India’s Foreign policy
No country exists in isolation or is wholly self-sufficient. The mutual interdependence of countries for the fulfilment of their variegated needs has brought them closer and has also given rise to forces of collaboration and confrontation.
India’s foreign policy is based on democratic principles of equality, liberty and fraternity. The underlying aim of having a foreign policy is to ensure peaceful relations with neighbouring countries. And the rest of the world and to preserve the freedom to have autonomy in making decisions on international issues.
The fundamental principles of India’s Foreign policy are
- Promotion of national interests such as social and economic development and political stability.
- Safeguarding national security.
- Promotion of peace, friendship, goodwill and co-operation amongst countries.
- Resistance to imperialist, colonial and authoritarian forces and opposition t the interference of superpowers in the internal affairs of other countries.
- Encouragement of peaceful settlement of disputes among nations.
- Opposition to arms race and support to disarmament movements.
- Upholding ideals of human rights and opposition to all inequalities and discriminations based on race, colour, religion, etc.
- Promotion of the principles of Panchsheel and non-aligned movement.
Foreign Policy over the Years [India’s Foreign policy]
The policy of non-alignment and activism that India pursued in the early years of independence stood the country well. Despite the tactical errors analysts may find with the help of hindsight.
The ‘collective’ decision-making that entered the Indian foreign policy arena after Nehru continued for some time under Indira Gandhi’s tenure as prime minister. She proved a shrewd manipulator and managed to maintain good relations with both superpowers, at least in the initial years. For the first time, the ideals of foreign policy imbued with pragmatism, though the basic principles were not given up.
When Janata Party took over at the Union level in 1977. It expected that the foreign policy would be changed drastically. Nothing of the sort happened. The Jan Sangh had been highly critical of the Indian closeness with the Soviet Union. But what was sought now, after coming to power ‘genuine’ non-alignment. Both super-powers appeased. On the whole, the Janata Party government tried to be more even-handed in dealing with the USA and the USSR.
During Indira Gandhi’s second stint as prime minister after the fall of the Janata government. There was some souring of relations with the neighbouring states. But relations with the superpowers gained a new maturity. Also, there was an overture to the West European states, mainly in order to reduce India’s dependence on the USSR for sophisticated weapons.
In Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure as prime minister. Which began in 1984, foreign policy principles of the Nehru and Indira regimes were reaffirmed. Attempts made to improve relations with the USA and the Soviet Union as well as with neighbouring states of Pakistan and China. But his policy in Sri Lanka proved detrimental.
By the time Narasimha Rao came to the helm of affairs with a Congress minority government at the Union level in 1991, major changes had taken place on the international stage. The Cold War had come to an end, ideological barriers had degenerated. And the Soviet Union had disintegrated causing major readjustments in the power equations. India faced with serious economic problems of its own, and this forced the country to make necessary adjustments in its foreign policy. India became open to US proposals for military cooperation even as it opened its doors for foreign investment. It was in this era that economic diplomacy got pre-eminence. Rao openly declared that his govt. would use foreign policy as a dynamic instrument for the promotion of national interest in the changed global context.
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A coalition government came to power in 1996, led by I.K. Gujral. The United Front government continued on the foundations of the earlier policy. It laid more emphasis on improving relations with the neighbouring states. The Gujral Doctrine. As India’s Foreign policy initiative came to be known, aimed at prioritizing the immediate neighbourhood. And strengthening the already strong areas, winning trust and confidence in problematic areas, and then moving outward in concentric circles. Strengthening at every step the country’s membership of old regional groupings and assuming a more active role in new regional arrangements.
When the BJP-led coalition first came to power in 1998, there was, again, no fundamental change in the basic principles of foreign policy. But there was a more realistic orientation. It conducted the second nuclear explosion in Pokhran in May 1998, inviting worldwide protests and sanctions from the West and Japan. Its aim was, at least partly, to show the world that India was an entity to reckon with. It took a firm decision to oppose unequal treaties such as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).
In his years as Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh junked the Nehruvian foreign policy that allied it closely with global American objectives. Singh’s inability to improve relations with the US while ensuring that LNG flowed to India from Iran was a sign of weakness. In his ten years as PM, Singh maintained a moderate, non-hawkish posture towards Pakistan. However, relations between the two countries soured following the November 26, 2008, terror attack on Mumbai. With China, Singh has maintained the steady, incremental approach of his predecessors while building up India’s defences. In January 2013, the Minister of External Affairs, Sri Lanka visited India and signed an agreement on Combating International Terrorism. And Illicit drug trafficking and a revised Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement. The ties between India and Maldives have strained after the cancellation of the GMR Airport contract. The single largest Indian Investment in the Island Nation.
The major objectives of the India’s Foreign policy in recent times have been
- Safeguarding India’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, enhancing India’s strategic space and preserving the autonomy of our decision-making process.
- Creating such conditions in the Indian subcontinent and in our immediate neighbourhood as would enable. India to devote its resources and attention to developmental activities.
- Developing broad-based, mutually’ beneficial cooperation with all countries in the economic field trade, industry, investment. And technology transfer and facilitating business and professional contacts for this purpose.
- Working with the P-5 countries (the permanent members of the UN Security Council) and other major powers to promote bilateral ties. As well as strengthening peace, stability and multi-polarity in the world.
- Working constructively with other countries bilaterally as well as in multilateral institutions and international organisations. Such as the UN, NAM, etc., to try and resolve complex political, social and economic problems faced by the international community.
- Promoting civilisational tolerance and interaction in the world and preserving the unique cultural -heritage of mankind in all its diversity. And splendour through common action and international programmes.
- Giving priority to ‘economic diplomacy’ to promote trade and investments, ensure equitable transfer of technology. And strengthen the country’s general economic and commercial links with the rest of the world.