There has been no recent deterioration of bilateral relations with neighbouring countries like Nepal, China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afganistan and Myanmar, the Centre has said.
Trinamool Congress MP Prof Saugata Roy raised the question of whether relations with neighbours soured following recent spats particularly with China (over tensions at LAC); with Nepal (over a new map Kathmandu released that incorporated Indian territories as its own); apprehensions in Bangladesh over India’s proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Roy also asked whether China is keeping good relations with any of those countries and the steps taken initiating for cordial relations with neighbouring countries of India.
To this, Minister of States for External Affairs, V Muraleedharan, in his written reply said the government accords the highest priority to India’s relations with neighbouring countries and is an active political and economic partner of its neighbours, involved in various projects, including development projects with these countries. “India also has extensive education, culture, trade and investment linkages with neighbouring countries.”
“India’s relations with other countries stand on their own footing and are independent of the relations of those countries with third countries,” Muraleedharan said, in reference to China.
China has been cosying up to South Asian countries to try to maximise influence through infrastructure projects under the ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). India has kept out of this programme and has sought to undertake its own path through joint ventures in social and physical infrastructure projects in these countries, as an alternative to Beijing’s infamous ‘debt-trap’ policy.
Notably, India and China are locked in a months-long tense standoff in eastern Ladakh across the Line of Actual Control. New Delhi has also imposed restrictions on trade with the northern neighbour and has banned dozens of Chinese-owned apps.
Relations with Pakistan remains strained as Islamabad has notoriously drummed up Jammu and Kashmir in multilateral bodies — only to taste dust from Indians — and continues to foster terror groups across the Line of Control to foment trouble in India.
The ties between India and Nepal came under strain after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated an 80-km-long strategically crucial road connecting the Lipulekh pass with Dharchula in Uttarakhand on May 8. Nepal protested the inauguration of the road claiming that it passed through its territory. Days later, Nepal came out with the new map showing Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura as its territories. In June, Nepal’s Parliament approved the new political map which India termed as untenable and “artificial enlargement” of territorial claims.
Meanwhile, relations with Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar have remained steady as India has extended medical, technical and monetary aid throughout the Coronavirus pandemic. PM Narendra Modi had previously dialled leaders of those countries and assured assistance in response to the health crisis, which received warm gratitude from his counterparts.