India has always been known as a peace-loving country and has always strived hard to champion the cause of peace in the world. Being a country with a huge population of 1.5 billion people, India is surrounded by many neighbouring countries with whom she has traditionally tried to maintain friendly and good-neighbourly relations.
India’s neighbours are Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. But from strategic point of view we will take Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal as a case study. Ever since India got her independence in 1947 she was eager to have friendly relations with all the countries of the world particularly her neighbours, with Pakistan being on the top of her priority list. With the exception of China and Pakistan, India has cordial and friendly relations with all her neighbours though problems keep brewing up.
The foreign policy orientations and attitudes of all these countries towards India exercised profound influence on the framers of the India’s foreign policy. On its part India tried to maintain cordial and friendly relations with these countries but has found considerable difficulties in dealing with these neighbouring countries and often they have adopted hostile postures towards India, presumably at the instigation of these foreign powers.
With India being situated in a politically turmoiled geography her relations with the neighbours are always characterized by ups and downs. In her relations with her neighbours, India has been following the five principles of the famous Panchsheel, which have mid dividends.
India and Pakistan tied by history but divided by destiny have so much in common-geographically, historically, culturally and economically as both constituted a single entity till 1947. The partition of the country into a muslim and hindu nation with Kashmir being a bone of contention have only embittered the realtions between them. Some of the problem that threatenend Indo-Pak relations are boundary dispute, refugee problem, canal water dispute, question of princely states and so on.
Kashmir still remains an unresolved problem even today with three wars fought for it in 1948, 1965 and 1999. In 1971 india was dragged into a third war by Pakistan and the result was the liberation of Bangladesh. The Simla Agreement between India and Pakistan after the 1971 Indo-Pak war was the culmination of India’s efforts for restoration of peace and reconciliation in the sub-continent. But owing to false apprehensions Pakistan has failed to extend her cooperation towards normalisation of relations with India.
Pakistan gave a negative twist to the peaceful nuclear explosion by India and levelled unwarranted and baseless allegations against India. Thus, the progress towards restoration of friendly relations with this immediate neighbour of India has been rather slow. To top it Pakistan’s nefarious brains and rogue intelligence agency has always been behind the spate of violence in Kashmir and attacks in India.
In 1978, visit of India’s External Affairs Minister to Pakistan gave a new turn to the relations between the two countries, when they agreed to improve their relations on basis of equality, non-interference and goodwill. But the Kargil war in 1999 further embittered the relations between the two. Former President General Pervez Musharaff started malicious propaganda against India resulting in the failure of Agra Summit in 2001. After that dialogues and talks were held from both sides with no concrete results till 2007 when due to internal squabbles Benazir Bhutto was assassinated leading to emergency in Pakistan.
With India proclaimed as a ‘soft state’ Pakistan continued to bleed it white with 26/11, being the most brutal scar to India’s integrity. Both the countries continue to attend secretary level talks and exchanging dossiers with the perpetrators of terror attacks roaming free and no concrete solution being achieved till now.
The relations between India and Sri Lanka have been historical and both have remained cordial for a long term particularly during Nehru’s and Bandarnaika’s tenures. The era of warmth suddenly came to an end due to racial disturbances in Sri Lanka. Though under Rajiv-Jayawardana accord (July 24, 1989) Indian Peace Keeping forces (IPKF) landed in Sri Lanka, they had to be recalled due to vehement criticism both at home and abroad. India had to pay a heavy price including the life of our soldiers and then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. After that India followed a policy of non-intervention in the ethnic conflicts of Sri Lanka. India and Sri Lanka succeeded in finalizing the free trade agreement in March 1999 which proposes phasing out of tariffs on large number of items. By 2000 the attitude of both Lankan government and LLTE got a change. This is due to the prompt response of India in despatching aid to flood ravaged areas in Lanka in 2003. After the death of LTTE leader Prabhakaran much has now been calm between the two countries. President Rajapakshe further strengthened the bond by attending the World Cup 2011 final match between India and Sri Lanka in Mumbai.
Indo-Bangladesh relations continued to be further strengthened and consolidated in all spheres in the spirit of close friendship, mutual confidence and co-operation. It was in the spirit of goodwill and cooperation that the land boundary question between the two countries was settled for the cause of peace, welfare and progress of the peoples of the two countries. The visit of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to India and that of Shri V.V. Giri to Bangladesh in 1974 provided an opportunity to the two nations to strengthen the growing ties of cooperation between them. After the assassination of Rehman, the policy of Bangladesh towards India witnessed a change. There are some points of disagreement which, according to India, can be settled by bilateral negotiations. The Farakka accord on sharing of Ganga Waters signed in September 1977 is a historic agreement negotiated between India and Bangladesh. The present Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina is maintaining a cordial relationship with India, with the latter supporting with all necessary economic aid. In return, India has asked not to provide shelter to Maoists who flee to Bangladesh.
There exists an ethno demographic relationship between India and Nepal with high rate of migration, cross-border marriage and family relationships as principal feature of this relationship. Though there were strains in the initial stages with anti-India feelings, the sworning in as Prime Minister by Girija Prasad Koirala helped to establish a very cordial relationship. The bond of friendship further increased when India included Nepalese language in the VIII schedule of the constitution. During the crisis of restoring peace and democracy in the country India offered her good offices in restoring peace. Indo-Nepalese economic relations are intimate with India being a major participant in Nepal’s economic development.
Thus, India’s relation with her neighbours has not been cordial. In one way or the other we have misunderstandings with our neighbours. Circumstances forced India, the universal apostle of peace to wage war with her neighbours particularly Pakistan and China not only once but many times. Smoke still emerges out of Indo-Pak and Indo- China borders. Illegal activities surrounding the border are posing many threats to India’s security. In such a scenario India should adopt a stance of initiating meaningful dialogues with its troublesome neighbours as ‘dialogue is the backbone of diplomacy.’ And with India progressing with leaps and bounds it is emerging as a major global player in international affairs and now the whole world is looking to it with an altogether different perspective.
Thus, India should adopt the foreign policy that “in international relations there is no permanent friend and no permanent foe, only the interests are permanent.”
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