16 June 2020
By Prof SD Muni
Prof SD Muni is Professor Emeritus at JNU. He taught International Relations and South Asian Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University (1974-2006), National University of Singapore (2008-2013), Banaras Hindu University (1985-86), and University of Rajasthan (1972-73). He was also India’s Ambassador to Lao People's Democratic Republic (1997-99).
THE INDIAN NEIGHBOURHOOD
NIAS Lectures on “The Indian Neighbourhood”
16 June 2020
Prof. SD Muni
Over the years, the South Asian countries have seen political turbulence in the region and the contemporary scenario demands a thorough examination of India's relation with its neighbors. Professor SD Muni provided a brief overview of how the Indian neighborhood has evolved, the transformational role played by India in the neighboring countries, and the entry of China in the Indian neighborhood.
Professor Muni highlighted the arbitrary nature of the boundaries drawn by the colonial powers. Despite the similarity shared among the countries in terms of history, culture, and economy, the countries were differentiated by political boundaries. The transformation of the political system in the neighboring countries accelerated the struggle for power in the region, compelling India to play a critical role in these countries. India failed to emerge as a developmental partner to the neighboring countries due to its lack of investments and failure to deliver projects promptly. The gap between India and her neighbors prompted external interference, making India as the internal divider rather than an internal unifier.
In a short time, the region emerged with a thriving young population as the largest market. Despite the tremendous development, regional cooperation failed. India, being the largest country in the region in terms of size and population, failed to meet the expectations of SAARC, creating a structural imbalance. The uncertain diplomatic and economic relations displayed by India encouraged other countries to let China interfere and have influence in the region. The Indian neighborhood has coordinated with China militarily and economically, thereby increasing China’s presence. Reorientation of diplomatic channels and the neighborhood policy is the need of the hour for India to ensure stability in the region and to maintain good relations with her neighbors.