India and its relationship with neighboring countries.

A good neighbor – a found treasure.

Chinese Proverb

India has faced many ups and downs with the relationship with its neighboring countries. Sometimes, those neighboring countries turn out to be a treasure and sometimes, few relations are quite rocky.

China –  From ancient to contemporary times, India and China have always had some history together. In the past, the silk road i.e., the route which went from China to Turkey while passing through Kashmir, served as a trade route. During the British India era, the first cut of own grown tea was sent from India to China. However, the peaceful times between India and China were short lived. Since 1962, the Sino-Indian relation consisted mainly of border disputes. The first war fought between the two countries was in 1962 followed by the Chola Incident in 1967 and finally the military standoff between both in Sumdorong Chu Valley in Tawang. Since then, numerous border disputes have cropped up, but since 2017 till date, India and China are clashing over and at Doklam. The ties between both the countries are strained due to the increasing affection of China towards Pakistan, dispute over eastern Ladak and China’s alleged claim over South China Sea.  Despite the border disputes and the never-ending tension between the two countries, they still conduct joint military exercise called Exercise Hand in Hand. There were total of 8 editions of Exercise Hand in Hand wherein the last edition was held in 2019 in India. The Joint Economic Group and Business Council helped in institutionalizing the economic relations between India and China. However, at a certain point of time, both the countries had cut off themselves with the other country. Following the severance of ties with India, China developed its cost-effective manufacturing skills and simultaneously, India developed its own cost-effective designing skills. One might even say that the strain on their ties might affect India, as China is one of the major exporters for resources for the country.

Pakistan – These two countries share a relationship so old as at once both of them were a part of British India. In the history, the post-independence migration was one of the largest human migrations ever seen. The relation between India and Pakistan have been complex and sour since post-independence.  Post- independence, India and Pakistan did form diplomatic relations and over the time, even started trade routes however, whatsoever relation both the country shared, it was overshadowed by the territorial claims, wars, cross border conflict between the armed forces and the multiple terrorist attacks. India fought wars with Pakistan, yet the issue of Kashmir was never solved. Despite of numerous talks, few agreements and conventions, Kashmir has always be the epicentre of various conflicts. From 2004 to 2008, four rounds between India and Pakistan were held in the Composite Dialogue but that was also halted with the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack. India has lost many lives due to these terrorist attacks. At a point of time India and Pakistan had bilateral trade and commerce but after the 2019 Pulwama Attack, India increased the custom duties on exports from Pakistan which lead to Pakistan halting the trade with India. The relationship has worsened over the years with the involvement of China in constructing various projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Nepal – Nepal and India share a very special relation as said during the Indo-Nepal Treaty of peace and friendship in 1950. Both the countries via the treaty stated that if in future due to any friction or misunderstanding with any of the neighbouring states, then they should be informed in order to prevent causing any breach in the relations between both of the said governments. The border shared by India and Nepal are open for both the respective citizens and are allowed to freely enter each other’s territory without the need of obtaining any passport or visa. Nepalese are allowed to work in certain government institutions such as the Indian army, but Indian citizens are not allowed to own land nor work in any government institutions in Nepal. The leaders of both the countries have frequently visited the land of the other which lead to the promotion of goodwill, trust and understanding of India and Nepal.  However, the friendly relation between the  two has seen some disharmony post 2015. There has some ethnic groups who are not fond of India as they think that India interferes with the political sovereignty of Nepal. India is wary of Nepal due to its new found diplomatic relations with China.

Bhutan – Bhutan also known as the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan shares a very special relationship with India. Bhutan is a protected state and India helps them out in times of need. India has a significant influence over the foreign policy and the defence of Bhutan. India also helps Bhutan by providing them foreign aid. India is Bhutan was one of the few who whole heartedly recognised India’s Independence, which lead to both countries sharing close relations. Both of the countries provide each other with lots of positive resources and establishment. Bhutan sharing border with four states in India along with the Himalayas, acts as a barrier between India and China. Bhutanese market is a flourishing market for Indian commodities and vice versa. Bhutan not only acts as a buffer from China but also is a source of hydropower for India.. India is one of the leading development partner for Bhutan and provided financial aid to them. The Indian Bhutan Trade Transit Agreement 1972 allows duty free transit of Bhutanese products which are to be exported to third party countries. India helps Bhutan by exporting machinery, mechanical appliances, mineral products and electrical equipment’s amongst the others,

Sri Lanka – India and Sri Lanka having been sharing their relationship from more than 2000 years. They have intellectual, cultural, linguistic and religious relations between them. Both the countries recently have grown closer in terms of their relationship as their trade and investment together has grown. India and Sri Lanka share a high-level political relationship due to regular visits. Sri Lanka is a huge trading partner amongst the SAARC counties while India is a huge partner on global standing. Regularly there are cultural exchange programmes between India and Sri Lanka due to the Cultural Cooperation agreement signed between the two.  India and Sri Lanka on the defence footing share a healthy relationship as they conduct joint naval and military exercises. However, the relationship can be affected due to the China becoming close to Sri Lanka as the latter handed over an important port to the former.

Bangladesh –  Recently India and Bhutan celebrated 50 years of their diplomatic relations in 2021. India shares the longest international border with Bangladesh. The relationship with Bangladesh has been a fruitful relationship for both the countries. With the pandemic going on, due to the healthy relationship between India and Bangladesh, India assured to make vaccines available to the latter. Bangladesh released a stamp in Honor of Mahatma Gandhi, showing their respect towards India and India did the same to commemorate Mujib Borsho stamps. India has agreed to give access to duty free exports of Bangladeshi products under the SAFTA. India and Bangladesh support the climate change convention, migrants’ rights protection and sustainable development.

Myanmar – The relationship shared between India and Myanmar is a relationship which has stood the test of time. India not only shares land border with Myanmar but also shares maritime border along Bay of Bengal. Both the countries share a cordial relationship which was put on paper via the Treaty of Friendship in 1951. Time and again the bilateral relationship has been strengthened via number of agreements. India helps Myanmar through infrastructural and non-infrastructural upgradation in the country such as renovating the 160 km long road, upgradation of hospitals, development of railway transportation system and many more. In return, Myanmar acts as a bridge between ASEAN and India. Both the countries share a healthy friendship which was seen during Cyclone Nargis, when India provided aid to the Burmese population.

References –

  1. https://www.civilserviceindia.com/subject/General-Studies/notes/india-and-its-neighbourhood-relations.html
  2. https://mea.gov.in/conflit-cooperation.htm
  3. https://byjus.com/free-ias-prep/india-myanmar-relations/
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/China%E2%80%93India_relations#2010s
  5. https://www.drishtiias.com/to-the-points/Paper2/india-nepal-relations
  6. https://www.drishtiias.com/to-the-points/Paper2/indo-bhutan-relations
  7. https://www.drishtiias.com/to-the-points/Paper2/india-sri-lanka-relations
  8. https://byjus.com/free-ias-prep/india-bangladesh-relations/
  9. https://byjus.com/free-ias-prep/india-pakistan-relations/