What wrong has india done to Irk it's Neighbours?

A.V.

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Although india by nature is a very peaceful country and was one of the founding members of the non-aligned movement during the cold war era and has its importance growing day by day in the word stage yet in its own backyard we find that various politically motivated movements have tried to blame and undermine india's importance in the region.
A parallel could be drawn with the recent blame by nepal , bangladesh has long been pointing towards india for many of its misfortunes , sri-lanka has just come out of a civil war which they blame on india, and not to forget pakistan which blames india for whatever wrong happens in their country

in rise of the current situation we at DFI try to look back at old times and and try and figure out what were the fundamental mistakes that india did because of which its neighbours try to point a finger
what do you members forsee in the near future ?
how can we improve on the bilateral and multilateral relationships?
what does the future hod for india's positio on the sub-continent?


PLEASE BRING OUT YOUR VIEWS AND REMEMBER ITS HQ SO NO LINKS PLEASE
 

Dark Sorrow

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Could it be our tilt towards the Soviets taking in account most of neighbour were pro-american.
But what i feel is almost ever indian neighbour(except china) is/was a failed state and it is a psychology that people having less facilities(less fortunate) always tends to blame people with more facility. In China's case it is because we are competitors.
Our foriegn policy was also not proper. We didn't care for anything, we didnot support pro-Indian people in these countries.
 

bengalraider

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My guess is the author means India's relations with Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in particular let me outline the reasons for our failures nation by nation.

NEPAL- India has for long had deep cultural and religious relations with Nepal and for the majority of our history the relations have been mutually beneficial and friendly. however of late the Indian foreign policy in Nepal has faltered and a lot of Anti-India sentiment has come to the fore there is but one overwhelming reason for this "The failure of India's government to support the Nepali citizens in the maintenance of Nepali democracy".India stood by while the usurper King Gyanendra(as seen by a lot of Nepalis)did all he could to curb the freedoms of ordinary Nepalis. Our Foreign office was(i am sad to state) simply too myopic and stubborn to realize that unless we stepped in to restore order and return government to the people of Nepal others would use it to further their ends; the Chinese did exactly that they used the vacuum in Kathmandu to foster closer ties with the Maoists and got closer to the new government of Nepal.None of this would have happened if we had supported Mr Girija prasad koirala(or any other popular Nepali politician) to form a government in Kathmandu.However all is not lost we still have close ties with most of the powers that be in Nepal and we can turn this around.

Pakistan-our less than neighborly relations with our western neighbor are a byproduct of the shared birth of our nations. they are simply put dependent on one word "Kashmir".The wounds of partition are deep on both sides of the border and no wound is deeper than the ever festering wound of Kashmir, as long as this issue remains i see no love lost between India and Pakistan.

Sri Lanka-More than anything it is domestic Indian politics and the question of the status of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka that have hampered our relations with our southern neighbor, anything related to Sri Lanka Sri lankan Tamils becomes a rallying call for a Variety of south Indian politicos to throw the entire southern half of India out of sync. It was on the insistence (and subsequent political pressure & blackmail)of the Tamil politicos that LTTE was formed and trained in India by the IA and RAW, though we later abandoned velupillai as he was too dangerous the damage had been done, the IPKF debacle cut short our commitment to put troops on the ground in sri Lanka to maintain the peace. The subsequent assassination of Rajiv Gandhi by a group his mother helped form was the last straw India simply pulled out, the Sri Lankans kept calling us to come help but we pulled out we backed down to terror threats and political pressure(from Tamil politicians). Pakistan and china filled the vacuum left by us when we should have supplied arms and ammunition to the sri Lankans they did wile we stood by, when we should have negotiated with the LTTE the Norwegians did; the entire saga of Indian involvement in Sri Lanka is the story of a nation trying to work while one leg and one hand(the Tamils of India) refused to have anything but what was unacceptable to the sri Lankans(an independent EELAM).

Bangladesh-Bangladesh was supposed to be our natural all weather friend , we had granted it life hadn't we?This was the attitude that led to a lackadaisical approach to Bangladeshi affairs in the years after 1971, the same RAW that had enjoyed a strong intelligence network in Bangladesh in 1971 was unable to prevent the assassination of "Bangabandhu" in 1975. then began the down fall of Indo-Bangladeshi relations. the Indian polity was by and large unable to overcome the shock of Mujib's death and followed a Knee-jerk reaction in cutting relations with Ziaur rehman, It also did not help that under Ziaur Bangladesh was extremely close to the United states while India in the aftermath of the "enterprise incident" was seen as closer to the U.S.S.R than most. Again our Myopia stopped us from dealing with a man most in Bangladesh called as "Mr clean" for his fair way of work(the coup not withstanding). The end result has been that India generally has impeccable relations with bangladesh whenever the awami league(Mujib's party) is in power and indifferent to bad relations whenever the BNP is in power.
 

Quickgun Murugan

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Sri Lanka-More than anything it is domestic Indian politics and the question of the status of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka that have hampered our relations with our southern neighbor, anything related to Sri Lanka Sri lankan Tamils becomes a rallying call for a Variety of south Indian politicos to throw the entire southern half of India out of sync. It was on the insistence (and subsequent political pressure & blackmail)of the Tamil politicos that LTTE was formed and trained in India by the IA and RAW, though we later abandoned velupillai as he was too dangerous the damage had been done, the IPKF debacle cut short our commitment to put troops on the ground in sri Lanka to maintain the peace. The subsequent assassination of Rajiv Gandhi by a group his mother helped form was the last straw India simply pulled out, the Sri Lankans kept calling us to come help but we pulled out we backed down to terror threats and political pressure(from Tamil politicians). Pakistan and china filled the vacuum left by us when we should have supplied arms and ammunition to the sri Lankans they did wile we stood by, when we should have negotiated with the LTTE the Norwegians did; the entire saga of Indian involvement in Sri Lanka is the story of a nation trying to work while one leg and one hand(the Tamils of India) refused to have anything but what was unacceptable to the sri Lankans(an independent EELAM).

It will be wrong to blame everything on Tamil politicos without taking into account the actual atrocities committed by then sri lankan govt. which still doesn't give rights to the Tamils. Tamils cannot participate in main political stream of their SL govt to actually address their problem.

But, this is just the root of the problem. Indian govt never gave a damn to the Tamil atrocities until RAW was actually formed. SL was always pro-Pakistan and always allowed its ships to be refueled in SL during 1965 and 71 wars. This gathered RAW's attention and desired momentum to train LTTE. The rest is history, but it was SL which made the wrong choice.
 

Rage

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A proper response to this would warrant an individual analysis for each country.

Broad strokes: We've done nothing different from any other self-serving state except to project our interests less tactfully, or alternatively less forcibly than warranted. We've known how to interfere- and interfere effectively with respect to the result (bar the Tamil debacle in SriLanka), but we've not known how to interfere effectively with respect to the fallout- the media lambaste we groan under and the erosion of confidence in our state by foreign publiques that sees it as a local hegemon. In a word, we've know how to be good or bad, but to quote that refrain from the Florentian statesman who revolutionized politics five centuries ago, "men rarely know when to be completely good or completely bad, with the result that they often vacillate somewhere in between, achieving nothing in the process". Ofcourse, part of that blame owes itself to our political system and our hebetudinous bureaucracy, that strives to accommodate, rather than antagonize, placate rather than vilify. We see it even now, when the Home Ministry makes statements to pacify, then recalcitrates on its statements when all is done with. In the end, we must achieve some equilibrium between our interests and our compunctions, with the result that that equilibrium is often less amenable than desired, and the political fallout more cantankerous.
 
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sob

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On India's relationships with it's neighbours we have to classify them in two groups

1. Pakistan/Afganistan

2. Sri Lanka,Nepal,Bangladesh

Regarding Pakistan the baggage that we carry is very large and only time will tell whether we can have normal relations with them. It is like a tango one step forward followed by two steps backward. There is too much of distrust built into the sysytem. Being on the opposite sides of the camp during the cold war also did not help the issue.

Regarding our other neighbours IMO it is to a large instance been our insensitivity to their needs. We have alternatively treated them as distinct independent countries and at times we have expected them to be as an extension of our country supporting us blindly. From being heroes to the people of Bangladesh in 1971 and today we aren't their favourite neighbour even. This does not happen overnight. We must have done something for this to happen.

The only neighbour who has been comfortable to be in our shadow and to whom India has been very sensitive to their needs is Bhutan and the result is for all of us to see.

Our own socio economic problems have also taken a toll on our relations with our neighbours. But then that is the job of our leaders, how to reconcile domestic compulsions with the needs of international relations.
 

bengalraider

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It will be wrong to blame everything on Tamil politicos without taking into account the actual atrocities committed by then sri lankan govt. which still doesn't give rights to the Tamils. Tamils cannot participate in main political stream of their SL govt to actually address their problem.

But, this is just the root of the problem. Indian govt never gave a damn to the Tamil atrocities until RAW was actually formed. SL was always pro-Pakistan and always allowed its ships to be refueled in SL during 1965 and 71 wars. This gathered RAW's attention and desired momentum to train LTTE. The rest is history, but it was SL which made the wrong choice.

I am not condoning the atrocities commited on tamils by the Lankans , neither am i ignoring them.however what i am alluding to is the high-handedness and stubborness of the Tamil poiliticos to discuss the issue and come out with a solution that would be mutually beneficial both to the Sinhalese and the Tamils. The Sri-lankan civil war was fought to get equality and autonomy for the Tamils. The Indian government was initally the peace-broker in Sri Lanka with significant presence whithin the Tamil movement via the TELO, the Violence unleashed by the LTTE changed all that. from a policy of active engagement fro Sri lankan Tamils in the early 80's we went into stoic silence in the years after. The domestic Tamil politics whithin india became more and more Pro-independence EELAM and separated from the National Indian goal of achieving equality and limited autonomy for the Tamils of Sri Lanka; this caused a political rift and led to indian disengagement from the entire affair. We created the Vacuum that the Chinese and pakistanis filled ;from the close relations between Mrs Indira gandhi and Mrs Bandaranaike we went to a state where talking to the Lankans would lead to domestic political strife, from a state where in the 50's Sri lanka supported an Indian security umbrella for the IOR to a state where the chinese are building a"pearl" in hamanbatota" , When we should have talked to the Lankans and brokered a peace we looked the other way and brokered a war.When we should have followed a policy of active engagement we disengaged because the Tamil parties in india looked at Sri Lanka as a "all or nothing" situation. In not compromising with our goals we lost them completely when we could have fostered a lasting relationship with an autonomous EELAM and a peaceful Sri Lanka we looked away what did we gain ?, what did the Sri Lankan Tamils gain?. We only lost due to domestic politics even the people(read Sri lankan tamils) these politicos claimed to be supporting lost everything due to their high-handedness, If Millions of Tamils live in squalid camps today i hold Indian Tamils politicios as responsible if not more than then Sri Lankans.

Also RAW for the record was founded in september 1968 in the wake of the 62 & 65 wars. The sinhala-Tamil conflict has been going on for as long as one can remember ;the major injustices happened in 1948 with the "Ceylon Citizenship act of 1948 which was followed up by the declaration that sinhala was to be the only official language in 1956.
 

johnee

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A smaller or a less powerful country would always be uncomfortable with a bigger or more powerful country. If a country is both big and powerful then the levels of uncomfortability rise. If that country happens to be neighbour, then it gives rise to insecurity. The smaller country is always in fear of the bigger country, its because of the helplessness which it feels. There are two ways of dealing with this aspect by the bigger nation. One is to try and appease the smaller countries by trying to take them on board. The second approach is to simply understand that it is a natural dominant partner and hence behave that way. While the first approach temporarily cools off some fears, mostly the smaller nation will keep demanding more concessions, ultimately the root of their insecurity is the power and size of the other nation and their fear will be erased only if the other country's size or power or both are reduced. The bigger nation obviously cant afford it. So, the only approach is the second approach that of taking up the natural dominant role that its size and power warrant. This dominant approach bring two aspects to it. One is responsibility and two is accountability. The bigger nation must understand it is responsible for smaller nation as well. It must guarantee some privileges to it and make sure that smaller nation's rights are protected from the third country. The accountability involves punishing the smaller state if it steps out of line. In short, the bigger nation would have to deal with the smaller nation as if it were a vassal state. That is the natural state of affairs.
 

threadbrowser

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Johnee the logic of your second alternative is exactly why our smaller neighbours cozy up to China. Nobody likes being dictated to by the regional big boy, so naturally you play them off against another bigger power. It makes good geopolitical sense.
China long term seeks to usurp the US's position as global hegemon. An important intermediate step is to first become the regional hegemon. Their only serious opposition is India, so they are using the least expensive method of keeping us busy by supporting pakistan and helping those other small nations around us.
It is a sound strategy which is almost impossible to counter.
 

ajtr

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India in a “ring of fire”

As a growing power which aims to rewrite global economic and geopolitical realities, India’s first order of business is to secure its strategic periphery without provoking a backlash from its neighbours.

But the political crisis in Nepal, triggered by the resignation of Maoist Prime Minister Prachanda, is yet another reminder of India’s strategic challenges.

Nepal has for long sat in India’s sphere of influence, but the rise of the Maoists has seen an increasing antipathy in the nascent Himalayan republic towards New Delhi.

In fact, the Maoists’ foreign policy chief told Reuters that India was to blame for precipitating the crisis by blocking Prachanda’s move to remove army chief Roopmangud Katawal.

India sees the Maoists, who control 40 percent of the parliament seats, as edging towards China. So, it wants to find a counterweight to the Maoists in a ruling coalition, many analysts say. The showdown over Katawal’s removal presented the flashpoint.

In its quest for strategic influence, many say India may have lit too many fires around itself.

War and misery blights Sri Lanka, with political ramifications in India; Bangladeshi politics remains volatile and the country eyes India with suspicion; the military junta in Myanmar is pro-China; Pakistan is wobbling under a spell of violence that has a direct bearing on India’s security.

Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram says India is caught in a “ring of fire”.

But does India have the diplomatic dexterity to manage regional flashpoints that critics say could in part be blamed on India itself?

The Economist magazine says a potential challenge to India’s rise is geopolitical (and the Nepal crisis bears that out). It says how successful a global power India becomes will depend partly on its ability to mediate and resolve the rising number of crises in its neighbourhood.

But will India be able to intervene in Nepal or in a post-war Sri Lanka without being resented by the local population or the government? Or will it be resented for its perceived paternalism towards its smaller neighbours?
 

ajtr

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Indian neighbours burning!!!



They say that you can’t change your neighbors. They also say that if your neighbors are developing so will you and if they are peaceful so will you be. But unfortunately, in India’s case they are anything but peaceful. Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and now Bangladesh are all burning. When the fires burning in these countries are so strong and fierce how can India remain unaffected by all this? It surely has spilled over pretty fast and is now threatening to consume India as well. You will all agree with me that these fires are spreading through our states unabashedly, especially those bordering these countries. The question that now crops up is - What is our response to all this? How is the Indian govt dealing with this? Or is it doing anything at all? Let’s check out each of these situations and see how it is affecting us, if at all.
PAKISTAN- is it the biggest threat to us?
Yes, it sure is the biggest threat and not just for India but for the entire world. The terrorists there are getting stronger by the day. Just a few days back we heard their President saying that Taliban wants to take over entire Pakistan. That may be an understatement. Taliban not only wants to take over Pakistan but Afghanistan and parts of India as well. That’s what their aim is in the near future. In the long term they want to destroy America and spread their version of Islam in the entire world. If that is not scary I wonder what will be? Have no doubts about this, they are well on their way to taking over Pakistan. In fact even today there is a report in Times of India which quotes a Pakistani police report as saying that Taliban can take over Karachi any time they want to. They have huge caches of arms and ammunition stashed in there along with hundreds of terrorists. Mind you guys, Karachi is more than a thousand miles away from the areas where Pak army is currently fighting Taliban, which is taking place well in the north on Afghan-Pak border whereas Karachi is on the southern coastline of Pakistan. With this report it is now quite clear that Taliban has substantial presence in all major towns and cities of Pakistan. Whether Pak army can prevent them from taking over Pakistan or not is quite doubtful, as I’d written in my post Pakistan’s deal with terrorists is justified. I really hope I’m wrong on this one but the situation is quite ominous to say the very least.
You guys are well aware about how this fire has spread to Kashmir. And from there it has now spread to other parts of India which includes Jammu, Delhi, Bangalore, Ahemdabad, Surat, Lucknow, Indore, Banaras and recently to Mumbai among other places. It would be quite fair to assume that, as in Pakistan, there are terrorists networks and sleeper cells in all major Indian cities. They may not be as strong here as in Pakistan but they are there for sure. I wonder what can be more alarming than this? I’m not trying to spread fear but unfortunately, that’s a fact. And we cannot fight them if we don’t accept this basic fact. We don’t need to fear these guys but we need to be careful, for sure.
How is the Indian govt handling this issue? Have they the will and resources to handle this huge menace? Will they be able to do what it takes to make us feel secure from this monster? Well, unfortunately the answer to these questions is not very encouraging. Though the govt does have the resources to fight these terrorists but it has not used them the way it should have. It took an attack on Mumbai to shake our govt from it’s slumber. Even now there are wrigglings within our political establishments over how to tackle this issue. If our govt itself is not sure of it’s course of actions how the hell can we feel secure? To be fair to the govt they have taken some steps like strengthening NSG, increasing surveillance of coastlines and creating a National Investigating Agency(NIA) but it has miles to go before any of this come to fruition. Suffice to say that I do not really feel secure at the moment. As for the future, I can’t really say.
NEPAL- Can we reach out to Maoists?
When the Maoists came to power in Nepal we all thought that the troubles in this country would now be over. We were wrong. The war may be over for now but it can erupt any time again. The current fight is over whether the Maoists should be inducted in the Nepalese army or not. The army doesn’t want them but Prachanda is hell bent on this. He had promised his cadres that they would be inducted into the army. And so he cannot go back on this very important issue of the future of Maoists cadres. In a way the future of Nepal is linked to the future of armed Maoist cadres.
Not surprisingly, Maoists have spread their tentacles in all neighboring states in India which include UP, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Chattisgarh, MP and West Bengal. In fact their presence in some of these states is so strong that they have the ability to change the balance of power in those areas. And they are doing it. Their writ runs in large swathes of those states. There are reports which say that the number of Maoists in the country is much more than total number of Islamic fanatics in India.
What’s worse is that Nepal, owing to the similarity in ideology, has become much more closer to China than India. And this is where the Indian govt has failed miserably. When they should have been extending a hand of friendship to them they refused to get involved in the entire peace process in Nepal and quite stupidly let this opportunity pass. No Indian minister has gone there ever since the Maoists came to power. Not surprisingly the Chinese now have one more bastion at our doorstep. And our govt has been nothing but a mute spectator to all this. What a pity?
Sri Lanka- Can we stop the LTTE from regrouping in India?
It may well appear that the current fight between LTTE and Sri Lankan army is nearing an end but don’t get fooled by any of this. As long as there are Tamils in India who support these guys the fight will never be over. When LTTE will be unable to hold on to their lands in Sri Lanka they will flee from there and India will be their first choice where they have many sympathizers. Tamil Nadu is already bearing the brunt of the current face off. There have been many calls for strikes by people who support LTTE. Resultantly, there have been many violent incidents in Tamil Nadu in the recent past which includes a strike by lawyers. Quite notably the strings of this violence are attached to the strings of power in Tamil Nadu and therefore to New Delhi as well because the ruling party in Tamil Nadu, DMK, is part of the national coalition at the center. Any repercussions in Tamil Nadu will in effect influence the result of general elections this year. Not just this, there also may be a problem of refugees from Sri Lanka which is just about 25 odd kms from Indian shores. The issue thus becomes very important for the Indian govt to be careful about. Pertinent to mention that LTTE has been responsible for death of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991. If they do manage to get a hold in India what kind of trouble they can create here is nobody’s business.
The Indian govt on it’s part has indeed activated the Air Force and Navy to the requisite level of alertness. They are keeping the Indian coastline under surveillance there. For the moment this seems adequate but there is no scope for any complacency on this front at all.
Bangladesh- Do we appreciate the gravity of situation there?
It is quite difficult to understand that a nation which owes it’s existence to us is responsible for creating so much trouble in India. So much so that most of the trouble in the North East states can be attributed to Bangladesh. Not only this the Islamic terrorists also have safe havens and supporters in Bangladesh. Quite a few of the recent attacks including the one in Bangalore have been traced to have been originated from Bangladesh. The current trouble within Bangladesh can only compound things for us. Although the current govt has vowed to crack down on extremists their ability to do so is highly doubtful given their willingness and the current infighting within the ranks of security forces of Bangladesh. You see if the army is involved in sorting out their own mess how can they fight the terrorists? As it is we are still grappling with the problem of refugees who came to India during 1971 war.
Unfortunately our govt does not appreciate the gravity of the situation in Bangladesh. The fundamentalists in Bangladesh have the same level of support and resources as those in Pakistan. They have enough arms and ammunition to wage a war. I wouldn’t go so far as to that Bangladesh is on the verge of collapse as of now but they are not very far from there either. If the current situation is not resolved soon the Islamic fanatics may seize this opportunity to topple the govt. It may not appear so at the moment but that’s only because no one including our media has taken stock of the situation there. They have only seen what meets the eye. But the fires are much beneath the hearth. It’s high time our govt and media woke up to the urgency of this problem at the earliest.
Conclusion
The signs are there. And they are all ominous. Things do not look good for us at all. At this point I must say that attacking Pakistan would have been the most incorrect thing to do. I say this because this not only would have united the Islamic terrorists and Pak army in Pakistan but it would have also depleted our strengths on other fronts especially the North East. Our response to these situations have to be a mix of military and diplomatic. We might be not be weak militarily but let’s admit that we cannot fight on all the fronts simultaneously. And this is where we must exercise our diplomatic and financial clout. We can extend all kinds of assistance to these smaller neighbors but unfortunately we haven’t. We have to get out of our big brother attitude if we want to have peace in our country. It’s high time we understood that it is the fear of a big bully which has made these smaller nations go against us. Can we do this? Can our govt be proactive in reaching out to these people? These are some of the questions for which we need definitive answers. Is any one listening, I wonder?
 

ajtr

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Posting here two papers to find out why china is successful in our neighbourhood compared to us.

China’s Influence in India’s Neighbourhood-1

Col.R.Hariharan, C3S Paper No.200 dated August 12, 2008
[Extracts of the paper presented by the writer, Col.R.Hariharan, at the India-Taiwan interaction, jointly organised by the Chennai Centre for China Studies and the Federation of Chambers of Commerce & Industry-Tamil Nadu Chapter at Chennai on August 1, 2008.]

China is aiming to quadruple its per capita GDP to $ 3200 by 2020 from $ 800 per capita attained in 2000. This would imply an average annual economic growth of 7.2% till 2020. In order to attain this, China will have to keep meeting the enormous appetite of its manufacturing economy for raw material and energy resources. On the other hand, it has to open up new markets for Chinese products while keeping the competitive economies of Asia and Americas at bay. Though this might be viewed as an exercise in international trade, it has to be driven by international relations backed by strategic defence capability.

Conscious of these imperatives, China’s international relations are developing on twin tracks: gaining sources of raw material across the globe, and increasing its strategic power projection. It is on a fast track development of missile capability and submarine fleet. According to some analysts China would be able to match the defence capability to of the U.S. by 2050. This is evident from the progress of the military modernisation programme of China which is making forays into space warfare, enhancing nuclear deterrence, naval expansion and acquiring rapid reaction and deployment capability.

China’s single minded pursuit for accessing resources has increased its visibility in Asia, Africa and South America. This has also made China support some of the most notorious regimes shunned by the rest of the world including Myanmar, Sudan, and Zimbabwe. At the same time it has embarked upon strategic infrastructure development in friendly countries that would improve China’s strategic reach.

This is reflected in China’s growing influence in South Asia where its presence is being firmed up in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, and possibly in Nepal at a future date. This has been a cause of security concern not only for India but also for the U.S.

China’s interest in South Asia

South Asia’s geographic location, midway between the oil rich Middle East and the South East Asian regions, lends it strategic importance. South Asia borders most of China’s sensitive southern boundary. This gives China the strategic option of opening direct access through South Asia to the international sea lanes of Indian Ocean. The Indian Ocean region has always been the scene of power play between Russia, the US and the West, and the theocratic Islamic states because 75 % of global merchant shipping passes through it.

In recent times, South Asia has also become a source of inspiration for Jihadi terrorism and separatism in China. Western parts of South Asia bordering China had been the fountainhead of Jihadi terrorism inspiring fellow Muslims across the borders in Xinjiang province. Similarly, the presence of large number of Tibetan refugees in India and Nepal with strong anti-Chinese sentiments had always been a source of potential trouble for China.

On the other hand South Asia holds a number of attractions for China. The region has a growing economy of over 1.5 billion people in different stages of economic and social development. Its huge, young population represent an enormous and untapped market for Chinese goods. Major political, economic and social problems within and between South Asian nations offer fertile ground for increasing China’s influence through political, military and economic means. The region has considerable natural resources including coal, iron ore, natural gas and oil waiting to be fully exploited.

The India factor

In developing its relations with South Asian nations China has to contend with Indian sensitivities. India borders seven of the eight South Asian nations and dwarfs them both geographically and population wise. This makes it easy for India to physically influence, if not intervene, its neighbouring countries. India’s huge population forms the bulk of South Asia’s teeming millions. Historically, strong Indian influence has been permeating the social, cultural and religious life of its neighbours. As a result India wields a strong political clout unmatched by any other county in this region.

India nearly a decade long economic boom ago is pushing it into the realms of becoming a global economic power by 2050. India’s technology training institutions, churning out large number of engineers and professionals, are making India a reservoir of qualified technology professionals. This has also enabled India to become a world leader in software development. India’s traditional entrepreneurial skill, coupled with sizeable natural resources, gives it a strong economic clout in the region. As India’s share of global trade increases, Indian industrial houses are nursing ambitions to become global players. India is also striving to expand its manufacturing base. It is also in the quest for oil and gas resources all over the world, though on a much smaller scale than China.

The Indian growth model, despite operating within the constraints of being the largest functional democracy in the world, offers a strong contrast to the Chinese single-party model of monolithic development. India’s democratic polity has given it political stability unmatched by most of the other South Asian nations. Its large and modern armed forces serve as guardians of democracy. This is in stark contrast to some other countries of the region i.e., Pakistan and Bangladesh where armed forces had usurped power and throttled democracy.

The failure of India and China to amicably resolve rival territorial claims along the largely unmarked boundary following China’s occupation of large chunks of territory in Aksai Chin and other border areas resulted in the two countries going to war in 1962. The 1962 war had kindled strong suspicion in India about China’s strategic intentions in the region. It had also generated anti-Chinese feeling in India that persists to this day. Despite many rounds of talks between the two countries, the border dispute remains unresolved and continues to cramp the free articulation of Sino-Indian relations.

A major irritant for China in India is the presence of the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama and his followers in exile, who are the visible face of Tibetan freedom. The presence of a large Tibetan refugee population in India clamouring for Tibetan independence is major cause of security concern for China. The Tibetan issue continues to be another rider in the development of smooth relations between India and China.

In recent years China’s has been viewing with growing concern India’s emergence as a dominant regional military power with nuclear weapon and missile capability. Its large armed forces are being modernised and the Indian navy is on way to acquire blue water capability. The progressive growth of India-US security synergies, adding strength to the strategic security reach of both the powers, has further fuelled China’s security concerns.

These strategic factors coupled with the growing economic muscle have made India a potential challenger to the growth of China’s influence on the South Asian turf. In tandem with the U.S., India could also become a formidable contender for power in other parts of the world in the coming years.

At the same time, India also holds some positive attractions for China. Its growing economy and very large middle class provide an attractive consumer market for Chinese goods. For the resource hungry China, India’s large coal, manganese and iron ore reserves are useful. India also finds doing business with China an attractive proposition and India-China two-way trade had been booming despite the frosty relations. It is set to reach $ 25 billion by 2010.

[To be continued]


China’s Influence in India’s Neighbourhood–Part II

Col.R.Hariharan, C3S Paper No.201 dated August 12, 2008
[Extracts of the paper, presented by Col. R.Hariharan, at the India-Taiwan interaction, jointly organised by the Chennai Centre for China Studies and the Federation of Chambers of Commerce & Industry-Tamil Nadu Chapter at Chennai on August 1, 2008. This is in continuation of China’s Influence in India’s Neighbourhood- Part I published earlier.]

China’s South Asia strategy

The Chinese have tried to maintain cordial and correct relations with India despite frequent reiteration of their territorial claims. China has also been expanding the areas of cooperation with India on issues affecting the interest of both the countries. A small beginning has been made in conducting joint training exercise between two armies of the two countries. This strategy has enabled China to keep India’ concerns at bay, even as it increased its influence in India’s neighbourhood. Though the shadow of India continues to loom large over its neighbours, China has succeeded in improving bilateral relations with each one of them.

The very size of India and its seemingly all pervading soft power kindle a sense of disquiet if not fear among some of India’s neighbours. This ‘Indian bogey’ is also used as a pet ploy in the political gamesmanship of countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. Though India had taken remedial measures, for historical reasons the ‘bogey’ is likely to continue to hobble Indian articulation in the region. China appears to have leveraged itself as the answer to ward off the Indian enigma in these countries.

For instance, Pakistan and Bangladesh have inherited a historical sense of insecurity about India after Pakistan was created in 1947. This provided a convenient foothold for China to step in. India’s economic domination of its neighbours has invariably resulted in lopsided trade imbalance tilted in India’s favour. Building better trade relations with China offers a way for them to balance this tilt. There is widespread fear of Indian cultural melange submerging the national and ethnic identity of some of the small neighbours. These fears are compounded by the physical threat posed by India’s large armed forces.. In the case of Nepal and Sri Lanka this fear is latent though they have enjoyed friendly ties with India most of the time.

China appears to have prioritised its relationship with Pakistan and Bangladesh occupying the top slot. These two nations have built symbiotic relations with China over the years resulting in the creation of infrastructural and military assets that would come in handy for China, when required. They are followed by Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Nepal, and Maldives in the Chinese order of priority.

Development of China-Afghanistan relations is hobbled by two factors: China’s multi-faceted relationship with Pakistan, and Kabul’s close relationship with India. Afghanistan has always enjoyed a cordial relationship with India, except perhaps during the period of Taliban rule. Their relationship is driven by historicity as much as their strategic synergies where they see Pakistan ranged against them. India’s liberal development aid to the Karzai government and the involvement of Indian development task force in executing vital infrastructure projects in Afghanistan underline the strong bonds being built between them. Moreover, Afghanistan’s survival preoccupation while combating Jihadi terrorism and the all pervasive American presence there has left limited space for China to develop better relationship.

But despite this setting, Afghanistan remains a vital part of China’s energy infrastructure linking China with Pakistan, Iran and the oil rich Central Asian nations. So it came as no surprise when China secured in May 2008 the $3.5 billion Aynak copper field project in the remote Logar Province, making it the largest foreign direct investment project in the Afghan history. The Aynak copper field probably contains ore worth up to $88 billion. Significantly, the Chinese bid included the cost of building a 400 MW coal based power plant and a railway line from western China through Tajikistan and Afghanistan to Pakistan. China’s readiness to make such a large investment in a troubled region underscores its strategic significance for her, apart from its value in developing Western China.

Bhutan has always enjoyed cordial relations with India. China has territorial claims in Bhutan which would probably be settled only when India and China resolve their border dispute. This ‘India factor’ and Bhutan’s strong religious and cultural affinity with Tibet appear to be in the way of China’s efforts to enhance its influence. However, in the coming years this could change when Bhutan from royalty ushers in multiparty democracy.

China’s effort to increase its influence has three facets – economic, military, and political. The emphasis and combinations vary from country to country conditioned by situational priorities. Both Pakistan and Bangladesh are visible examples of China building a win-win relationship using political, economic and military leverages.

The economic aspects include extending loans on low interest and commercial terms, aid, project financing, infrastructure financing etc. Chinese aided projects invariably have visible national impact. Some of these projects include the Gwadar port complex in Pakistan and the proposed port project at Hambantota in Sri Lanka, and the construction of six vital bridges across major rivers in Bangladesh.

Most of these projects have the potential to add to China’s strategic access and mobility in the region. For example the new extension of the Xinjiang railway up to Kashgar about 500 kilometers (via the Karakoram highway) from the China-Pakistan border is complimentary to the project to widen the Karakoram highway. It is significant that China is also involved in the construction of a rail line to link Gwadar with Pakistan-Iran railway line. Similarly, the extension of railway line in Tibet from Lhasa to Indian border region has strategic connotations to the Chinese assistance in developing lateral communications in Bangladesh.

China’s military initiatives in the region are quite a few. Briefly, it comes in three forms: weapons sale, military training, and providing access to weapon technology. Of course military relationship between Pakistan and China goes much beyond these limitations and include sharing of nuclear and missile technology. These are well documented. China used Pakistan’s urge to develop nuclear capability to build enormous strategic bonds that have grown over the years.

India’s military intervention was the key factor that enabled Bangladesh gain independence in 1971. When Bangladeshis were fighting for independence China had supported Pakistan. But it had no hesitation in changing its stance when the independent Bangladesh came into being. When a military coup overthrew the Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s regime, China got cosy with the military dictatorship. With the Bangladesh armed forces equipped now mostly with weapons and armament of Chinese origin, China is firmly established in the country’s strategic security initiatives.

As a result India finds it difficult to involve Bangladesh even in projects that are useful to both the countries and the region. Large scale Indian investments in Bangladesh have been discouraged while China has been awarded a project connected with the development of Chittagong port. The key to China’s success in Bangladesh is the fear of Indian domination (‘hegemony’ to use the ideologically correct term).

We see this happening all over in Sri Lanka. China is using the space provided by India’s reluctance to sell weapons to Sri Lanka for political reasons to increase its influence in Sri Lanka’s strategic spectrum. So the possibility of the Hambantota project ending up as a remake of the Gwadar episode in Pakistan is very much there.

China’s strategy in Nepal has probably been reworked to handle the Maoist dominated democratic regime now in power. China had supported King Gyanendra of Nepal when he was fighting the Maoists. When the Maoists overthrew him, China changed sides overnight. It increased the aid to the Maoist regime by 50 percent to 120 million Yuan over the 80 million Yuan given to the Gyanendra regime. The democratic regime’s readiness to suppress the peaceful protest of Tibetan refugees in Kathmandu recently when the Olympic flame was brought in showed its readiness to please the Chinese. If China’s influence expands rapidly in Nepal, it holds serious portends for New Delhi’s strategic security calculations. .

Having gained a strong foothold in India’s neighbourhood, China is poised to increase its strategic clout enormously in this region. This is likely to haunt India’s strategic security planners in the coming years.

(The writer,Col. R Hariharan, is a retired Military Intelligence specialist on South Asia, is associated with the South Asia Analysis Group and the Chennai Centre for China Studies. E-mail:[email protected])
 

Energon

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Many interesting points have been addressed here so I won't repeat them.

A few things... starting with the sheer inability to handle matters gracefully especially when empowered. This ranges from the poor treatment of lesser powers or outright hegemonic belligerence. India wants to be regarded as a "rising power" but also wants to retain the liberty to engage in petty 3rd world behavior. Schizophrenic and self contradictory philosophies clearly hold good in Indian life, but they do not transfer to the international platform.

The unwarranted moral high handedness is another factor that is detrimental to India on the global forum. I honestly do not know what fuels this ludicrous self aggrandizing behavior. As the Chinese have clearly shown, common sense, humility and introspective diligence goes a long way.

Given the empirical economic and geopolitical rise of India, it is time its establishment develop leadership skills to match their new found status, and the first step would be to stop inflating the magnitude of their rise for the sake of self aggrandizement. The entire world (or at least the developed world with substantial Indian diaspora) knows that India's growth has been fueled by the industriousness of its people, not the clairvoyance or the superhuman achievements of its government.

Nonetheless, the point is that unless India matures to become a benevolent leader it will always be bogged down by countless issues. It is entirely possible to fix this and at least pacify SL, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and other outliers in the short term.

** I don't think the outcome with Pakistan would have or will be any different, mostly because their self inflicted wounds preceded those of their Indian counterparts.
 

mehwish92

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Conflicts are never one-sided. If India is at fault, so are its neighbours.

Sri Lanka's atrocities against its Tamil population would naturally evoke a strong response from India's large Tamil population. Sri Lanka must understand that. However, India did wrong by funding the LTTE, in my opinion.

Bangladesh is a safe haven for many anti-India terrorists. However, recently the Bangladeshi government seems to be cracking down on these groups.

Pakistan, has done several things to harm India. The terror attacks, fake currency, supporting insurgencies, invasions, etc. etc. It has been doing this since the country was created.

Nepal, I do not know too much about, other than the fact that Nepal believes that India interferes in their domestic affairs too often, leading to instability. But again, Nepal is one of the gateways used by terrorists to attack India. Recently a Nepali prince (I believe) was found to be involved in the fake currency racket, if I am not mistaken.
 

johnee

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Johnee the logic of your second alternative is exactly why our smaller neighbours cozy up to China. Nobody likes being dictated to by the regional big boy, so naturally you play them off against another bigger power. It makes good geopolitical sense.
China long term seeks to usurp the US's position as global hegemon. An important intermediate step is to first become the regional hegemon. Their only serious opposition is India, so they are using the least expensive method of keeping us busy by supporting pakistan and helping those other small nations around us.
It is a sound strategy which is almost impossible to counter.
Nobody like to be dictated by a country that will not look at your welfare when you need them. India does use its power to armtwist these powers once in a while. Obviously, there are situations that warrant such a behaviour. But at other times, India tries to deal with them as if they are our equals. This is the root of the problem. India cannot escape its responsibility towards this neighbourhood. The neighbourhood is in flames, the posts by ajtr are good indicator. But is it not India's fault that the neighbourhood is in fire? How did India allow this neighbourhood to become such a mess. India must take the onus upon itself to cleanse this mess and make sure that these nations and their people can look towards a bright future. Invest in these nations, build infrastructure, and help people on the ground. But there is a flip side to it as well, if and when some country or individual goes anti-india, then the retribution must also be swift and severe.
The problem with Indian policy is that it is not consistent and does not define the red lines clearly. It does not give any rewards to good behaviour and does not punish bad behavior. Nepal was neglected until China backed maoists came to power, suddenly India became active, obviously such a policy attracts the ire of locals. We need to be constantly involved in all these smaller nations and direct them towards the goals that we want them to go. It will have a negative reaction from initially, but if our policy is consistent then they will accept the system. People accept any system that is clearly defined and is consistent. People reject system which is reactionary.
 

no smoking

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Conflicts are never one-sided. If India is at fault, so are its neighbours.
But now it is India wants to be the power, not your neighbours. It is impossible for a country to be a power with no strong supporty from any of its neighbours. So, the ball is in your court.

Sri Lanka's atrocities against its Tamil population would naturally evoke a strong response from India's large Tamil population. Sri Lanka must understand that. However, India did wrong by funding the LTTE, in my opinion.
Yes, that is true. But, did india gov do anything to explain to Sri Lanka. Any conflict between groups of people is all for interest. As a result, the relevant policy is also based on group interest. The conflct is not your responsibility, but if you want one side to give its interest, then it is your responsibility to convince them that their compromise will be rewarded somehow.

Bangladesh is a safe haven for many anti-India terrorists. However, recently the Bangladeshi government seems to be cracking down on these groups.
If you want your neighours do something for you, you must pay for it.

Pakistan, has done several things to harm India. The terror attacks, fake currency, supporting insurgencies, invasions, etc. etc. It has been doing this since the country was created.
Well, considering the history between your two, the blame should be put on both sides. The problem is no one want to back off. Especially for india, you are enjoying all the advantages in this conflict, there is no reason for india to back off. So, there is nothing wrong with india on this problem.


Nepal, I do not know too much about, other than the fact that Nepal believes that India interferes in their domestic affairs too often, leading to instability. But again, Nepal is one of the gateways used by terrorists to attack India. Recently a Nepali prince (I believe) was found to be involved in the fake currency racket, if I am not mistaken.
Still, the same question: does india intend to pay the bill? And how much?
 

A.V.

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KS

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The "wrong" was India was never strong with its neighbors and let them know who is the boss of the region.
 

Tianshan

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i don't know about the others, but i think the sino-india rivalry was inevitable

two giant countries growing fast in a world with not many resources
 

amitkriit

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Sri Lanka: Described India as "the Shark in Indian Ocean" and tried to build ties with USA, Pakistan. In 1965 and 1971 wars Sri Lanka supported Pakistan logistically. Main reason behind the support for LTTE was that Sri Lanka was planning to let USA build a naval base in North, which was effectively negated by the insurgency in the tamil dominated area. Indian support to LTTE was based on national interest, once the cold war was over, India changed her stance leading to the killing of Rajiv Gandhi.

Pakistan: If they don't hate us, they will not be able to exist as a nation.

Bangladesh: Indo-Bangla ties are generally good, water sharing and immigrant issues are the major irritants. Bangladesh is a moderate nation and India has a huge cultural influence over the country.

Maldives: Two nations have maintained excellent ties since "operation cactus" in 1988.

Bhutan: Indo-Bhutan relations are very close, but Bhutan has kept itself distant from Tibet issue to ensure peace on it's Northern frontier.

Nepal: Nepal looks at India as a hegemonic force. For them India is a necessary evil. India wields influence in the power center of Nepal. Indian Ambassador to Nepal is sarcastically called the "Viceroy of Nepal". Can't live with us, can't live without us, that's the case with Nepal.

China: Rivalry between India and China is inevitable, both giants are competing with each other for economic and Geo-political influence. Indians look at China with envy when it comes to economic development. Healthy rivalry between the two nations is not such a bad thing, provided we don't let foreign forces to take benefit from the situation.

Myanmar: Myanmar is sitting on gold thanks to Indo-China rivalry, they are trying to exploit the situation for self-interest.
 

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