- GLobalisation of the Indian sub-continent
Recent events which highlights the importance of the Indian sub-continent on the international stage
- Presence of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka at the G-7 summit at Ise-Shima, Japan.
- China has already begun to integrate India’s neighbours into its larger international and regional strategies.
- The $ 46 billion China-Pakistan economic corridor, “dialogue partner” status to Sri Lanka and Nepal in Shanghai Cooperation Organisation are some examples.
India must come to terms with the unfolding globalisation of the Subcontinent
- Much of the international discourse on South Asia often gets reduced to the India-Pakistan relations; this only helps mask the significance of the other nations in the region.
- And the reference to them as “smaller nations” of the region is largely inaccurate.
- With its focus on the Af-Pak region, however, India has tended to miss the growing strategic significance of the other nations in the neighbourhood.
Strategic importance of other nations
- Bangladesh is today one of the fastest growing economies of the world and is open to massive investments in the infrastructure sector, and China and Japan are competing vigorously for project contracts in Bangladesh.
- Long viewed as India’s buffers to the north, Bhutan and Nepal have now become theatres of contestation with China.
- Sri Lanka is rediscovering its central location in the Indian Ocean, as all major powers like China, US and Japan pay unprecedented attention to Colombo.
- Maldives, which straddles the vital sea lines of communication in the Indian Ocean, has now become a highly coveted piece of maritime real estate as China turns its gaze upon the Indian Ocean.
Wake up call
- India must begin to recognise the growing gulf between its claims of primacy in the region and the growing economic, political and military influence of China in the Subcontinent.
- Two, the new international opportunities have allowed the ruling elites in our neighbourhood to pursue greater “strategic autonomy” from India. This means Delhi will have to work harder than ever before to retain its historic leverages in the neighbourhood.
- Three, the economic geography of the Subcontinent was inherently in India’s favour. Partition, the inward economic orientation of socialist India, and the neglect of connectivity and commerce at and across the frontiers has seen India lost many of the inherited advantages.
- Four, India’s “neighbourhood first” strategy is complicated by its deep involvement in the internal politics of the South Asian nations. Those who are affected , they have learned to counter it by seeking intervention of other powers.
- Last but not the least, India must stop seeing itself as the “lone ranger” in South Asia. While it must necessarily compete with rival powers when they threaten its interests, it must also learn to collaborate with friendly powers, wherever possible, in shaping the regional environment.