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Mains Practice Questions

  • Q. Discuss the significance and challenges of India's 'Neighbourhood First Policy' in fostering regional cooperation and addressing geopolitical dynamics. (250 Words)

    09 Apr, 2024 GS Paper 2 International Relations


    • Start the answer by introducing the Neighbourhood First Policy.
    • Illustrate the significance of India's 'Neighbourhood First Policy' in fostering regional cooperation.
    • Evaluate challenges of India's 'Neighbourhood First Policy' in addressing geopolitical dynamics.
    • Conclude suitably.


    India's 'Neighbourhood First Policy' is a cornerstone of its foreign policy, aimed at strengthening ties with its immediate neighbors. However, while the policy holds significant potential in fostering regional cooperation and addressing geopolitical dynamics, it also faces several challenges.


    Significance of Neighbourhood First Policy:

    • Strategic Importance:
      • India's neighborhood comprises countries that are strategically crucial for its security and economic interests. Strengthening ties with these nations enhances India's geopolitical standing and security.
      • India-Bangladesh relations have seen significant improvement in recent years, with cooperation in areas such as trade, security, and connectivity.
      • The Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) and the Teesta River water-sharing agreement are examples of successful bilateral initiatives.
    • Trade and Economic Opportunities:
      • Proximity to neighboring countries provides significant trade and economic opportunities.
      • Enhanced cooperation can lead to increased trade volumes, investment flows, and economic growth for all parties involved.
    • Regional Stability:
      • Building strong relationships with neighboring countries contributes to regional stability by addressing common challenges such as terrorism, extremism, and cross-border crimes.
    • Cultural and People-to-People Ties:
      • India shares deep cultural and historical ties with its neighbors. Strengthening people-to-people connections fosters mutual understanding and trust, laying the foundation for durable diplomatic relations.

    Challenges in Implementing Neighbourhood First Policy:

    • Historical Baggage:
      • Historical conflicts and territorial disputes pose significant challenges to fostering cooperation. Deep-rooted distrust and animosities hinder progress in bilateral relations.
      • Despite numerous attempts at dialogue, India-Pakistan relations remain strained due to issues like cross-border terrorism and Kashmir.
        • The lack of progress in resolving these contentious issues highlights the complexities involved in implementing the Neighbourhood First Policy.
    • Chinese Influence:
      • China's growing influence in the region presents a challenge to India's Neighbourhood First Policy.
      • Beijing's economic investments and infrastructure projects often compete directly with India's initiatives, creating geopolitical tensions.
    • Internal Instabilities:
      • Many neighboring countries grapple with internal instabilities, including political unrest, ethnic conflicts, and governance issues. These internal challenges hamper efforts to build sustainable partnerships.
    • Asymmetric Power Dynamics:
      • India's size and capabilities sometimes lead to perceptions of hegemony among smaller neighbors, creating resistance to Indian initiatives and interventions.
    • Infrastructure Deficits:
      • Inadequate connectivity and infrastructure deficits hinder regional integration efforts.
      • Improving physical connectivity through projects like the BBIN (Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal) initiative is crucial but faces implementation challenges.

    Strategies to Overcome Challenges:

    • Diplomatic Engagement:
      • Continuous diplomatic engagement at various levels is essential to address concerns and build trust. Regular high-level visits, diplomatic dialogues, and Track II diplomacy can help overcome historical mistrust.
      • China's BRI projects in South Asia, such as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), pose challenges to India's influence in the region.
        • India's response through initiatives like the International Solar Alliance (ISA) demonstrates its efforts to counterbalance Chinese influence through alternative development models.
    • Economic Cooperation:
      • Emphasizing economic cooperation can mitigate geopolitical rivalries. Initiatives such as the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) and regional connectivity projects like the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) promote economic integration.
    • Soft Power Diplomacy:
      • Leveraging India's soft power through cultural exchanges, educational scholarships, and tourism can help bridge divides and foster people-to-people connections.
    • Multilateral Approaches:
      • Engaging in multilateral forums such as SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) and BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) allows for broader cooperation beyond bilateral constraints.
    • Conflict Resolution Mechanisms:
      • Prioritizing conflict resolution mechanisms and confidence-building measures can address territorial disputes and historical grievances. The importance of dialogue and negotiation cannot be overstated in resolving longstanding conflicts.


    India's Neighbourhood First Policy holds immense significance in fostering regional cooperation and addressing geopolitical dynamics in South Asia. Despite challenges, India's efforts to enhance ties with its neighbors reflect its commitment to promoting peace, stability, and development in the region.

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