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Uday asked: Can it be said that the situation in India’s neighbourhood today is far more stable than ever before, especially in view of recent developments in Myanmar, Bangladesh, etc?

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  • Ashok Kumar Behuria replies: The countries in India's neighbourhood are in the process of adapting to the competitive reflexes of democracy. True, there have been political turmoils/unrests in Nepal, Pakistan, Maldives and Bangladesh, but the silver lining in the cloud is that their commitment to stick to the democratic system remains quite firm. There are grave challenges that each of these countries will have to overcome-- in Nepal, the slow process of consensus building; in Pakistan-- various institutions engaged in an insidious struggle for power and exploring their limits; in Sri Lanka-- majoritarian arrogance trumping the spirit of democracy; in Bangladesh-- the extreme bipolarity in politics asserting itself, and in Maldives-- the early pangs of a difficult transition to democracy.

    In this situation, India's pragmatic neighbourhood policy with an emphasis on economic cooperation, connectivity and dialogue has created an ambience for positive change in the region. Its bilateral arrangements/agreements with Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh have provided an impetus for growth and prosperity. The ongoing process of dialogue between India and Pakistan has already resulted in Pakistan agreeing to accord MFN status to India. The shift in American policy towards Myanmar, in the wake of the Myanmarese government's decision to usher in democracy in the Junta controlled state, has proved that India's policy of engagement in the past was wise and effective.

    Overall, the neighborhood may not be as stable as one would have wished it to be, but India's creative approach is likely to contribute to regional prosperity and stability. A lot would, however, depend on the way the domestic political dynamics, in each of the countries in the region, unfold in the days to come.