Since India achieved its independence in 1947, the country was seen as a rising power in South Asia. In the early years, India witnessed a commensurate increase on the global stage, as it had risen strong in the region economically and militarily. But historically, India has a legacy of troubled relationships with its neighbours marked by conflicts and confrontations.

Not following Chanakaya’s advice “to befriend not your neighbour but your neighbour’s neighbour”, India made sure its close neighbours, China and Pakistan stayed best friends. India is viewed as a major ally of the West in countering its immediate neighbour China which lies in its north through multidimensional alliances and deals, and in its north-west, India possesses the disputed relationship with Pakistan and a host of other problems which includes a chronic flashpoint of Kashmir issue and the water dispute among others. The Indian government had on August 5, 2019, repealed Article 370 of its constitution, stripping Indian Illegally Occupied Kashmir (IIOK) of its special status and its recent deadly skirmish with China in the Ladakh region in July 2020 rubbed salt into its wounds. It is essential to note that India borders all South Asian countries except Afghanistan, making it the largest state in the region. This unique edge in its geographic feature gives India a control over intra-regional trade and with no room to bypass Indian borders in transit trade. Let’s observe its current downturn in its foreign policy.

India has largely enjoyed historical and cultural ties with Nepal. For India, Nepal is the land barrier between China and its own resource-rich Gangetic Plain. But the relationship became turbulent when Nepal approved a new map in May 2020 that included Lipulekh, Kalapani, Limpiyadhura under its territory. The development came in a row after India issued a new political map that incorporated Kalapani and Lipulekh on its side in October last year. Moreover, India also inaugurated the Link Road which connects Kailash Mansarovar, a holy pilgrimage site situated in Tibet, China that passes through the territory of Nepal. Nepal reacted aggressively, saying that India has breached an agreement of 2014. The agreement reads to work out on the outstanding boundary issues through negotiations such as Kalapani where Lipulekh lies.

India has also enjoyed an influential and traditional relationship with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Back in 2015, Indian PM Modi paid a visit to Sri Lanka for the first time in 28 years by an Indian prime minister and it resulted in four agreements. But this was just a symbolic visit with no proper outcome. There is also an ongoing ethnic strife in South Asia between the Hindu Tamils and the Buddist Sinhalese in Sri Lanka. Today, India hosts 400,000 Tamils in the 100-plus refugee camps in Tamil Nadu. In July 2020, Sri Lanka PM Mahinda Rajapaksa made no decision on the East Container Terminal (ECT) project at the Colombo Port, in which India, Japan and Sri Lanka in 2019 had agreed to work together. India sees this as China expanding its footprints on the island and undertaking massive projects. Sri Lanka also offered China a 99-year lease on the Hambantota project. On India’s side, it has marginalised itself in the affairs of Tamil which would tilt its neighbour towards China.

Bangladesh is another curious case for India. The relationship began when India provided shelter to the refugees of East Pakistan in 1971. Both countries have the fifth longest boundary in the world. They have made strong strides in their relationship but the challenges for India like the Teesta river dispute and the growing influence of China have overshadowed their bilateral engagements. Indian PM Modi launched four projects in Bangladesh in March 2019. Earlier in 2015, 22 bilateral agreements were signed. On the other hand, Bangladesh is a member of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). China had signed 27 agreements with Bangladesh in 2016, worth around $24 billions. Bangladesh has miffed at India’s Citizenship Amendment Act of 2019. This brought a new concern for Bangladesh and thus, brought negative publicity for Dhaka. The recent telephone conversation of PM Imran Khan with his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina in July 2020 simply adds fuel to the fire for India.

In a series of setbacks from its close neighbours, Iran has dropped India from the Chabahar to Zahedan rail project connecting the Chabahar port due to the delayed funds and finalised a $400 billion strategic partnership deal with China on July 14, 2020. On the other front, with the US set to leave Afghanistan, India’s position is hardly enviable and in the undergoing developments, India is out of the multi-party talks. India has made investments worth billions there, but it may face risk in the near future if it fails to play its proactive role.

To put the whole discussion in nutshell, India itself has been completely isolated diplomatically as it had originally envisaged for Pakistan. If we dig deep, its decline is more or less linked to its closure alignment with the U.S. on the Pacific issue and domestic decisions based on the religion i.e. the NRC, the CAA and the abrogation of the special status of Indian-occupied Kashmir. These events led to foreign policy consequences for India. It is high time to reconsider its diplomacy’s trajectory before it becomes too late or it could meet its fate to end and emerge as a toothless paper-tiger from the international peripheries.