International relations describe the type of relations a country has with other countries. The relationship between two countries is based on the level of interactions on subjects such as economy, military, law, environment. Two or more countries can have 'strategic relation', 'economic relation', 'political relation', 'bilateral (between two countries) multi lateral' (between two or more countries) relation.
The type of relation depends upon each others' mutual interests and benefits. In the region called South Asia, India is centrally located and geo-politics determines bilateral relations in the region. Land, location, terrain and other geographical factors have influenced political decisions in a big way.
The location of a country decides how it has to be prepared militarily to defend itself. For example, Great Britain used its location effectively to control the neighbouring and distant land by colonizing them through control of seas.
In the case of India too, geographical and natural resources have determined its power potential and how its power potential can be utilized to determine its relations with neighbouring and distant countries. In other words, as politics is about study of power, geopolitics refers to influences of geography on the relationships between nations.
India is centrally located in South Asia and is surrounded by smaller countries. We call this region the Indian sub-continent because of the enormous size of the region. History reveals that the entire region was under the influence of India. For example, what we now call Pakistan and Bangladesh were once part of India. Similarly, the other countries of South Asian region such as Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Maldives have at one point or other been under the influence of India. However, after the colonization by British, changes took place in the political and geographical features of the region.
The independence of India led to separation of Pakistan from India and Bangladesh was born in 1971. Today, the South Asian region comprises eight countries. They are: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan. Sri Lanka and Maldives shares maritime borders with India. China does share a big land boundary with India and hence it is India's northern neighbour but from a geo-political, historical and cultural point of view China is not included as part of South Asia.
India shares largest portion of its border with Bangladesh and shortest of it with Afghanistan. India shares a 699-km long border with Bhutan, 3323 Km (including LoC) with Pakistan. This border runs along the Indian states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir. Located in the north of India, Tibet shares boundary with India's Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
All countries have resources to be utilized as power. International relations are about how one country can influence the other to do what it wants. A country's power or Power is defined in terms of Hard power and Soft Power. Hard power is military power and soft power is the economy, culture, etc.
India has a wide range of soft power resources. The country is keen to wield its soft power. Soft power includes promotion of Yoga, Indian arts and crafts, music and culture in general. The Bollywood-made cinemas are popular in many continents.
India's Cricket and Hockey teams are also famous. Its vast variety from music to football to cuisine and diversity has attracted the west. India's Ministry of External Affairs has a special focus to exercise Soft Power.
The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) has been a key partner to strengthen external relations in various ways. Ministry of Tourism and other governmental partners are devoted to exercising India's soft power.
Soft power is the use of a country's cultural, social and economic influence over other countries in order to persuade them to do something without the use of hard power.
India has been show casing its social, political, and cultural assets abroad through various channels - directly and indirectly. In its neighbourhood, it has lent its support on various occasions to build friendly relations. For example, soon after the massive earthquake in Nepal in 2015, India's Ministry of Home Affairs sent Indian Armed Forces and National Disaster Response Force. The operation was known as "Maitri". The Indian Air Force used Advanced Light Helicopters, Mi-17 and other aircrafts to rescue and distribute relief materials. India is the largest regional provider of humanitarian and reconstruction aid to Afghanistan.
Similarly, be it cyclone-hit Sri Lanka or Bangladesh, the Indian Government has used its soft and hard power to rescue people who were trapped in natural disasters and has sent large amounts of relief materials from time to time. The role of India in Sri Lanka is well known. During the time of Sri Lankan civil war India sent thousands of Peace Keeping Forces and constructed over 50,000 houses to give shelter to refugees.
Besides, the influence of Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism on its neighbours cannot be forgotten. Ethnic ties too strengthen India's Soft Power. The case of Tamil speaking Sri Lanka, Singapore or Bengali speaking Bangladesh is a good example of influence of language and culture. Philosophies of Mahatma Gandhi and other thinkers have also inspired many countries extremely.
In terms of Science and Technology India's achievements are huge as compared to its neighbours. India saw massive success in its Moon Mission. Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is globally admired and has hundreds of successful missions to its credit. The Soft Power helps not only to shape Indian foreign policy but also other country's policy towards India.\
Hard power is the use of military and economic means to influence the behavior or interests of other nations or political entities.
Hard power is the use of military and economic means to influence and change the behaviour of other countries the way you want it.
Hard power is often aggressive and is most effective when imposed by one political body upon a weaker nation. India has successfully won many battles and has launched many military operations. In Operation Vijay in 1961, India freed Goa, Daman and Diu from Portugal. Following the war with Pakistan in 1965, India captured around 740 square miles of territory against Pakistan gaining 210 square miles of territory.
In 1971 India supported Bangladesh's Liberation War. Indian Army took nearly 93,000 Pakistani soldiers as prisoners. India removed the illegal encroachment by Pakistan in the Siachen Glacier following Operation MEGHDOOT. Indian Army successfully brought back near normalcy in Naxalite hit areas in the country. Operation Cactus in 1988 restored the government rule in Maldives.