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Atal Bihari Vajpayee had once said, “You can choose your friends but not your neighbors.” He had emphasized on the point that it is really important for a country to have amiable relations with its neighboring countries in order to develop. If there is strain between the neighboring countries, a lot of effort and money is spent on things like border security and army upkeep. This not only eats up the national funds but also results in unwanted wars and communal tensions. Lets take an example of the border between Canada and USA. Both the countries share the longest unguarded border and have great trade relations.  Because of the friendly relations, the countries not only save on the army expenditure but they have a continuous channel of import and export of everyday goods. Whereas if we take the example of India and its neighboring countries, leave aside the possibility of everyday trade, terrorists and drugs are sneaked in to our borders form the neighboring countries. Our defense ministry spends crores of rupees on border security. If there was peace on the border, we could have saved a large amount of money and could have used it to solve millions of other problems of our populous country. Hence it is very important to have good relations with the neighboring countries.   
In the hope to make our relations with our neighbors better, the current government came up with their foreign policy also known as the ‘Neighborhood first policy’. It is an important initiative taken by the government of Narendra Modi to improve the relations of India with its neighboring countries and to focus on the progress and best interest of the South Asian countries. It is a foreign policy which aims to work with neighbors in a collaborative way so that the interest of each party is met and all the parties benefit from this endeavor. Within about hundred days of being chosen as the prime minister of India, Narendra Modi visited many countries like Bhutan, Nepal, Bhutan, Dhaka, Kathmandu and Pakistan. This neighborhood policy is not biased on the size, power or economic development of a country but it is about working with the neighbors so that the entire neighborhood can progress and reap benefits by the mutual symbiotic relationships. This policy doesn’t aim to micromanage the internal politics of the neighboring countries but to join hands and formulate policies with the neighbors so as to strengthen the internal security of both the nations. For example, Nepal is the immediate north eastern neighbor of India which is currently facing the Madhes uprising. By helping Nepal solve this problem, India will indirectly make sure that this turmoil does not seep into Indian borders and created unwanted tensions for the country. By maintaining closer ties with Bhutan and Nepal, India can keep infiltration by the militant groups under control.  
An effort to make the relations better and to work for the growth of South Asian countries has been sincerely made. Now, the future of this effort can be decided by the reaction of neighboring countries and the effort and perseverance of our government. There are some notable achievements that can be credited to this policy. With his visit to Bhutan, not only were the India-Bhutan relations strengthen but and the topics like insurgency in north-eastern states of India was discussed formally. On his Nepal visit, the prime minister proposed the idea of India – funded hydroelectric power plants. Nepal, an underdeveloped country has a great potential to generate huge amount of electricity by harnessing its rivers. The Indianentourage proposed the building of dams in Nepal with the Indian money and in turn Nepal could sell the electricity to India at cheaper rates; thus a beneficial agreement for both the parties. Here, India can solve its problem of dearth of electricity and Nepal can earn Indian currency to come in the league of developed nation. The Indo-Nepal power trade agreement (PTA), allows Indian private and public sector investment in hydro power development in Nepal and future power trade and transmission to India.
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On his visit to Bangladesh, discussions were held regarding the Land boundary agreement. The dispute over the waters of Teesta was talked about on a formal forum. The extremist groups taking refuge in Bangladesh and the problem of illegal immigration was also openly discussed. These discussions are the start to solve the land boundary issues and to come to an agreed conclusion on land boundary issues. The visit to Afghanistan resulted in the opening of an alternate sea access to Afghanistan by proposing to modernize the Chabahar Port in Iran. This will aid the bilateral trade between the countries that was restricted till date because of the hostile trade policy of Pakistan. Due to the new foreign policy, India’s relation with Sri Lanka has also become friendlier than before and a civil nuclear agreement has been signed by the two countries. By improving its relationship with Sri Lanka, India is trying to increase the security of its border from the threat in the form of China. To ensure and fortify India’s maritime security, India is making attempt to befriend Maldives, located in the Indian Ocean. Our foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj, on her trip to Male, discussed several topics of mutual interest like prosperity, stability and security of both the countries. Due to the collapse of the only water treatment plant in Male, there was a severe water shortage in Maldives in December 2014. India immediately responded by sending bottled water as an immediate aid and by sending its ships like INS Deepak and others to produce fresh water using  onboard desalination plants.

Thus we can see that this ‘Neighborhood first’ policy aims to benefit India and its neighboring countries by mutual help. It is too early to comment on if this ‘Neighborhood first’ policy will be a success or a failure on the long run. If one can see some sparks of goodwill amongst India and its neighbors, there are still many hurdles to be crossed and challenges to be faced to make this policy a success.  Agreements have been signed, now how much of it will actually be materialized is yet to be seen. Its easy to make a promise on a cup of tea but the true challenge is the actual implementation of the policy. India’s hostile neighbors like Pakistan and China pose a big challenge to this policy. It is not easy to reach out to these countries and start an amicable discussion. Nevertheless, a sincere effort has been made to bring about a positive change in the relation of India with other South Asian countries and the initial positive outcomes of the same are definitely encouraging. 
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