From 18-26 September 2023, the United National General Assembly (UNGA) held its 78th annual session. The UNGA session every year calls for the oversight of humanitarian work and addressing global challenges. Despite a number of resolutions, India continues to violate not only the UNGA resolutions but also violated several UN principles. India’s continuous aggression and flouting of international conventions, the regional neighbors of India continue to be on the receiving end of its hegemonic policies. Interference, territorial disputes, spy networks, and military presence are various tools through which India bullies its neighbors in contravention of international law.
The partition of the Subcontinent in 1947 marked a historic moment in the global decolonization movement. However, the smaller South Asian countries were unaware that their former colonial rulers had been replaced by India, which had assumed the role of a regional bully. Since the partition, India not only asserted claims on territories belonging to other nations but also made incursions into their lands. While the people of the Subcontinent aspired to a post-colonial era free from oppression, the colonial legacy left by the British and inherited by India continued on the path of regional dominance.
Pakistan bore the brunt of India’s regional hegemonic ambitions. India not only occupied Hyderabad and Junagadh shortly after the partition but also seized Jammu and Kashmir.
India’s duplicity was evident as the criteria for accession to either India or Pakistan in the cases of Hyderabad and Junagadh were religious. At the same time, it advocated for a secular approach to state affairs. In the case of Kashmir, despite its Muslim-majority population, India occupied the territory and violated several UN resolutions calling for a plebiscite. The Modi-led Hindutva government took an even more aggressive step by illegally revoking Article 370 and 35A to incorporate these territories within the Indian Constitution.
India’s efforts to bully its neighbors extend beyond territorial disputes; it also exploits Pakistan’s internal security through espionage networks. Bangladesh is a case in point where India openly interfered in Pakistan’s internal affairs by supporting anti-Pakistan elements, leading to a war and the dismemberment of the country. India continued to meddle in Pakistan’s internal security matters, as exemplified by the arrest of Kulbhushan Jadhev in March 2016, revealing India’s role in fomenting anti-Pakistan sentiments in Balochistan.
Furthermore, India has resorted to “false flag” attacks for political gain, such as the Pulwama attack in February 2019, which almost triggered a war with Pakistan. In response, Pakistan downed two Indian MiG fighter jets and captured an Indian pilot, Abhinandan, during Operation Swift Retort.
India has also displayed aggression towards Sri Lanka and Nepal. During the Sri Lankan civil war, India not only supported and financed the LTTE through its leader, Prabhakaran but also pressured the Sri Lankan president, Jayewardene, to reach a deal that failed to bring peace to the island.
Indian peacekeeping troops were forced to leave due to local animosity, and this intervention ultimately led to the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi by a Tamil fighter. In the case of Nepal, India has weaponized its transit facility through Nepal for a long time. In 2015, India’s blockade of Nepal’s transit facility, coupled with the abrogation of Article 370, led to territorial disputes, including various Nepalese territories being claimed as part of India’s territory.
India played a significant role in Bangladesh’s struggle for independence, yet despite its close relations with the current Bangladeshi government under Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh continues to protest Indian aggression over water disputes related to the River Teesta. India’s greatest humiliation of Bangladesh was the stripping of Indian citizenship from 1.9 million Bengalis through the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
Afghanistan, Bhutan, and Maldives have also faced the impact of India’s regional hegemonic ambitions. Despite supporting governments in Afghanistan, India imposed stringent laws such as the CAA and NRC to restrict the entry of Afghan immigrants, revealing the hollowness of India’s secular constitution and the dominance of Hindutva ideology. Bhutan has experienced Indian pressure to refrain from signing any negotiated settlements with China over territorial disputes.
In Maldives, India’s military presence has been met with strong disapproval, as it interferes in the election process and government formation.
The recent border standoff between India and China will likely drive regional states to align with China as a regional ally against continued Indian aggression. India must learn to respect its neighbors and recognize that such aggressive policies in the 21st century will hinder its aspirations of becoming a regional or global power.
The writer is an Assistant Research Associate at Islamabad Policy Research Institution. He has previously served as deputy editor at Hilal. He is an M.Phil with research interests in counterinsurgency, terrorism, and geopolitics.