Topic: GS2 – International relations.
- Indian foreign policy aspires to global leadership, but faces challenges in its immediate neighbourhood.
- South Asia poses three types of dilemmas for India: politically anti-India regimes, structural issues from China’s influence, and geopolitical architecture changes.
Causes of Dilemmas:
Regional Geopolitical Architecture:
- Diminishing US presence in South Asia creates a power vacuum, filled by China, impacting India’s strategic position.
- China’s rise acts as a geopolitical buffer for smaller states, leading to a ‘China card’ in their foreign policy.
Norms-Free-Zone and Material Needs:
- China offers a norms-free alternative, influencing regional states to prioritize material benefits over normative considerations.
- India’s normative approach contrasts with China’s non-normative stance, impacting regional dynamics.
Changing Power Dynamics:
- India’s historical primacy in South Asia faces challenges as China emerges as a non-resident power without historical baggage.
- Complications from being a resident power, such as cultural, ethnic, and refugee issues, hinder India’s influence.
Policy Stance and Assumptions:
Status Quo Bias and Limited Engagement:
- India’s status quo bias in dealing with regional politics limits engagement with diverse power centers.
- A one-track policy focusing on established leaders may alienate other influential actors or opposition figures.
- The belief that South Asia minus Pakistan would align with Indian geopolitical reasoning has proven inaccurate.
- India’s culture-connect with the region is questioned as a potential liability in foreign policy execution.
Realistic Framing and Acknowledgment:
- India should recognize the fundamental shift in South Asian dynamics and acknowledge China’s emergence as a serious contender.
- Accepting the new reality of ‘Southern Asia’ with China as a contender helps in realistic policy formulation.
External Actor Involvement:
- Proactive involvement of friendly external actors is crucial to counter the region becoming Sino-centric.
- Collaborative efforts with external partners can help balance influence and maintain regional stability.
- Indian diplomacy should be flexible, engaging multiple actors within neighbouring countries.
- The focus should be on lessening anti-India sentiment rather than excluding anti-India elements from diplomatic engagement.
Increase Diplomatic Capacity:
- India urgently needs to address the shortage of diplomats to effectively implement its foreign policy.
- The growing role of India in global affairs requires a commensurate increase in diplomatic personnel to handle emerging opportunities and crises.
Question: Examine the key dilemmas in India’s neighborhood policy, considering the impact of China’s rise and shifting regional dynamics. Suggest concise strategies for India to navigate these challenges effectively.