There is a huge potential for neighbourhood first policy of India. However, regional cooperation in south Asia has several impediments. Discuss.

India’s neighbourhood first policy has been guided by the principles of south-south cooperation, mutual respect, and non-interference.

Potential of India’s Neighbourhood First policy:

  • India’s Act East Policy has resulted in enhanced harmony and cooperation with countries of South East Asia.
  • BIMSTEC as regional cooperation keeps the huge potential for India in terms of development in tourism, trade, infrastructure, anti-terrorism, etc.
  • Completion of the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway shall boost connectivity to Southeast Asia.
  • SAARC, SAFTA, and SASEC have huge potential for amicable dispute resolution, energy cooperation and trade development.
  • Vaccine Maitri has also been a part of India’s neighbourhood first policy.
  • India-Japan pact to build Jaffna & Mattala airport in Srilanka also flaunts India’s cooperation in South Asia.

Hurdles for Regional Cooperation in South Asia:

  • With the withdrawal of Pakistan, SAARC has since then remained non-functional.
  • Various connectivity projects like BBIN and IMT highway remain incomplete and delayed.
  • India suffers from the problem of “over-promising and under-delivery”.
  • India’s biased cooperation towards Bangladesh and Nepal with respect to Srilanka.
  • Increasing radicalization and Nepal’s recent tilt towards china.
  • The formation of QUAD has led to apprehensions in other regional nations.
  • Regional trade in South Asia remains skewed in comparison to several other global cooperations.
  • India’s Big Brother image also creates apprehensions about her motives in other smaller countries.

South Asia remains important for India not just for trade and connectivity but also strategically and geopolitically. Enhanced cooperation and summit-level talks complemented with back-channel diplomacy and technological engagements can go a long way.

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