India's relation with its neighbours has not been in the best of terms over the past few years. Voices of anti-Indian sentiment across the neighbours have been growing over the past few years. But things have started to change ever since the new Indian Government was sworn in on May 26 2014.
In an unprecedented move the Prime Minister designate (now the Prime Minister) Narendra Modi invited the leaders of all the SAARC countries for his swearing in ceremony and thus emphasised the need for better cooperation among all the neighbouring countries. After the swearing in ceremony, the PM held bilateral talks with each one of the guest nations. Among those the most keenly watched meeting was the one which he had with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif. In his first bilateral meeting with the Pak PM he raised the issue of the trial of the 26/11 perpetrators. He also made it clear that talks and terror cannot go hand in hand and stressed the need for greater trade ties. Mr. Sharif invited Mr. Modi to visit Pakistan and he had accepted it though the dates are yet to be finalised. The two nations also agreed upon continuing the bilateral talks at least at the foreign secretary level continue and felt that was the only way forward. Talks are also on in the Pakistani side with regards to offering the MFN status to India. India has also maintained that it would continue assisting Afghanistan in its development and security and try to maintain peace and stability in that region.
Mr. Modi, for his first foreign trip as PM, chose Bhutan. His decision to choose Bhutan as his first trip showed his intent in strengthening the ties with India's most friendly neighbour. Apart from the inauguration of the new Supreme Court building which was funded by India and laying the foundation stone for a new hydroelectric power plant, Mr Modi and his delegation also signed various deals related to trade and commerce with the Bhutan govt. In addition to this he also mooted the idea of an annual hill sports event along with Nepal and Bhutan. His first trip was indeed very successful.
Relations with India's southern neighbour, Sri Lanka have been souring because of the presence of the Dravidian parties in the Union Government. With no Dravidian party at the centre, the new government can revive its ties with the island nation which in the past few years has slowly drifted towards China raising a few eyebrows and causing concern in New Delhi. Not only should India continue trade talks with Sri Lanka but it should ensure that the needs and interests of the Tamil people are protected.
Anti-Indian voices have also been strongly growing among India's other two neighbours, Nepal and Bangladesh. India's External Affairs Minister Ms. Sushma Swaraj visited both these countries earlier this month. During her short visit to Bangladesh she met the leaders of various political parties and stressed that there should be mutual cooperation and all internal issues be resolved by people of Bangladesh itself. Bangladesh had raised 3 major concerns the teesta water pact which was supposed to be signed in 2011 but was not because the WB CM Mamata Banerjee opposed it, the ratification of the land boundary agreement and the killing of Bangladeshis across the border. Ms Swaraj maintained that India was committed to resolve all the issues through talks and upon return described her visit as very successful. During her visit to Nepal, she co-chaired the Indo-Nepal joint commission which was held after a gap of 23 years and also laid the groundwork for the visit of the PM Modi, who would be the first Indian PM to visit Nepal after 17 years. During her visit, the 2 countries also decided to review and adjust the 1950 Treaty of Piece and strengthen cooperation in key areas of defence, trade, security and hydro power.
Last but not the least India's biggest neighbour China has also responded positively to the new government. India's vice president Mr. Hamid Ansari along with the Commerce Minister Ms. Nirmala Seetharaman and various other delegates visited China for the 50th anniversary of the Panchsheel agreement and also held high level meetings with the various officials on trade and commerce. During his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the side-lines of the BRICS summit in Brazil, Mr. Modi spoke about the enormous opportunities that exist between both the nations and continue to contribute to the peace and prosperity not only for Asia but across the world. Mr.Jinping said he would visit India later this year and invited the Indian PM to visit China and also attend the APEC summit.
In conclusion I would like to say that Mr Modi and the new government have made a good start in trying to strengthening its ties with its neighbours and let's hope this continues and the South Asian region maintain strong ties and the region continues to progress peacefully.