September 21, 2016

India is on the defensive in its neighborhood

The following article originally appeared in The Washington Post's Global Opinions section on September 21, 2016. An excerpt is included below and the full text can be accessed here

But as India and the world continue to grapple with Pakistan’s support for Islamist militant groups, another story is unfolding in the region: India is rediscovering the rest of its neighborhood. In the past few weeks, Myanmar’s President Htin Kyaw, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Nepali Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal have all visited New Delhi. The prime ministers of Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are also scheduled to arrive soon. This is part of a conscious bid by India to give priority to its smaller neighbors, lend support when needed, increase connectivity and gradually build a sense of regionalism. This policy has come to be known as “Neighborhood First.”

India’s aggressive engagement with its neighbors over the past two years has been motivated by two interrelated concerns. One is the rising tide of nationalism, which often manifests itself as anti-Indianism in many of these countries. In Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, certain political parties or blocs have tried to exploit anti-Indian sentiments and could, once again, rise to positions of power. The governments in all three countries are, at present, relatively well-disposed toward New Delhi, but there is no certainty that such a situation will last.