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NEIGHBOURHOOD FIRST POLICY



  Jul 05, 2024

NEIGHBOURHOOD FIRST POLICY



India's Neighbourhood First policy is a strategic initiative aimed at strengthening relationships and fostering cooperation with its neighboring countries. Launched by the Indian government, this policy emphasizes the importance of regional stability, economic integration, and mutual trust to achieve broader developmental goals. 

Key Objectives of the Neighbourhood First Policy

1. Strengthening Diplomatic Ties:

- Engage in proactive diplomacy to build stronger bilateral and multilateral relations with neighboring nations.

- Foster dialogue and collaboration on political, economic, and security issues.

2. Economic Cooperation:

- Promote trade and investment between India and its neighbors.

- Facilitate infrastructure development to enhance connectivity and economic integration within the region.

3. Security and Stability:

- Collaborate on security issues, including counter-terrorism, border management, and maritime security.

- Address regional security challenges through joint initiatives and cooperation.

4. Cultural and People-to-People Exchanges:

- Enhance cultural ties and promote people-to-people interactions to build mutual goodwill and understanding.

- Implement programs that facilitate educational, cultural, and technical exchanges.

5. Regional Integration:

- Actively participate in regional organizations such as SAARC, BIMSTEC, and IORA to promote collective regional interests.

- Work towards creating a cohesive and cooperative regional environment.

Importance of the Neighbourhood First Policy

The Neighbourhood First policy is critical for India’s geopolitical and economic aspirations. By fostering a secure and stable regional environment, India aims to pave the way for sustainable development and prosperity, both within its borders and in the broader South Asian region. The policy underscores India's commitment to being a responsible regional player and emphasizes the significance of collaborative efforts to address common challenges and achieve shared goals.

Through this policy, India seeks to create a conducive environment for regional peace, stability, and economic growth, thereby contributing to the vision of a 'Viksit Bharat' (Developed India).

HITS AND MISSES OF INDIA’S NEIGHBOURHOOD FIRST POLICY

Only if we have a secure and stable regional environment can India achieve its aim of a ‘Viksit Bharat’—Neighbourhood First in letter and spirit.

Successes

1. Diplomatic Engagements:

- India's proactive diplomatic outreach has led to increased dialogue and engagement with neighboring countries.

- Bilateral visits, summit meetings, and joint initiatives have improved ties and addressed mutual concerns.

2. Infrastructure Development:

- Initiatives like the SAARC Development Fund and the AIIB have facilitated infrastructure projects.

- These projects have enhanced connectivity and promoted economic integration.

3. Security Cooperation:

- Despite challenges, India has collaborated with neighbors on security issues.

- Initiatives like the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium have promoted cooperation in counter-terrorism, border management, and maritime security.

4. Regional Initiatives:

- India’s active participation in regional groupings like BIMSTEC, BBIN, and IORA has contributed to regional stability.

- These initiatives have fostered economic cooperation and collective security in the Indian Ocean region.

5. Cultural Exchanges:

- Programs like the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) and other cultural exchange platforms have strengthened people-to-people ties.

- Such exchanges have built goodwill and neighborly relations in the region.

Failures

1. Unresolved Border Disputes:

- Persistent border disputes, especially with Pakistan and China, have hindered trust and cooperation.

- Tensions along the Line of Control (LoC) and Line of Actual Control (LAC) continue to impede bilateral relations.

2. Geopolitical Rivalries:

- Growing geopolitical competition, particularly with China, has complicated India’s neighborhood dynamics.

- Power struggles in the region have often overshadowed efforts for cooperation.

3. Economic Disparities:

- Significant economic disparities between neighboring countries have affected the effectiveness of cooperation initiatives.

- Infrastructural deficits, trade barriers, and bureaucratic hurdles have prevented full regional economic integration.

4. Internal Instability:

- Political instability, ethnic conflicts, and governance challenges in neighboring countries have been stumbling blocks to closer cooperation.

- Issues like cross-border terrorism and insurgencies have strained relations and undermined trust.

5. Limited Progress in SAARC:

- Bilateral tensions and lack of consensus between key members, especially India and Pakistan, have limited the effectiveness of SAARC.

- This has affected its role as a platform for regional cooperation and integration.

Energising Neighbourhood First

To inject fresh energy into the Neighbourhood First policy, the Indian government should focus on:

1. Diplomatic Outreach:

- Prioritize high-level visits, summit meetings, and regular dialogue to address outstanding issues and build trust.

- Avoid knee-jerk reactions to internal politics of neighboring countries and promote mature statesmanship.

2. Conflict Resolution:

- Intensify efforts to resolve border disputes and other conflicts through dialogue and mediation.

- Implement confidence-building measures such as joint military exercises and cultural exchanges.

3. Economic Integration:

- Accelerate efforts to improve connectivity and economic integration through infrastructure projects and trade facilitation.

- Continue economic assistance to neighbors to enhance India’s image as a reliable partner.

4. Security Cooperation:

- Strengthen cooperation on counter-terrorism, maritime security, and border management.

- Explore greater military diplomacy to reduce misunderstandings and enhance national security.

5. Multilateral Engagement:

- Play a proactive role in regional multilateral organizations to address common challenges.

- Deepen engagement in SAARC, BIMSTEC, and IORA to boost regional cooperation.

6. Cultural Diplomacy:

- Expand programs like ITEC, cultural festivals, and tourism initiatives to enhance people-to-people ties.

- Utilize soft-power assets to build positive perceptions of India.

By implementing these measures, the new government can reinvigorate India’s Neighbourhood First policy and realize its vision of a peaceful, prosperous, and interconnected region.


SRIRAM'S


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