Tamil in that country worsen the relations between the two countries. With the signing of Indo-Sri Lanka Accord in 1987 relations improved. The Indian Peace-keeping Forces have returned to India after having performed their job. Assassination of Rajiv Gandhi by LTTE activities put the relations between the two countries in melancholies.
India is Sri Lanka’s only neighbour, separated by the Palk Strait. Both nations occupy a strategic position in South Asia and have sought to build a common security authority in the Indian Ocean.
Over the years, India-Sri Lanka relations have undergone major transformation. Political relations are close, trade and investments have increased radically, infrastructural linkages are continually being increased, defence collaboration has increased and there is broad-based improvement across all sectors of bilateral cooperation. India was the first nation to respond to Sri Lanka’s request for assistance after the tsunami in December 2004. In July 2006, India evacuated 430 Sri Lankan nationals from Lebanon, first to Cyprus by Indian Navy ships and then to Delhi and Colombo by special Air India flights.
Sri Lanka is India’s largest trade partner in South Asia. 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.
It is assessed that both nations have built upon an inheritance of intellectual, cultural, religious and linguistic intercourse. Relations between the two countries have also matured and diversified with the passage of time, encompassing all areas of contemporary relevance.
At last in brief, India is a huge country with manifold cultures. It has high status in the South East Asia. India has vast cultural advancement therefore nation has maintained good and sociable relations with all its neighbours. India’s foreign policy is to maintain peace, freedom and mutual co-operation among the nations. Its foreign policy is based on the philosophies of Panchsheel, nonalignment disarmament. India’s immediate neighbours are Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, Burma, China and Afghanistan. India has cordial historical, religious, economic, ethnic and linguistic relationships with all of these states.