Issues Between India and its Neighbours

India follows a policy of friendly cooperation with its neighbours. However, this has been difficult to achieve. There have been several hindrances in the past decades that have hampered bilateral ties.

Political and diplomatic cooperation with neighbouring countries have been generally cordial with most of the neighbouring countries. However, as with the case of any two individuals, differences do crop up between countries.

Bangladesh

It was in 1971 that Bangladesh got its independence from West Pakistan with the help of India's military intervention. Thereafter relations have been cordial on all fronts as we share common cultural and language bonds. However, there are certain issues that have also affected the relations. These are:

  • Illegal migration from Bangladesh: The migrants have become an economic, political and security problem for India. Economically they have to be supported with food, shelter and medicines and security wise there is a possibility of these people turning to anti-India activities.

  • Porous Border: A porous border means that the border is not fenced or manned. India shares the longest boundary with Bangladesh, most of which are riverine plains. Hence it has been difficult to fence them and easy for illegal smuggling to take place. Moreover, the border between India and Bangladesh is porous leading to smuggling of goods including gold and other goods that affect security.

  • Presence of terrorist outfits like Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, Jamat-e-Islam are active in those bordering areas. Drug dealers are increasingly using Bangladesh as a transit point. They smuggle heroin and opium to India from Burma and other countries through Bangladesh.

  • Fake Indian currency notes are also transferred in large quantities along the border.

  • Sharing of Teesta river water that flows through Sikkim and West Bengal and finally into Bangladesh is still an unresolved issue.

Pakistan

We share common historical, cultural, and linguistic ties with the people of Pakistan. Yet Relations with Pakistan have not been cordial and smooth. Several issues have hindered good neighbourly progress. Some of them are:

  • Kashmir: This has been the most delicate issue between the two countries. While there was a political agreement with the then ruler of Kashmir Maharaja Hari Singh who signed the instrument of accession with India but was not accepted by Pakistan which sent its invaders to destabilize and take the region by force.

  • The timely intervention of our armed forces prevented the hostile take over. Due to certain political actions at the time, some parts of Kashmir continue to be occupied by Pakistan, and remain under its control till today. Those areas are called Pakistan Occupied Kashmir or POK. Since then India and Pakistan have fought three major wars and one minor war at Kargil in 1999.

  • Terrorism: This is another major political issue faced between the two countries. Having failed in the hostile take over during 1947-48, Pakistan has used terrorism as a instrument of state policy against India. Terrorists started infiltrating from Pakistan and started terror attacks on armed forces and government organisations. Separatist organisations were formed in Kashmir valley who started helping the terrorists. Such an action by a country against another is called proxy war. This is a major issue of concern affecting bilateral, political and economic relationships between the two countries.

  • Proxy wars: Pakistan has been waging proxy war with India trying to destabilize India by way of supporting anti-Indian outfits in the country particularly in Kashmir region. This has led to strained relationship both politically and militarily.

Myanmar

India shares 1643 km of its land boundary and maritime boundary in the Bay of Bengal. A large number of Indians have been living in the country even before British colonial rule in Myanmar, which was earlier called Burma. The presence of Indians in Myanmar has helped strengthen bilateral relations. Trade between the two countries has flourished. Myanmar is the gateway to South East Asia. Myanmar is also important because its help is needed to fight insurgency in Northeast India. Issues affecting ties are:

  • The borders are not fenced and hence insurgents in both Myanmar and in Northeast India have become serious security issue. Within India, armed groups based in Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram use Myanmar as safe haven to operate.

  • The problem of illegal migration - Muslim Rohingyas in Myanmar have illegally migrated to India to escape the violence against them in their country.

Nepal

With Nepal too, India shares a common land boundary and has signed a friendship treaty in 1950. Nepal is a Hindu Kingdom and has seen a steady growth in bilateral relations in all spheres. Nepal is located in a strategically important area in the Himalayan region bordering Tibet and hence demanded closer attention and ties for India. However, there are some issues that have affected progress.

  • Nepal is a land locked country and the access to sea ports are through India. This some times creates frictions.

  • Issue of Madeshi population is again a cause of discord between the two countries.

  • Issue of human trafficking. Thousands of Nepalese in India are believed to have been trafficked to India illegally.

Sri Lanka

India is the only maritime neighbour for Sri Lanka and so, there have been good neighbourly relations with the country. India helped Sri Lanka in solving the internal security problem from LTTE. It sent its peacekeeping force to maintain stability and peace in the country. India has also been an economic partner for Sri Lanka supplying goods and services. It has signed economic and free trade agreements and bilateral trade ties have increased.

In the area of security and defence too India has helped Sri Lanka in supplying some military equipment and provided training. However, there are issues that have also affected progress. These are:

  • The issue of Tamil Nadu fishermen crossing Palk straits and entering waters of Sri Lanka for fishing is a daily problem.

  • Kachchativu island located between India and Sri Lanka was given to Sri Lanka by India. It has become an area of dispute.

  • Chinese naval base in Sri Lanka and construction of port facilities by China. This has strategic and security concerns because Chinese war ships can freely come to the port.

Maldives

Maldives is located in a geo-strategically important area in the Indian Ocean. It is the smallest country in South Asian region. Similar to other neighbouring countries, India Maldives relations have also been generally cordial. India has been a development partner for Maldives and has assisted the country in all major areas particularly in capacity building, trade and commerce.

India has also helped with the security needs of Maldives and has signed defence cooperation agreements. However, the relations deteriorated in view of its close ties with China at the cost of India's security concerns. Maldives had signed its first ever Free Trade Area agreement with China. But with the change in government in Maldives, its 'India First Policy' is back on trade.