Neighbourhood first?

Why in News?
During prime Minister Narendra Modi touched down in the Maldives in mid-November to attend the swearing-in of Ibrahim Mohamed Solih as the country’s President, recent changes in Neighbourhood policy of Modi government.
  • There is gradual shift in the government’s neighbourhood policy of 2018, that resounds closer to the “neighbourhood first” articulation of 2014.
  • The government has changed its role from playing big brother in the neighbourhood to a more generous and avuncular version.
Following change in Neighbourhood policy :
Maldives:PM Modi to attend the swearing-in of Ibrahim Mohamed Solih as the country’s President.
  • This was Mr. Modi’s first visit to the Maldives, the only country in South Asia he had not yet visited in his tenure, and the first by an Indian Prime Minister in seven years.
  • The only time a visit by Mr. Modi had been planned, in 2015, he cancelled his travel plan abruptly, to register a strong protest at the treatment of opposition leaders, who are now in government.
  • The one “first” that was not as prominent, however, was that despite inviting all South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) leaders to his own swearing-in ceremony in May 2014, the Maldives visit marked the first time Mr. Modi attended the swearing-in ceremony of any other leader.
Nepal:With Nepal, the government’s moves were a clear turn-around from the ‘tough love’ policy since the 2015 blockade. After the re-election of K.P. Sharma Oli, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj went to Kathmandu despite of his anti-India campaign.
  • Since then, Mr. Oli has been invited to Delhi and Mr. Modi has made two visits to Nepal, with a third one planned in December to be part of the “Vivaha Panchami” festival. The frequency of visits in 2018 is in stark contrast to the three preceding years, when Mr. Modi did not visit Nepal at all.
Afghanistan: After a policy of more than two decades of refusing to engage with the Taliban, in November India sent envoys to the Moscow conference on Afghanistan, where the Taliban’s representatives were present.The U.S. chose to send a diplomat based in Moscow as an “observer”, but the Indian delegation of former Ambassadors to the region represented non-official “participation” at the event.
  • Earlier, the government had stayed aloof from the process, explaining that any meeting outside Afghanistan crossed the redline on an “Afghan-owned and Afghan-led solution”.
  • Although the change in position was eventually achieved by a high-level outreach by the Russian government and Afghanistan President Ghani himself. Ghani had made a strong pitch for backing talks with the Taliban during a visit to Delhi in mid-September.
Pakistan: India send two Union Ministers to Pakistan to join Prime Minister Imran Khan for the ground-breaking ceremony for the Kartarpur corridor, as part of the larger pattern of softening towards the neighbourhood.
  1. During election campaign in Bhutan and Bangladesh and during the political crisis in Sri Lanka, India has chosen to make no public political statement that could be construed as interference or preference for one side over the other
  2. Reason for this change in approach author cited is receiving of certain backlash from some of its smallest neighbours like Nepal and the Maldives in recent times.
  3. Another could be the conscious rolling back of India’s previous policy of dissuading neighbours from Chinese engagement to now standing back as they learn the risks of debt-traps and over-construction of infrastructure on their own.

Neighbourhood first? Neighbourhood first? Reviewed by The Hindu Current Affairs on December 03, 2018 Rating: 5

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