Why India should continue focusing on neighbourhood first

New Delhi, IndiaEdited By: Gravitas deskUpdated: Feb 03, 2021, 10:54 PM IST
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How India responds to the developments across the border is crucial for its diplomatic goals and its role in the post-pandemic world

What do Myanmar, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have in common? 

Growing Chinese influence

Chinese President Xi Jinping has visited two of these countries and has infused billions of dollars into all of them. Additionally, all three countries are a part of China's Belt and Road Initiative.

All three countries are India's immediate neighbours

How India responds to the developments across the border is crucial for its diplomatic goals and its role in the post-pandemic world. India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently told his party that India has a big role to play in the emerging new world order. The prime minister drew parallels between this decade and the one following World War 2. He reportedly said that unlike earlier, India is not going to be a mute spectator this time.

India is expanding its global footprint by becoming more vocal at global forums. India recently paid its UN Regular budget assessment in full. Also, New Delhi has entered the UNSC as a non-permanent member. India will stay on the council for 2 years.

India has plans and a list of issues it wants to raise. The expansion of the security council, to begin within both permanent and non-permanent categories. The biggest challenge is coming from China. Beijing heads at least six UN organisations. It has previously shielded Pakistani terrorists, raised Kashmir at the UNSC at Pakistan's behest.

China is now blocking a resolution on the Myanmar coup. It is trading its veto power at global forums for support, land and business in the neighbourhood.If India wants to emerge as a global leader in the post-pandemic world, it must build strategic alliances, expand its outreach programmes and begin all of this by concentrating on its neighbourhood first.

South Asia is evolving -Experimenting with democracy, being threatened by dictatorship, and witnessing changing geopolitics. India must respond to all of this with seasoned diplomacy. 30 years ago, India condemned military rule in Myanmar. Today, India should not feel compelled to follow the west because that would only push Myanmar closer to China.

India must maintain diplomatic ties with Myanmar and at the same time, it must be careful to not legitimise dictatorship. The situation in Sri Lanka too calls for an innovative approach. It is a turf where India and China are fighting for greater influence. India must counter China by supporting the neighbourhood - by using programmes like Vaccine Maitri to steer the region away from dependence on Chinese chequebooks.

India must shift the balance away from Beijing by relying on history, people-to-people connect, culture. India must win the trust and support of its neighbours as it eyes a global leadership role.