Has India been a good neighbour?


By Joshua Rynjah | SHILLONG | SEPT 06, 2020:

The tragic events at the Galwan Valley which involved India and China have been met with a muted response not only from the international community (barring the USA) but also from India's immediate neighbours.

It would be convenient to assume that China's growing economic influence in these countries may have resulted in an unofficial silencing of criticism against China.

However, we can also examine past relations between India and its neighbours to examine if India has been at a cordial relationship with all. Nepal, for example, suffered a humanitarian and economic crisis in 2015- 16 when Indian traders imposed an unofficial embargo on it as part of the Madhesi protest and a devastating earthquake which hit on 25th April 2015 and relief operations were still going on.

Nepal suffered another blow at the hands of India when the Modi government suddenly imposed demonetization in 2016. Relief efforts, medical and health care systems, farmers, traders, daily labourers and small business owners in Nepal were the worst hit. In both cases, the Indian government never stepped forward to address these issues.


The Bangladesh government faced the ire of its citizens when fears arose regarding the implementation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 in India. The NRC and CAA were seen as controversial in Bangladesh as it is a Muslim-dominated country.

This also exposed another crack in the relationship between India and Bangladesh. From 2017, Bangladesh was providing relief to Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. Bangladeshi citizens feared that India, through the NRC and CAA, was conducting an unofficial exodus of its citizens into Bangladesh; further burdening Bangladesh while it was struggling to manage an international refugee crisis.


India's relationship with Sri Lanka is more complex given the relations of the past and the ongoing tussle over the control of fishing waters that see a constant conflict between the navies and fishermen from both sides. There is also the allegation of the involvement of Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), India's external intelligence wing, in Sri Lanka's 2015 elections. One perpetrator of the 2019 Easter Bombing in Sri Lanka received support and training in Kashmir and Kerala. While the National Investigation Agency (NIA) warned the Sri Lankan government about the attacks, yet they have raised questions about the absence of any arrests by the Indian authorities before the attacks took place.


India has always had a powerful influence over Bhutan concerning Bhutan's policies both national and international. Bhutan has heavily depended on India for trade and commerce. However, over the years Bhutan has developed both politically and economically and has established its place in the international community, un-influenced by India. Differences between India and Bhutan have been limited to economic and environmental issues but it must be noted that the first military operation carried out by the Royal Bhutan Army in 2003 was against militants from North East India such as United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) and National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) who had infiltrated Bhutan and made the forests of Bhutan their camps.


India shares a complex and difficult relationship with its immediate neighbours. The other countries are the ones at a disadvantage. This may make a relationship with China even more appealing, especially if they do not share or have a minimal border with China and can thus avoid the various political, social and economic complexities that come with sharing a border. India would be wise to remember that every decision it takes, whether economic, political or military, will be closely watched by its neighbours.

DISCLAIMER: This is a personal opinion. The opinion expressed in the article above belongs to the writer alone and TNT- The Northeast Today may not endorse the same views.