3. Explain the significance of regional connectivity with neighbours for India’s strategic and economic interests. (15 Marks)
भारत के सामरिक और आर्थिक हितों के लिए पड़ोसियों के साथ क्षेत्रीय संपर्क के महत्व की व्याख्या करें।
Candidates need to comment or give his views critically (covering both positive and negative sides) about India’s policy of strategic autonomy or non-alignment being just a prettified language for ducking hard choices.
From a policy of strategic insulation and neglect during much of the Cold War, and a reluctant embrace of regionalism thereafter, India’s regional policy has now shifted irreversibly towards strengthening cross-border relations. Progress has been significant (reviewed ahead), and even unprecedented, including the laying of new pipelines, building electricity networks, upgrading port, rail, and airport infrastructure, and reinvigorating people-to-people exchanges.
The significance of regional connectivity with neighbours for India’s strategic and economic interests
This sorry state of connectivity today reflects decades of geostrategic divergence, political nationalism and economic protectionism.
- The first and most important driver of the new connectivity policy is a geostrategic response to China and its unprecedented linkages across the subcontinent. Breaking into what was India’s sphere of influence, Beijing has massively expanded its diplomatic, economic, and political footprint across South Asia.
- The second driver of India’s connectivity policy is economic growth and the disproportionate size and centrality of its market in the region. Rising consumption levels and infrastructure modernisation are rapidly shrinking South Asia’s geography. Conversely, with decreasing time and cost to trade, there are also increasing incentives to deepen cross-border economic relations.
- The third and last driver of the connectivity approach is shaped by a cultural vision that claims to reactivate India’s past centrality as a civilisational power.
- Complementing the geostrategic and economic factors examined above, this “Indic” approach to connectivity has strived to activate new people-to-people contacts across the region.
- Today, the demand for regional cooperation is higher than ever and the opportunities far more meaningful than they were 10 or 20 years ago.
- India will have to make informed choices to articulate why, where, and on what terms connectivity matters in the region.
- Most importantly, an effective Indian connectivity strategy will hinge on expert knowledge, research and data on the region.
- Thanks to China there is now a growing interest in India’s neighbouring countries and the neglected field of South Asian studies is experiencing a slow revival in universities, think tanks, and diplomatic and military training institutes but far more is needed.
- Sambandh, Brookings India’s regional connectivity initiative, attempts to address these demands and challenges by supporting a more strategic Indian approach to enhancing regional connectivity.
- Sambandh’s research strives to support policymakers and other stakeholders to sequence connectivity initiatives, identify priorities, monitor implementation, and increase effectiveness.
- The focus is on India’s regional neighbourhood, the first concentric ring of the strategic mandala theory.
- India’s global priorities—whether in the wider Gulf region, the Indian Ocean, or Southeast Asia and the Indo-Pacific—are bound to falter unless the country connects first with its immediate periphery.
Connectivity is vital. It does more than just enhance trade and prosperity. It unites a region. India has been at the crossroads for centuries. We understand the benefits of connectivity. There are many connectivity initiatives in the region. If these have to succeed, we must not only build infrastructure, we must also build bridges of trust.