There is no lack of friends and some of them are quite strong. However, no one can deny the importance of neighbours. As we have to coexist with our neighbours, it is necessary to maintain cordial ties with them. The point is: whether India is able to understand this simple truth. The sudden change in the geopolitical landscape in South Asia (due to the ongoing Doklam border crisis between India and China) tells a different story.
China has started strengthening ties with India’s neighbours in recent times. The intension is very clear: to isolate India in its neighbourhood. The top political leadership in Beijing knows that America will not be with China in case of a Sino-Indian conflict. Beijing also knows that the US’ allies in Asia and Europe will back India in such a situation. India’s ‘close’ ties with these countries give Beijing a cause for concern. So, China is concentrating on a diplomatic war (with India) or battle of nerves.
India and Bhutan have repeatedly said that the area (Doklam), which China is claiming as its own, belongs to Bhutan. However, China has refuted the stand in the midst of the lengthy and tense border dispute. India sent troops to Doklam in order to protect Bhutan’s sovereignty and the move triggered fresh tensions between the two Asian powers. Surprisingly, Bhutan has (slowly) softened its stand on China. There is no Chinese embassy in the tiny Himalayan nation and no Bhutanese embassy in China. Still, the two countries managed to establish diplomatic ties. Even, Beijing has informed the global community that Bhutan is trying hard to maintain a ‘safe’ distance with India. Also, China has discussed the Doklam issue with Nepal and requested Kathmandu to back Beijing’s stand on the border row.
As far as other countries in the region are concerned, Pakistan considers China its all weather friend. For Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, it becomes difficult to back India mainly because of large Chinese investment there. As a result, India will have to be more cautious while dealing with the ‘dragon’.
China is taking care of India’s neighbours only to put New Delhi under immense diplomatic pressure. It may not be a long-term strategy, but it is important for India to find a counter strategy. Suddenly, the Indian influence on neighbouring countries has started to decline and it is not a good sign for New Delhi in the long-run. The Indian diplomats need to be more tactical to checkmate China. It is important for them to make ‘thoughtful and calculated’ moves in the coming days. Or else, the situation can go out of control.
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