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Achievements of India's Foreign Policy

India is the largest democracy in the world. India has consistently followed the policy of peace, friendly relations with other countries arid sovereign equality of all nations big and small. The success of India’s policy lies in the fact that it has well adjusted with the changing times and circumstances and its core principles have stood the test of time.

In this article, we shall discuss a brief background of the Indian Foreign Policy and the achievements made over the years after the independence of the country. IAS Exam aspirants must carefully go through the various points mentioned below for UPSC exam preparation.

Candidates can get a comprehensive List of Government Schemes in India at the linked article.

Start your Civil Services Exam preparation with the UPSC Previous Year Question Papers now!! Also, refer to the following links:

India’s Foreign Policy – A Brief Background

An overview of the Indian Foreign Policy along with its objectives, principles and major factors has been discussed at the linked article.

After the end of cold war and disintegration of Soviet Union, the international order experienced fundamental changes. Globalization further intensified these changes. However, India’s foreign Policy took note of these changes and was attuned to the new emerging order.

The emphasis on economic and public diplomacy, the changing relations faith the US and western block, the Look East Policy and a new pragmatism underline the changing nature of India’s foreign policy in the contemporary context. Still, there are new challenges before the Indian foreign policy. Since her independence until the late 1980s, India’s foreign policy goals enabled it to carve out an independent international role.

India provided the leadership to developing countries through NAM. It raised the issues such as end of colonialism and apartheid, sovereign equality of all nations, collective self-reliance of developing countries and democratization of international institutions. These issues were of vital importance to newly liberated developing countries.

The Policy of non-alignment also enabled India to play a constructive role in disarmament and world peace, which were required for the peaceful development of third world countries. In order to address her security needs, India signed the treaty of friendship and cooperation with Soviet Union in 1971, which invited criticism of India’s policy of non¬alignment. Regionally, India was the predominant power because of its size, its population and its growing military strength.

However, relations with its neighbours, Pakistan in particular, were often tense and fraught with conflict. India succeeded in developing friendly relations with other neighbouring countries and was instrumental in the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971.

However, India’s defeat in 1962 against China was a setback to India’s policy of friendly relations with neighbouring countries. Since the 1990s, India’s economic problems and the demise of the bipolar world political system due to disintegration of Soviet Union had deep impact on India’s foreign policy.

This provided an opportunity to reassess its foreign policy and to adjust its foreign relations in terms of emerging global order. This resulted in new shifts in India’s foreign policy like close strategic relations with the US and expanding engagement with East Asia under her Look East Policy.

India has also developed renewed engagements with Africa and Central Asia. The normalization of relations with China is in progress and India’s neighbourhood policy has become more proactive. However, the relationship with Pakistan shows no sign of improvement.

It appears that India’s foreign policy in post-1990 phase has become more pragmatic, broad-based and sharply focused on national interests. Like in other countries, economic diplomacy has emerged as the core element of India’s foreign policy.

Given below are links to know in detail about the Indian Foreign Policy and International Relations for the upcoming UPSC exam preparation. Aspirants can refer to the following:

Principles of India’s Foreign Policy Foreign Policy Making In India
Objectives of Indian Foreign Policy Budget and Foreign Policy: RSTV
India’s Foreign Policy: RSTV  International Relations for UPSC

On the basis of India’s foreign policy practice for last 65 years, the following points of her achievements may be noted:

  1. Under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru, India was the founder member of the Non-aligned Movement. India has played an active role in strengthening the Movement and making it an effective voice in representing the collective aspirations and interests of developing countries on such vital issues as development, peace and stability. India hosted the 7th NAM Summit in New Delhi in 1983. In recent years, after the end of the Cold War, our foreign policy has focused on strengthening the Movement by redefining its priorities in keeping with the changing times.
  2. India has also been in the forefront of the world community in the struggle against colonialism. Indeed, the Independence of India itself played the role of a catalyst in removing the vestiges of colonialism in other parts of the developing world, particularly in Africa. India was also the first country to raise the question of racial discrimination in South Africa in the UN in 1946. It was at India’s initiative that the AFRICA (Action for Resistance to Invasion, Colonialism and Apartheid) Fund was set up at the 8th NAM Summit in Harare in 1986. India was the Chairman of the AFRICA Fund Committee, which wound up in 1993.
  3. A notable feature of Indian foreign policy has been its strong advocacy of general and complete disarmament, with nuclear disarmament being accorded the highest priority. Towards this end, India has taken several initiatives within the United Nations and outside. In 1988, India presented to the 3rd Session of the UN General Assembly, devoted to Disarmament, an Action Plan for ushering in a Nuclear Weapons-Free and Non-Violent World Order. In order to highlight international concern about the unprecedented nuclear arms race, India was also a member of the Six-Nation Five-Continent joint Initiative for promoting disarmament in the 1980s. But while India has, and will, remain committed to nuclear disarmament, to be achieved in a time-bound framework, it has consistently and in a principled manner Opposed such discriminatory treaties as the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and has refused to give up its nuclear options until all countries in the world including nuclear weapon states embrace the idea of universal nuclear disarmament in a phased – manner.
  4. As a founder member of the United Nations, India has been firmly committed to the purposes’ and principles of the United Nations and has made significant contributions to its various activities, including peace-keeping operations. India has been a participant in all its peace-keeping operations including those in Korea, Egypt and Congo and more recently in Somalia, Angola and Rwanda. India has also played an active role in the deliberations of the United Nations on the creation of a more equitable international economic order. At India’ instance, the UN general Assembly adopted in 1974 the resolution for the establishment of New International Economic Order (NIE0). It has been an active member of the Group of 77, and later the core member group of the G-15 nations. India was elected for the record seventh time as a non-permanent member of Security Council in 2010 by the huge margin of support. India’s two year term started on 1 Jan, 2011. India, due her size population, economic growth, leading role in world affairs and contribution to UN has advanced her claim for the permanent membership of the Security Council. All the permanent members, except China have openly supported India’s claim. India has also played responsible role with respect to other issues of UN such as environmentally sustainable development, protection of human rights, and disarmament at various international forums.
  5. India has succeeded in establishing a network of mutually beneficial relations with all countries of the world to promote her vital national interests. Except with Pakistan, India’s relations with her neighbours are improving. India launched a new Neighborhood Policy in 2005, which laid emphasis on developing connectivity and people to people contact with these countries. Before that, the Gujral Doctrine, 1998 postulated that India should not insist on reciprocity in developing her relations with her neighbouring countries. The Indo-China relations are also passing through the normalization phase.
  6. One of the significant aspects of success of India’ Policy in post-1990 period has been the development of strategic relations with the US. The Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation agreement signed in 2008, between the two countries is land-mark in bilateral relations. It ended India’s 34 years nuclear isolation in world and recognized indirectly India as a nuclear power. India has put in place new mechanism of annual Summit meeting with many leading partners like China, Japan, Russia, ASEAN and the European Union. This has facilitated high level exchanges with these partners on regular basis.
  7. In addition, India has renewed its engagement with African countries under the framework of India-Africa Forum Summit, convened first time in 2008 and again in 2011. India has also initiated close interaction with the countries of Central Asia. This region is rich in energy resources and may prove beneficial to India for her energy security.
  8. An important achievement of India’s foreign policy has been the promotion of regional co-operation in south Asia. India is an active member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), which was launched in December 1985. With India’s active involvement and in spite of many hurdles, SAARC took a historical decision to establish South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA), which has come into force in 2006. For strengthening regional cooperation in her neighbourhood, India played a leading role in the establishment of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Co-operation (I0R-ARC) in March 1997, and BIMSTEC in 1998. At present, India’s ‘Look East Policy’ has achieved noteworthy success. India has become member of ASEAN Regional Forum, in 1996 and since 2005, she is playing active role in the East Asia Summit, which aims to establish East Asia Community on the pattern of European Community.
  9. India has emerged as a leading player in global affairs. India is a founder member of G-20, which was established on the eve of global financial crisis, 1997 for the management of global financial order. India has been invited to become as a part of Outreach group of G-8 , which is considered as the rich countries club. She is also the member of IBSA, a trilateral group of three large developing countries from three continents-India, Brazil, and South Africa. which was established in 2003. Similarly, India has also joined BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) ‘which was founded in 2008 and is considered the group of emerging economies.
  10. Economic diplomacy has been a core element of India’s foreign policy in last 20 years or so. India responded to globalization by domestic economic and institutional reforms. India set up Investment Publicity Unit (IPU) in 1990 with a view to disseminating economic information and coordinating the economic and commercial activities of foreign ministry India’s Look East Policy has a major economic component. India has signed Free Trade Agreement with ASEAN in 2010.

In order to boost trade, India has also signed free trade agreements with Singapore, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. India’s trade has registered big boost in last 20 years and stood at $ 70 trillion in 2011. Trade relations with other countries have also improved. In spite of political differences, China has emerged as the largest trading partner of India in 2010. India has also attracted Foreign Direct Investment in big quantity in recent years.

Another notable development has been the involvement of private sector by the government for the promotion of trade and investment in other countries. India’s investment in other countries is a new feature of foreign policy. One of the significant aspects of India’s economic diplomacy has been the promotion of South-South Cooperation. The Indian Economic and Technical Cooperation (ITEC) Programme, established in 1964, is implemented in many countries of Asia and Africa.

India also offers development assistance, lines of credit and trade concessions to developing countries for the promotion of South-South Cooperation. India’s human resources development programme has received good popularity in Africa.

IAS aspirants can learn more about the International Relations between various countries in the links given below:

India France Relations India Sri Lanka Relations
India-United States Relations India Afghanistan Relations
India-Africa Relations India-Myanmar Relations
India-Bhutan Relations India-Maldives Relations 

Contemporary Context: Change And Continuity In India’s Foreign Policy

The modern international relations may be broadly classified under two phases on the basis of underlying fundamental characteristics. First is the Post-World War II period, which was dominated by the cold war logic and super power rivalry between the two super powers US and Soviet Union.

This fact had a deep influence on every aspect of international relations during this period. Second is the post-cold war period since early 1990s, which marks the fundamental break from the first period. The disintegration of Soviet Union in 1991 and the demise of WARSA pact, the military alliance of Communist bloc in 1992, the end of cold war, the unification of Germany, the expansion of Western Military Alliance, NATO, the emergence of signs of unipolar world led by the US and her allies etc altered the hitherto existing paradigm of cold war politics.

In economic terms also, the global order experienced a major shift. The process of globalization ridding on the back of new communication technology and neo-liberal market economy logic gradually became the new economic reality of international relations.

The combined impact of these two set of factors’ was visible across the entire spectrum of emerging international order. This new situation had deep impact on the foreign policies of all nations. But most were the nations affected, which followed a policies highly divergent from this new reality India falls in this category.

India had to introduce fundamental changes in her domestic economy as well as foreign policies in early 1990s. The new economic policy, 1991 based on liberalization and privatization was in response to cope with the emerging global economic order brought out by the process of globalization. In this respect, India was a latecomer.

China started similar reforms in early 1980s. If we go by the nature of the changes introduced in the foreign policy of India in response to emerging post-cold war political and economic global order, the following points may be underlined: India’s foreign policy was largely motivated by idealism during the cold-war period, with casual realistic approach followed intermittently.

In the post-cold war period, with entirely new conditions to cope with, India adopted a pragmatic approach in foreign affairs in view of her strategic and economic interests. The pragmatic assessment of foreign policy in 1990s led to two fundamental shifts in India’s foreign policy orientations:

  • First, India reconsidered her relations with the only super power, the US and moved on to develop strategic partnership with her, which appeared unthinkable in cold war ideological conditions.
  • The second change was the initiation of new engagement with the countries of East Asia. This was encompassed under the Look East Policy announced by India in 1991.

Though India has not renounced the principles it upheld under the policy of non-alignment, the priorities of foreign policy have changed in view of changing global environment. India has also emerged as the leading player in global affairs.

It has joined new global groups like G-20, IBSA, and BRICS which gives more scope to India to play a larger role in Global affairs. India still stands by the commitment to the cause of developing and the Least Developed Countries and serves it through the new international forums, mentioned above.

Consequently, the visibility of NAM as seen in yester years has declined. However, the cause it stands for is still relevant in the globalized world. The transition from NAM to IBSA and G-20 captures the change and continuity of India’s foreign policy.

Aspirants can also get the detailed and comprehensive UPSC Syllabus for the prelims and mains examination at the linked article.
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