Daily The Hindu Editorial Notes or Summary


QUESTION: Explain the ‘neighbourhood first policy ‘and  India’s foreign policy seems to be moving away from “non-alignment.” Comment. 





  • Foreign Policy of India and decline in political power of India’s neighbours




  • The article examines the issue of declining political capital in India’s neighbourhood and the factors responsible for this.
  • India’s foreign policy has always regarded the concept of neighbourhood as one of widening concentric circles, around a central axis of historical and cultural commonalities
  • As many as 44 million people of Indian origin live and work abroad and constitute an important link with the mother country. An important role of India’s foreign policy has been to ensure their welfare and wellbeing within the framework of the laws of the country where they live.




The first phase (1947-62): Optimistic Non-Alignment

  • This period is marked with a setting of a bipolar world, with camps led by the United States and the USSR.
  • India’s objectives in this phase were to resist dilution of its sovereignty, rebuild its economy and consolidate its integrity.
  • India was one of the first countries to be decolonized. Thus, it was natural for India to lead Asia and Africa in a quest for a more equitable world order.
  • In pursuit of this, India played a critical role in the establishment of the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM) (1961), which marked the peak of Third World solidarity.
  • However, the 1962 conflict with China not only brought this period to an end but in a manner that significantly damaged India’s standing on NAM


The second phase (1962-71): Decade of Realism and Recovery

  • After the 1962 war, India made pragmatic choices on security and political challenges.
  • It looked beyond non-alignment in the interest of national security, concluding a now largely forgotten defence agreement with the US in 1964.
  • However, India faced external pressures on Kashmir (Tashkent agreement 1965) from the US and UK.
  • Through Tashkent agreement both India and Pakistan agreed to withdraw all armed forces to pre-war positions, to restore diplomatic relations; and to discuss economic, refugee, and other questions.
  • However, the agreement did not contain a no-war pact or any renunciation of Pakistan’s aggression in Kashmir (as Pakistan was an ally of the US).
  • Therefore, India now started tilting towards USSR.


The third phase (1971-91): Greater Indian Regional Assertion

  • India showed remarkable use of hard power when it liberated Bangladesh in the India-Pakistan war in 1971.
  • However, it was a particularly complex phase as the US-China-Pakistan axis that came into being at this time seriously threatened India’s prospects,as a regional power.
  • India also faced sanctions from US and it allies after conducting a Peaceful nuclear explosion test in 1974 (Pokhran I).
  • Further, the collapse of the USSR, India’s close ally, and the economic crisis in 1991 compelled India to look again at the first principles of both domestic and foreign policy.
  • The combination of events as diverse as the Gulf War (1991-1992), the break-up of USSR (1991), long standing economic stagnation and domestic turbulence came together in 1991, creating a balance of payment crisis in India.


The fourth phase (1991-98): Safeguarding Strategic Autonomy

  • The emergence of a unipolar world (led by the USA), encouraged India to change its approach to world affairs.
  • This quest for strategic autonomy was particularly focused on securing its nuclear weapon option (Pokhran II 1998).
  • This is a period where India reached out to engage the US, Israel and ASEAN countries more intensively.


This fifth phase (1998-2013): India, a Balancing Power

  • In this period, India gradually acquired the attributes of a balancing power (against the rise of China).
  • It is reflected in the India-US nuclear deal (123 Agreement).
  • At the same time, India could also make common cause with China on climate change and trade, and consolidate further ties with Russia while helping to fashion BRICS into a major global forum.

The sixth phase (2013-until now): Energetic Engagement

  • In this phase of transitional geopolitics, India’s policy of Non-Alignment has turned into Multi Alignment.
  • Moreover, India is now more aware of its own capabilities and the expectations that the world has of India.
    • That India is among the major economies of the world is one factor.
    • The relevance of India’s talent in creating and sustaining global technology, is also likely to grow in time.
    • India’s willingness to shape key global negotiations (such as conference in Paris on climate change) is equally significant.
    • India has been able to assert itself beyond South Asia, through its approach towards the Indian Ocean Region (SAGAR initiative) and the extended neighbourhood (Act East policy and Think West policy).


The following lessons that can be learnt from this historical study of Indian foreign policy:

  • Need for greater realism in policy: India needs to change the image of a reluctant power.
  • Need for Strong economy: An expansionary foreign policy cannot be built on the margins of the global economy
  • Need for Multi alignment: Any quest to maximize options and expand space naturally requires engaging multiple players.
  • Need for Greater Risk: Low-risk foreign policy is only likely to produce limited rewards.



  • Not long ago, India was seen as a natural rising power in South Asia and the Indian Ocean Region.
  • It was the de facto leader of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
  • It has historical and cultural ties with Nepal.
  • It enjoyed traditional goodwill and influence in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
  • It had made investments worth billions of dollars in Afghanistan and cultivated vibrant ties with the post-Taliban stakeholders in Kabul.
  • It had committed itself to multilateralism and the Central Asian connectivity project, with Iran being its gateway.
  • It was competing and cooperating with China at the same time.


  • India is perhaps facing its gravest national security crisis in 20 years, with China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
  • SAARC is defunct.
  • Nepal has turned hostile having adopted a new map and revived border disputes with India.
  • Sri Lanka has tilted towards China.
  • Bangladesh is clearly miffed at the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019.
  • When Afghanistan is undergoing a major transition, India is out of the multi-party talks.
  • Iran has inaugurated a railway link project connecting the Chabahar port, on the Gulf of Oman, to Zahedan.


What are the factors responsible for this?

  • When we dig deep, three problems can be found which are more or less linked to this decline.


  • As India started moving away from non-alignment, there has been a steady erosion in India’s strategic autonomy.
  • India’s official policy is that it is committed to multilateralism.
  • When India started deepening its partnership with the United States, New Delhi began steadily aligning its policies with U.S. interests.
  • The case of Iran is the best example.
  • India’s deepening defence and military ties with the U.S. probably altered Beijing’s assessment of India.
  • One of the reasons for the shift could be Beijing’s assessment that India has already become a de facto ally of the U.S.
  • The forceful altering of the status quo on the border is a risky message as much to New Delhi as it is to Washington.


  • The passing of the CAA is regionalisation of the domestic problems of the countries in India’s neighbourhood.
  • Bangladesh took offence at the CAA and the National Register of Citizens, there were anti-India protests even in Afghanistan.
  • CAA also drove new wedges between India and the countries that had a Muslim majority and were friendly to India in the neighbourhood.
  • The abrogation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir was another such move.
  • But it damaged India’s reputation as a responsible democratic power and gave propaganda weapons to Pakistan.
  • The change of status quo in Jammu and Kashmir, could be another factor that prompted the Chinese to move aggressively towards the border in Ladakh.



  • Great powers wait to establish their standing before declaring that they have arrived.
  • China bided its time for four decades before it started taking on the mighty U.S.
  • India should learn from at least these modern examples.
  • If it did, it would not have used high-handedness in Nepal during the country’s constitutional crisis and caused a traditional and civilisational ally to turn hostile.
  • The updated political map which India released in November rubbed salt into the wound on the Nepal border.



  • To address the current crises, India has to reconsider its foreign policy trajectory. It does not lack resources to claim what is its due in global politics. What it lacks is strategic depth.


QUESTION:  “Despite of deep ties, India and Sri Lanka have seen some conflicts” Discuss.



  • India-Sri lanka bilateral ties


  • The pandemic presents an opportunity for Sri Lanka and India to focus on the revitalization of partnerships.



Ashoka and Buddhism :

  • The advent of Buddhism in Sri Lanka during the time of Emperor Ashoka was the result of cross-border discourse.
  • For many centuries, later on, the ancient capital city of Anuradhapura housed an international community that included traders from India, China, Rome, Arabia, and Persia.
  • Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka also contain shrines for Hindu deities.


  • Labor from south India was brought to Sri Lanka to work in plantations.
  • The Indian freedom struggle had its influence on Sri Lanka as well. There was cross-border support for the revival of culture, tradition, local languages, spiritual practices and philosophies, and education.
  • Both countries transformed into modern nations with constitutional and institutionalized governance under colonial rule.
  • Process engineering by colonial powers for identification and categorization of people was a factor in the emergence of separatist ideologies based on ethnicity, language, and religion.
  • This mindset is now ingrained and accentuated in politics. Episodic instances of communal hostility are referenced often to suit tactical political gain.


Contemporary times :

  • Sri Lanka’s strategic location makes it apparent that not only economic fortunes but the security of both countries are inextricably linked. Therefore the calamity in one country can adversely impact the other.
  • Currently, freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific together with a rules-based international order and peaceful settlement of disputes are of common interest.



Diplomatic Cooperation:

  • Diplomatic relations between India and Sri Lanka are marked by visits of high level Government functionaries.
  • A notable diplomatic event in the recent past was our Indian Prime Minister’s address to the Sri Lankan parliament in 2015
  • India-Sri Lanka Joint Commission was established in 1992. The commission facilitates discussions relating to bilateral affairs of both the countries
  • India and Sri Lanka signed a civilian nuclear energy deal in 2015. The agreement aims at cooperation to explore nuclear energy for peaceful purposes

 Economic Cooperation:

  • India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement was signed in 2010. India is Sri Lanka’s largest trading partner
  • India is the source of one of the largest foreign direct investments in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is also a potential source of foreign investment in India

 Defence and Security Cooperation:

  • In recent years, the two sides have steadily increased their military-to-military relationship.
  • India and Sri Lanka conducts joint Military (‘Mitra Shakti’) and Naval exercise (SLINEX).

 Cultural and Educational Cooperation:

  • India and Sri Lanka signed a cultural cooperation agreement back in 1977
  • India Sri Lanka foundation was setup in 1998. It aims at technical, scientific, cultural and educational cooperation.


  • Fisherman Problem :Sri Lanka has long expressed concerns about illegal fishing by Indian fishermen within its territorial waters across the Palk Strait. The country regularly arrests Indian fishermen for crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) that demarcates Indian and Sri Lankan waters. India also detains Sri Lankan fishermen for the illegal fishing.
  • In terms of geographic size, population, military and economic power has had an adverse impact on the relationship with political parties in Sri Lanka using this to accuse India of Big Brotherly behaviour.
  • The Tamil issue in Sri Lanka has been a challenging aspect of the bilateral relationship.
  • Strategic issues: Recently, Sri Lanka seems to be tilting towards the Chinese. The growing Chinese influence in Sri Lanka seems to be coming at the cost of India – Sri Lanka relations.


  • India shares a common cultural and security space with the countries in the South Asian region especially Sri Lanka.
  • Sri Lanka’s location in the Indian Ocean region as an island State has been of strategic geopolitical relevance to several major powers.
  • As a prominent Asian nation with critical national interests in South Asia, India has a special responsibility to ensure peace and stability in its closest neighbourhood.
  • India should shed its big brother image and actively take part to rebuild the war-torn country.
  • India needs the support of Sri Lanka to emerge as a Blue water navy in the Indian Ocean and also in pursuing the permanent membership in United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
  • China’s string of pearl’s strategy is aimed at encircling India to establish dominance in the Indian Ocean.


  • Common values and interests:Partnerships with other countries must be sought by each country keeping in mind the non-alliance foreign policies of the countries. Both countries must seek to harmonise strategic and other interests in line with common values and interests.
  • Deepening economic relations
  • People to people connect
  • There is immense potential for both countries to accentuate or create complementariness, using locational and human resource potential, for harnessing benefits in the modern value chains.
  • Addressing issues and imbalances
  • Economic integration
  • Sri Lanka can also encourage Indian entrepreneurs to make Colombo another business hub for them, as logistical capacities and facilities for rest and recreation keep improving in Sri Lanka.
  • Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) must be signed to improve the economic cooperation between both countries .



QUESTION : Discuss the significance of EIA and highlight concerns associated with it.




  • Draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) 2020


  • The government has come up with Draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2020, which seems to dilute 2006 notification.


  • UNEP defines EIA as a tool used to identify the environmental, social and economic impacts of a project prior to decision-making.
  • It aims to
  • Predict environmental impacts at an early stage in project planning and design,
  • Find ways and means to reduce adverse impacts,
  • Shape projects to suit the local environment and
  • Present the predictions and options to decision-makers.
  • By using EIA both environmental and economic benefits can be achieved, such as reduced cost and time of project implementation and design, avoided treatment/clean-up costs and impacts of laws and regulations.


  • The Indian experience with EIA began in 1976-77 when the Planning Commission asked the Department of Science and Technology to examine the river-valley projects from an environmental angle.
  • Till 1994, environmental clearance from the Central Government was an administrative decision and lacked legislative support.
  • In 1994, the Union Environment ministry under the Environmental (Protection) Act 1986, promulgated an EIA notification making Environmental Clearance (EC) mandatory for activity listed in Schedule 1 of the notification
  • Since then there have been 12 amendments made in the EIA notification of 1994 the latest one being in 2006 which has put the onus of clearing projects on the state government depending on the size/capacity of the project.
  • Additionally, donor agencies operating in India like the World Bank and the ADB have a different set of requirements for giving environmental clearance to projects that are funded by them

 Salient Features of 2006 Amendments to EIA Notification :

  • Environment Impact Assessment Notification of 2006 has decentralized the environmental clearance projects by categorizing the developmental projects in two categories, i.e., Category A (national level appraisal) and Category B (state level appraisal).
  • Category A projects are appraised at national level by Impact Assessment Agency (IAA) and the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) and Category B projects are apprised at state level.
  • State Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) and State Level Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC) are constituted to provide clearance to Category B process.
  • After 2006 Amendment the EIA cycle comprises of four stages:


  • Screening
  • Scoping
  • Public hearing
  • Appraisal


  • Category A projects require mandatory environmental clearance and thus they do not undergo the screening process.
  • Category B projects undergoes screening process and they are classified into two types.


  • EIA links environment with development for environmentally safe and sustainable development.
  • EIA provides a cost effective method to eliminate or minimize the adverse impact of developmental projects.
  • EIA enables the decision makers to analyse the effect of developmental activities on the environment well before the developmental project is implemented.
  • EIA encourages the adaptation of mitigation strategies in the developmental plan.
  • EIA makes sure that the developmental plan is environmentally sound and within the limits of the capacity of assimilation and regeneration of the ecosystem.

 How new draft notification dilutes the 2006 notification?

  • The new notification allows for Ex-post- facto clearance, this means a company that has failed to obtain a clearance can obtain the same on a future date by paying a penalty.
  • This dilutes the court judgments which has termed ex-post-facto clearance as illegal.
  • It has reduced the minimum time required for public scrutiny from 45 to 40 days. This will make it harder to put forth the suggestions.
  • Monitoring requirements are also relaxed by reducing the frequency of reporting, from earlier 6 months to now 1 year.
  • The scope of EIA is reduced as industries requiring full scrutiny have been decreased coupled with an increase in exceptions.
  • Apart from Defence and National Security related projects, a new category of ‘Other Strategic Considerations’ is also exempted from public considerations.



  • The poor people residing in and around the forest will be unable to put forward their grievances.
  • The vision of sustainable development and the precautionary principle will get diluted.
  • The environment will suffer extensive damage with relaxation in reforms –
  • A deadly gas leak at LG Polymers’ Visakhapatnam plant in May 2020 killed 12 people and harmed hundreds as the plant had been operating without a valid environmental clearance for decades.
  • Oil India Limited’s oil wells in the Tinsukia district, Assam, went up in flames in June 2020 as apparently the expansion of plant took place without fresh environmental clearance.



  • The need of the hour is to balance the environment with development which requires a robust assessment of projects before they are put in place.
  • The Ministry instead of reducing the time for public consultation, should focus on ensuring access to information as well as awareness about the public hearing and its impact upon the whole EIA process.
  • In order to improve ease of doing business, the government should bring down the average delay of 238 days in granting environmental clearance, that emanates from bureaucratic delays and complex laws.
  • With the EIA, we also need Social impact assessment to achieve sustainable development in true sense

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