What happened to India’s neighbourhood-first policy? Answer lies in China’s gains

The absence of a robust regional cooperation mechanism after the SAARC became dormant has provided space to China to expand its influence in the region

A group of experts, former policymakers and retired diplomats of the United States met six times through video conference over the course of 2020 to examine China’s growing presence in India’s backyard.

The United States Institute of Peace, an American federal institution established in 1984 by a Congressional legislation, felt the need to constitute the Senior Study Group as “China’s expanding presence in the region is already reshaping South Asia”.

The group in its findings, according to a USIP report published in December last year, observed that to some extent, countries such as Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh see engagement with China as a hedge against Indian dominance.

Incidentally, it was to change this perceived feeling of being “dominated” by India that the Narendra Modi government had initiated its neighbourhood-first policy.

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