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Sandeep asked : Is India’s foreign policy flawed considering the declining relationship with its neighbours?

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  • Ashok Kumar Behuria replies: India, like any other country, has to adapt to changing realities and refashion its foreign policy. India has adopted the policy of proactive engagement with all its neighbours since the 1990s. During the mid-1990s, the Gujral doctrine laid emphasis on non-reciprocal concessions to neighbours. Even if his doctrine excluded Pakistan for obvious reasons, India still sought to engage Pakistan despite its reluctance to address the issue of cross-border terrorism in a convincing manner. However, there is a perception that India's neighbourhood policy has not been successful.

    A close scrutiny of facts would reveal otherwise. India has managed to develop better economic relations with Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal, despite concerns about some of the countries using China as a balancer. India realises its limitations in convincing its neighbours about the long-term adverse consequences of such engagement. Therefore, it has, through its quiet diplomacy, sought to ensure that any such relationship between any of its neighbours and an extra-regional power must not be aimed at India. On certain occasions, China has asked leaders in the neighbourhood not to build their relationship with it at the cost of India. While there is a growing anxiety in the Indian strategic community about expanding Chinese footprints in the immediate neighbourhood, the changing pattern of international relations warrant a pragmatic and careful pursuit of national interests through cautious diplomacy. It is also to be noted that India's improved relationship with East Asian and South East Asian countries— especially Singapore, Vietnam, Japan, South Korea (and to some extent with Taiwan)— has induced similar concerns in China about Indian intentions.

    Given all this, it is not correct (or rather it is too early) to lament the failure of Indian diplomacy and foreign policy.