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Wednesday, Oct 27, 2021
Outlook.com

Next Door Boor

Yashwant Sinha does the SAARC round while angry neighbours resent India's superpower-like vibes

Next Door Boor
Next Door Boor
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53
By the time foreign minister Yashwant Sinha finished with the SAARC meeting in Kathmandu, and then subsequently travelled to Dhaka to complete his regional circuit (he has already been to Maldives, Sri Lanka and Bhutan) he no doubt realised that relations between India and its neighbours are in urgent need of repair. The latter are restive because Sinha's predecessor, Jaswant Singh, paid scant attention to them, preoccupied as he was with reordering India's ties with the West, post Pokhran, and indulging in coercive diplomacy after September 11.

Says a senior diplomat hailing from the region: "After Pokhran, Indian leaders have visited many countries in the world, neighbours excluded. They have forgotten to put meaningful bilateral content into their relationship with their neighbours. Now India has many neighbours but no friends."

Our neighbours' grievances, though varying from one to the other, include:

  • A perception of taking them for granted.

  • The big-brother attitude it displays. (For instance, Colombo was notified barely 48 hours before Sinha boarded his flight.)

  • Its insistence on the principle of reciprocity from smaller neighbours.

  • Unwilling to go the extra mile to correct its trade imbalances with all its neighbours.

Diplomats say it's time Sinha realises the pronounced sense of resentment among Nepali leaders. As former foreign minister Prakash Chandra Lohani of Nepal's Rashtriya Prajatantra Party puts it: "Nepal and India are two sovereign states. Recognition of this fact by India in words and practice would solve many of the problems between us." This sentiment is echoed across the political spectrum, prompting Y.K. Siwal, a former secretary-general of SAARC, to remark: "India alone needs to look into why its neighbours look at it the way they do."

This anger is more pronounced in...
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