Panel on India's Neighbourhood First Policy by Department of Geopolitics and IR

July 01, 2019

Faculty and Research Scholars of Department of Geopolitics and International, Manipal Academy of Higher Education Participated and presented a panel in a two day National Seminar on the theme “India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ Policy: Emerging New Trends” during 24-25 June 2019. 

Theme of the Panel - India’s Neighbourhood First Policy: A Status Report


Panelists: Dr Arvind Kumar, Dr. Nanda Kishor MS, Dr. Anand V., Mr. Vineeth Krishnan, Mr. CM Ramu, Ms. Anupama Vijayakumar

Overview and Assessment of India’s Neighbourhood First Policy


Dr. Arvind Kumar, Professor and Head, Department of Geopolitics and International Relations, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal

Managing India’s neighbourhood have never been easy and remains complicated. However, the enunciation of India’s neighbourhood first policy to a greater extent has led to a quantum shift in India’s foreign policy orientations. It seems that India has finally understood its primary task to ensure an external environment that is conducive to its overall transformation and development. If India has to become a rising power and wants to meet its strategic aspirations, there will be no way other than the attainment of a peaceful and prosperous periphery around India’s neighbourhood. India’s neighbourhood first policy has been mainly intended to create positive atmosphere, bridge the trust deficit and finally converge on all important pertinent areas mainly to promote a robust constructive engagement.

The paper will make a modest attempt in outlining the major issues in India’s neighbourhood first policy and how India would require to translate all its rhetoric into action. Has India been able to spell out all the major thorny issues with all the countries in its neighbourhood and explored ways and mechanism to bridge the differences will form a major part of the debate? A modest attempt will also be made to assess and analyse the high level political visits by India to the countries in its neighbourhood and examine whether intangible paved the way for tangibles. How the countries of India’s neighbourhood will help in creating peaceful conditions for economic development remains a major question for the success of India’s changing foreign policy orientations.  


Decoding India’s Neighbourhood First Policy: Case Study of Pakistan and Bangladesh


Dr. Nanda Kishor M S, Assistant Professor (Senior Scale), Department of Geopolitics and International Relations, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal

South Asia has been witnessing a tectonic shift in its politics and undergoing internal transformation. India’s role in South Asia has always been dominant. It is often said, in pursuit of great power status, having superiority over and good will of the neighbouring countries is a prerequisite. This statement comes with loaded repercussion and more often challenges to confront when a nation is located in hostile neighbourhood. India’s foreign policy praxis has been derived from being a civilizational state. This has been demonstrated in its international conduct and acceptance for the last 70 years. The driving factor behind the foreign policy has been the pursuit of peace rather than hyper notion of security. The benign component of the foreign policy did not change international position of India in decision making and stature drastically though India was still considered as a normative power. This became evident with China spreading its tentacles in South Asia and wielding considerable amount of influence on India’s neighbours. India had several reasons for the policy vacuum in South Asia, firstly, since 1990’s there has been no majority government in the centre and this lead to policy paralysis. Secondly, the recovery from the shocks of pre 1991 mixed economy was slower than expected. Thirdly, Pakistan’s hostility to every initiative of India in the region played a major role in the region remaining in ‘No War-No Peace’ scenario.

With the decisive mandate in the general election of India in 2014, the resolve to win the neighbours and boosting confidence in them began with the invitation to the SAARC leaders for the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Modi. This worked as a prelude to the much spoken “Neighbourhood-First Policy”. This particular policy has been driven by perceived security and strategic interests of India which was long due since independence. The idea was to add dynamism and vitality in implementation of the existing initiatives but in the form of a more formalised policy. The policy was to specifically convey the strong sense of priority India attached to its neighbours. This was furthered with the Panchamrit policy in which shared prosperity and security was envisioned with utmost pragmatic approach. This lead the Prime Minister to visit Sri Lanka after a gap of 28 years and Nepal after 17 years. Modi Chose Bhutan as the first nation to visit after taking over as Prime Minister. As part of the NFP, Land Boundary Agreement with Bangladesh, helping out Nepal during the earthquake, building houses in Sri Lanka, SAARC satellite for weather forecasting and so on have been notable achievements.

The Neighbourhood-First Policy is yet to realise India’s goals of building an amicable and conducive environment in South Asia. In fact, instances of violence in the border with Pakistan has risen in the last five years. Pakistan has been using asymmetric methods to bleed India with thousand cuts. Sponsoring a number of terrorist organisations to keep targeting India has been primordial priority for Pakistan in addition to building a strong nexus with militant organisations within India. India has responded with surgical strikes and air strikes to exhibit its resolve to handle security threats to India emanating from Pakistan. With national security at the core of the election campaign and a landslide victory in 2019 for the NDA should make it much more belligerent in dealing with Pakistan. India has to look for options to deal with Pakistan not only through military but also through diplomacy. But, whether Pakistan will mean serious business with India on peace remains a question?

Pakistan will continue to pose challenge to India and will attempt to make the Neighbourhood First Policy irrelevant. In the case of Bangladesh, India has been comparatively relived to have Sheikh Hasina in the helm of affairs. Her stance towards terrorism and insurgency has been aiding NFP to a large extent. Unfortunately, the influx of Bangladeshi Muslim population to India’s north eastern states has been a major case of concern. This is directly affecting demographic composition, elections and policy making in India. Added problem is also from the Rohingya refugees settled in Bangladesh over a period of time sneaking to India. Handling the Teesta settlement, Bangladeshi influx and Rohingya issues will be a herculean task for India and for neighbourhood First Policy in particular. How India will respond and what could be the probable policy choices available for India would form the crux of this research paper.  



One Year of “Wuhan Spirit”: Evolving Convergences in India-China Relations


 Dr. Anand V, Assistant Professor, Department of Geopolitics and International Relations, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal



There seems to be a remarkable progress in Sino-Indian relations after the Wuhan Summit held in April 2018 between India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China’s President Xi Jinping. The first-of-its-kind informal meeting happened less than a year after the Doklam crisis, which represented a nadir in the trajectory of Sino-Indian relations in the Twenty First Century. The summit gave rise to what has been called the “Wuhan Spirit” – a consensus between the top leadership of both the countries with regard to resuming and boosting bilateral co-operation despite the various differences. More importantly, this entailed “strategic guidance” to their respective militaries to strengthen communication and confidence building mechanisms between them. It has been stressed that for the “Asian Century” to become a reality, both India and China needs to properly manage their relationship. The Wuhan Summit appears to have been a very productive meeting because both India and China have been converging on a number of strategic areas like maintaining peace and tranquility in the border areas, pushing forward economic relations in a balanced manner by exploiting the complementarities, promoting cultural and people-to-people exchanges, sharing concerns on terrorism and showing serious signs of emerging co-operating on counter-terrorism, strengthening strategic communication through greater consultation on overlapping regional and global interests, as well as upholding an open, multipolar, pluralist and participatory global economic order.

However, China’s continuing insensitive approach to India’s territorial integrity (as in the case of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) and Pakistan’s cross-border terrorism against India, as well as China’s persistent opposition to India’s membership in leading international fora (like the Nuclear Suppliers Group) remain as major irritants for India. In this context, it becomes important to analyse the implications of the Wuhan summit on Sino-Indian relations. In the post-Wuhan scenario, a number of developments have taken place, which seems to suggest a strengthening of the Wuhan spirit. For instance, in the aftermath of the Pulwama terrorist attack in India, China has finally yielded to the growing international pressure to act against the terrorist masterminds sponsored by Pakistan. In addition, the trade imbalance has apparently reduced by $10 billion in the past one year. Moreover, the resumption of the tenures of both Xi and Modi and their domestic reconsolidation of power has provided added stability to the Wuhan spirit. The US-China trade war has also provided significant impetus to the growing positivity in the Sino-Indian relations. An effort will be made to critically assess these emerging developments through the perspective of the growing bonhomie between the top leadership of the two countries. The research paper will also assess and analyse whether there will be a continuity in “Wuhan Spirit” in the foreseeable future.

Energy Security through India’s Neighbourhood First Policy: Challenges and Prospects


Ramu C.M, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Geopolitics and International Relations, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal

As India’s energy consumption is projected to grow exponentially in the coming years, there is an urgent need to assess and optimise the resource potential of its immediate neighbourhood. The countries in India’s immediate neighbourhood have huge potential especially in the context of the resources for energy security of India. The impetus given to natural gas induction and harnessing the resources for hydropower beckons a streamlined foreign policy approach that dovetails sourcing of affordable gas as well as the generation of electricity with water reservoirs more particularly in Bhutan and Nepal with virtually no geopolitical risk. In this regard, Myanmar remains an opportunity for India’s energy quest – both as a proximate supplier of gas to the latter’s energy-deprived northeast region – and as a crucial node in a prospective India-centric regional gas trading hub.

It is imperative for India to move ahead and harness the potential of Myanmar when there is some sort of a power vacuum and some space created for India’s entry. It was reflected when Prime Minister Modi visited Myanmar in 2017 as a part of his emphasis on neighbourhood first policy. India would require to explore ways and mechanism for harnessing the potential of hydropower from other regions of South Asia in addition to maneuvering for natural gas from Myanmar through largely creating a win-win situation.


The research study will make a modest attempt to understand the nuances of India’s involvement in Myanmar’s energy sector, with a particular focus on natural gas and also examine other resources available in South Asian region. With respect to the prospective development of a regional gas trading hub, the study will assess the challenges and prospects for India in not only optimising Myanmar’s gas reserves, but also in operationalising a bilateral/multilateral energy-bound trade and transport corridor across the Bay of Bengal littoral rim. An assessment will be done on the probability of enhancing the level of engagement with Bhutan and Nepal in the context of India’s neighbourhood first policy with a greater focus on energy security.


Leveraging India’s Technological Capabilities: Prospects for Cooperation with India’s Neighbourhood


Ms. Anupama V, PhD Candidate, Department of Geopolitics and International Relations, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal


The past few decades have witnessed India’s rise to become a major pole of power in the international system.  India's rise came about following a steady economic growth it witnessed in the post-liberalisation era, within the stability provided by its political system. However, the elevation in India's power status seems to have been greatly facilitated by the strides it made in key spheres of strategic technologies, namely nuclear, space and information, communication technology (ICT). India has been spearheading in a number of technological areas where the countries in India’s neighbourhood can get benefitted.

India is well-positioned to leverage its technological prowess and promote its neighbourhood first policy. India would require to address the challenges being confronted by its neighbours and more importantly as a part of its technological diplomacy mobilise the countries of the region in its favour. India has to identify a number of areas including telecommunications, energy security, disaster management and climate change adaptation where there can really be a win-win situation.

Under this backdrop, the research paper will make an attempt to assess and analyse the advances India has witnessed in the field of science and technology and how India would leverage its technological strength to promote cooperation with the countries in South Asia. An attempt would also be made to examine how India can build win-win situation both at the bilateral or multilateral level with its South Asian neighbours in a number of areas including outer space, clean technology for climate change adaptation and telecommunications.