India’s growing neighbourhood dilemmas

India’s growing neighbourhood dilemmas


India’s foreign policy faces a persistent challenge in its neighborhood, posing significant dilemmas for its regional aspirations. Despite envisioning global leadership and geopolitical influence, India encounters complexities in its South Asian neighborhood, characterized by anti-India regimes, rising Chinese influence, and evolving geopolitical dynamics. The changing landscape demands a reassessment of India’s approach to ensure sustained regional relevance.


GS-02 (International Relations, India and its neighbours)

Mains Question:

Evaluate the dilemmas in India’s neighborhood policy, considering the rise of anti-India regimes, growing Chinese influence, and the evolving geopolitical scenario. Discuss the implications of these challenges on India’s quest for regional leadership and suggest strategic measures for effective navigation. (250 words)

Dimensions of the Article:

  • Geopolitical Shift and China’s Influence
  • Causes of Dilemmas
  • Policy Stance and Assumptions

Geopolitical Shift and China’s Influence:

  • The article delineates three significant dilemmas faced by India in its neighborhood. Firstly, the rise of anti-India regimes, exemplified by the situation in the Maldives and potential ideological shifts in Bangladesh, poses a challenge.
  • Secondly, the structural dilemma arises from China’s expanding influence in South Asia through initiatives like the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), altering regional power dynamics.
  • Thirdly, the intricate geopolitical architecture, marked by the diminishing U.S. presence and China’s strategic outreach, further complicates India’s position.

Causes of Dilemmas:

  • The causes behind India’s dilemmas are multifaceted. The regional geopolitical architecture experiences a shift with the reduced U.S. presence, creating a power vacuum filled by China.
  • The aggressive rise of China offers material support to smaller South Asian states, impacting India’s strategic autonomy. China’s non-normative approach challenges India’s historical norms-based calculus, presenting a unique geopolitical scenario.
  • Additionally, India’s erstwhile primacy in the region now faces the downsides of cultural and ethnic complexities, unlike China, which benefits from being a non-resident power.

Policy Stance and Assumptions:

  • India’s policy stance contributes to its regional dilemmas, exhibiting a status quo bias and a narrow focus on those in power, potentially alienating other power centers.
  • The mistaken assumption that a South Asia minus Pakistan would align with Indian interests proves flawed. Furthermore, India’s cultural and historical connect is questioned, raising concerns about its efficacy in foreign policy.

Way Forward:

  • Addressing these dilemmas requires a pragmatic shift in India’s perspective. Acknowledging the fundamental changes in South Asia’s power balance and accepting the emergence of China as a contender for regional primacy is essential.
  • Proactive engagement with friendly external actors, flexibility in diplomacy by engaging multiple actors, and a strategic increase in diplomatic personnel are crucial measures.


The complexities in India’s neighborhood necessitate a comprehensive reassessment of its foreign policy. Adapting to the shifting geopolitical dynamics, acknowledging the rise of China, and adopting proactive diplomatic strategies are imperative. India’s success in overcoming these dilemmas lies in its ability to embrace a pragmatic and realistic approach, ensuring sustained influence and cooperation in the ever-evolving South Asian landscape.