India’s Relation With Neighbours in 2015

Building upon Prime Minister Modi’s path-breaking initiative of inviting all SAARC leaders to his swearing-in ceremony last year, India continued to reach out proactively to its immediate neighbours in South Asia for a sustained engagement.

India's Relation With Neighbours in 2015India’s Relation With Neighbours in 2015

1 – India’s Relations with Bangladesh

Transformational Diplomacy acquired a new resonance with the Prime Ministerial visit to Bangladesh in June that saw the exchange of instruments of ratification of the landmark land boundary agreement.

It was literally ushering in a new dawn for thousands of people living on tiny islands of land as India and Bangladesh swapped enclaves, bringing to an end their 68-year-old boundary dispute.

The formal swapping of enclaves has brought a new life of hope and dignity for around 51,000 people living in 162 enclaves across both countries, and underlined possibilities of how diplomacy can provide a new direction to the lives of ordinary people.

The June 6-7 visit of PM Modi also saw India-Bangladesh developmental cooperation scaling new heights, with India pledging a $2 billion Line of Credit for Bangladesh, the largest single LOC for any country committed by India.

The $2 billion LOC has raised the bar for India’s engagement with Bangladesh and is set to bring the two neighbours in a web of trade, connectivity and shared prosperity. Projecting a narrative of interlinked destinies, the two countries took a host of steps to enhance connectivity, including the launch of two new bus services.

The two countries are a part of the sub-regional cooperation between Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal to enhance connectivity and regional integration.

2 – India’s Relations with Sri Lanka

Similarly, India’s relations with Sri Lanka scaled new frontiers with a spate of two-way visits by the leaders and foreign ministers of the two countries, within months of the newly-elected Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena taking charge of the island nation.

During PM Modi’s visit to Sri Lanka in March, India pledged $318 million Line of Credit for railway upgradation (New Delhi’s development assistance is already about $1.6 billion), unveiled a currency swap agreement of US $1.5 billion to help stabilise the Sri Lankan rupee and to develop Trincomalee as a regional petroleum hub with the cooperation of Lanka IOC (Indian Oil Corp’s subsidiary in Sri Lanka) and Ceylon Petroleum Corporation.

Both countries also signed four pacts regarding visa exemption for official passport holders, youth exchanges, customs agreement (to address trade concerns and reduce non-tariff barriers) and the construction of the Rabindranath Tagore auditorium at the Ruhuna University with India’s aid.

3 – India’s Relations with Afganistan

Amid the backdrop of the unfolding transition in Afghanistan, India sustained its engaged with Afghanistan and promoted a narrative of friendship in the strife-torn country.

The visit of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to India in April 2015 saw India reiterating its commitment to the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

With the economic flowering of Afghanistan in mind, the two sides focused on working towards a more liberalized business visa regime.

Afghanistan welcomed India’s decision to extend the 1000 scholarships per year scheme by another 5 years as part of capacity building initiatives.

India continues its assistance to the construction of the India-Afghanistan Friendship (Salma) Dam in Herat, expected to be completed in the first half of the coming year.

The Parliament Building in Kabul constructed with Indian assistance has already been completed as well as on the Doshi and Charikar power stations.

4 – India’s Relations with Bhutan

India’s all-weather friendship with Bhutan, which was galvanized after PM Modi’s visit to the country last year, continued on an upward curve.

The visit of Bhutan’s Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay to India in January focused on optimizing cooperation in the field of hydropower – the centerpiece of economic cooperation between the two countries.

The two sides expressed satisfaction over the progress of the three ongoing HEPs totaling 2940 MW under the inter-governmental model. They reiterated their commitment to the 10,000 MW initiative and in this context, to the early implementation of the four JV-model projects, totaling 2120 MW.

5 – India’s Relations with Nepal

When Nepal was hit by a massive earthquake on April 25, India was the first to respond to the calamity and the humanitarian tragedy that followed by launching its largest disaster response abroad, Operation Maitri.

During EAM’s visit to Kathmandu in June, India pledged $1 billion grant for the reconstruction of the quake-hit Nepal.

However, the political situation within Nepal offered challenges in the wake of the promulgation of a new constitution that did not take into account the concerns of all sections of the populations.

India continues to push for an early resolution of the internal crisis by urging dialogue amongst all sections of society and a consensus driven political solution.

6 – India’s Relations with Maldives

India also engaged with the Maldives leadership despite political volatility in the island country. This was reflected in the meeting between the foreign ministers of India and the Maldives on the sidelines of the UN summit in New York in September.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj followed it up with a visit to the island nation from October 10-11 to reinvigorate ties.

7 – India’s Relations with Pakistan

India has consistently said that it wants better relations with Pakistan, but this can be only possible in an atmosphere free of terror and violence.

Improving relations remained a major challenge in the backdrop of terror attacks but India made a bold beginning with a meeting between PM Modi and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Ufa, Russia.

The meeting ended with a shared position that India and Pakistan have a collective responsibility to ensure peace and promote development.

The two sides unveiled a five-point agenda to address concerns on terrorism and to promote people-to-people contact.

Despite a number of hurdles including on account of terror attacks in the aftermath of Ufa, and Pakistan calling off the initial round of NSA level talks, a significant breakthrough was achieved in December with the NSAs meeting in Bangkok, followed by the EAM’s visit to Islamabad for the Heart of Asia Conference.

On its sidelines, EAM called on PM Nawaz Sharif and met with her counterpart, Sartaj Aziz following which they issued a joint statement condemning terrorism, noting that NSAs would continue discussions on all aspects related to it and Pakistan would expedite the trial in the Mumbai attacks case.

Accordingly, both sides agreed to initiate a comprehensive bilateral dialogue, the modalities of which would be worked out by the Foreign Secretaries.

8 – India’s Relations with Myanmar

With Myanmar on the cusp of a historic democratic transition, India welcomed the elections and the PM congratulated Aung San Suu Kyi for her victory in Parliament.

Bilateral relations remained on the upward trajectory with the First India-Myanmar Joint Consultative Commission (JCC) Meeting held in New Delhi on July 16, 2015, steps to further enhance the existing air connectivity, extending a US$ 500 million Line of Credit to the Government of Myanmar for development priorities, and a commitment to enhance the regional and sub-regional cooperation under the BCIM-EC and the BIMSTEC framework.

India also played an instrumental role in providing disaster relief support to Myanmar in response to widespread floods and landslides caused by Cyclone Komen.