May 18, 2016
APIndia’s new prime minister Narendra Modi, left, shakes hands with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif, as Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, right, and Mauritius Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam, second right, wait to greet him, during Modi’s swearing in ceremony.
Despite making an impressive start with its neighbourhood-first policy, the Modi government is increasingly battling resentment in the region. The message is clear: muscular tactics cannot replace mature diplomacy.
A fortnight ago, the government of Nepal took the unprecedented step of cancelling the visit of the country’s President Bidhya Devi Bhandari to India and recalling its ambassador in New Delhi. Around the same time, Prime Minister Narendra Modi cancelled his visit to Lumbini. These political developments are symbolic of the frosty relationship that India and Nepal currently share thanks to New Delhi’s high-handed and unimaginative policy towards Nepal. More worryingly, the Nepal-related developments are actually just the beginning of a larger story, of how New Delhi’s spectacularly unimaginative diplomacy is alienating the region.