India’s foreign policy ambitions start with smaller neighbors

New Delhi, May 27, 2014: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) meets during his first week in office with Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay (L) (source: dpa)
New Delhi, May 27, 2014: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) meets during his first week in office with Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay (L) (source: dpa)

Building a new level of trust with his country’s smaller neighbors is a foreign policy priority for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi – reportedly prompted by fond memories of travels in his youth. After Mr. Modi’s first 18 months in office, this focus has delivered his greatest foreign policy success – a border agreement with Bangladesh, and his biggest external crisis – a confrontation with Nepal over its draft constitution.

India has had a testy relationship with many of its smaller neighbors – Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and the Maldives. While culturally and historically they could not be closer to India, most of them have deeply entrenched suspicions regarding New Del...

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