Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first foreign visit in his second term to Sri Lanka and the Maldives shows the Indian government’s traditional diplomatic emphasis on the “Neighbourhood First” Policy. It is necessary for India to maintain an amicable relationship with its immediate neighbours to achieve its aspiration as a global power as these nations are economically and strategically important. However, for the past few years, India has faced challenges while maintaining bilateral relations with the neighbouring nations. Now, the government is taking measures to address these challenges to obtain a strategic advantage in the region.
Several changes were made in the foreign policy of India in 2014 when the new government was formed. Act East Policy was one of them. Since its enactment, it has come a long way in improving India’s ties with various nations in East and Southeast Asia and Indo-Pacific. However, since its enforcement, circumstances have changed. China’s influence is challenged by various aspects like the trade war, regional tensions in China, an increase in protectionist policies, etc. India needs to make use of this situation to enhance the Act East Policy to its advantage to counter China and improve its economy through trade with East and Southeast Asian nations.
At a time when the whole world is battling the deadly COVID-19 crisis and when the virus has become the biggest story in the world of diplomacy, it has become important to look at how India is playing the game of diplomacy and shaping its foreign policy to meet its own demanding needs. The world witnessed a lot of change in its foreign policy approaches and many established bonds have been broken. It is a time when the world is witnessing heightened tensions among some nations while some transformed this into an opportunity for themselves. India has both hard realities to face and at the same time has ample opportunities to rise as a world leader. It thus becomes important to see how India is dealing with the present crisis and transforms it into an opportunity in the foreign policy domain.
In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping launched China’s most ambitious project One Belt One Road (OBOR) which involves the building of two projects namely – Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) and a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (MSR). OBOR later came to be known as Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). BRI is arguably the most ambitious global infrastructure project ever envisaged by one country. However, is this merely an economic project? or a geopolitical one of China? Will India get any benefit by joining this project or not? Let us discuss those issues in detail.