NEW DELHI: In a significant shift in its regional policy, India is actively building stronger alliances with governing bodies in South Asia, particularly in Nepal and Sri Lanka. But the move comes at a worrying time when the Indian government appears to have sidelined ethnic minority issues within its borders to avoid involvement in insurgencies in neighboring countries.
India’s history of protests against caste rights came to light in 2019 when the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi revoked the special autonomy status of Jammu and Kashmir. The Supreme Court of India recently upheld the decision, reinforcing the region as two federal territories and abolishing its constitution, flag, and criminal laws.
The government also faced challenges in dealing with communal tensions along the borders of Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Nagaland. Despite this, India has been working hard to strengthen ties with Nepal since 2015 when it imposed sanctions and urged the Nepali government to include Madhesi demands in its constitution but Nepal resisted those efforts this, instead signed major trade and transport agreements with China, reducing its dependence on India In response to changes in Nepal.
India has quietly lifted sanctions and avoided putting pressure on Nepali officials. While the move was welcomed by the ruling elites, it faced criticism from Madhesi leaders who feel their concerns have been ignored.
Meanwhile, global criticism has mounted on the government’s inability to address war crimes and human rights abuses as a result of 25 years of ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. Traditionally, India has been an important contributor to Sri Lanka, but recent developments suggest that this support needs to be reassessed.
The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is monitoring Sri Lanka closely in 2023, calling for urgent action on human rights violations. India’s backlash leaves ethnic minorities in Nepal and Sri Lanka without key global allies, leaving them likely to struggle for recognition and justice. The implications of India’s changing regional approach to ethnic issues remain a matter of great international concern.