Gujral Doctrine

The Gujral Doctrine is an important topic in the UPSC exam preparation. This is a topic under the IAS exam international relations syllabus.

What is Gujral Doctrine?

Former Prime Minister, Late I.K. Gujral propounded the Gujral Doctrine when he was the Union Minister of External Affairs in 1996-1997 in the H.D. Deve Gowda Government. The Gujral doctrine was a five-point roadmap which sought to build trust between India and neighbours, of solution to bilateral issues through bilateral talks and to remove immediate quid pro quos in diplomatic relationship between India and her neighbours. The ‘Doctrine’ emphasized the importance of unilateral accommodation for friendly and warm relations with India’s neighbours.

The five principles are:

1. With neighbours such as Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka, India does not seek reciprocity, but offers and accommodates what it can in good faith and trust.

2. No South Asian country should permit its territory to be used against the interest of another south Asian nation.

3. Countries should not interfere in the internal affairs of one another.

4. All South Asian countries should respect each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

5. They should settle all their disputes via peaceful bilateral negotiations. The essence of the Gujral Doctrine has been that being the largest country in South Asia, India can extend unilateral concessions to neighbours in the sub-continent.

Application of the Doctrine

  • Sharing of Ganga Water with Bangladesh: It is in pursuance of this policy that late in 1996 India concluded an agreement with Bangladesh on sharing of Ganga Waters. This agreement enabled Bangladesh to draw in lean season slightly more water than even the 1977 Agreement had provided.
  • Freezing of Border Dispute with PRC: The confidence-building measures agreed upon by India and China in November 1996 were also a part of efforts made by the two countries to improve bilateral relations, and freeze, for the time being, the border dispute.
  • Increasing People to People Contact with Pakistan: This doctrine advocated people to people contacts, particularly between India and Pakistan, to create an atmosphere that would enable the countries concerned to sort out their differences amicably. India unilaterally announced in 1997 several concessions to Pakistan tourists, particularly the elder citizens and cultural groups, in regard to visa fees and police reporting.
  • “Confidence Building Measures” Talks with Pakistan: The Gujral Doctrine assumed significance when at Foreign Secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan in June 1997, the two countries identified eight areas for negotiation so as to build confidence and seek friendly resolution of all disputes

Positive aspects of the Doctrine The logic behind the Gujral Doctrine was that since India had to face two unfriendly neighbours in the west and the north, it had to be fully at peace with all other immediate neighbours so as to contain the influence of Pakistan and China. Its significance lies in the insight that for India to become a global power in sync with its stature, it needs a peaceful neighbourhood. The positive aspects of the Gujral Doctrine can be enumerated as follows.

Gujral Doctrine Achievements

  • It recognised the supreme importance of friendly, cordial relations with neighbours.
  • It helped achieve a fundamental recasting of South Asia’s regional relationships, including the difficult relationship between India and Pakistan.
  • Further, the implementation of these principles generated an atmosphere of understanding and cooperation between India and these countries.
  • The Gujral Doctrine was accepted not only within the country, but also by most of the neighbours and major powers.
  • In the context of changed international environment in post-cold war world Gujral Doctrine became a new and important principle of India’s foreign policy.
  • It was implemented by different regional powers like USA, Russia, People Republic of China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Germany, etc.

Continued relevance of the Gujral Doctrine

The Gujral Doctrine proposes that equity should be ensured rather than absolute equality when it comes to quid pro quo and reciprocity among asymmetrical partners in South Asia. India’s geography and weight of numbers, its military and economic might with respect to its SAARC neighbours including Pakistan can be intimidating. So, it might not be worthwhile to insist on absolute parity on everything and every time. The smaller partner should feel empowered to accept a full relationship at a level and pace that it can determine. If India adopts this kind of a path, it would be serving its own interests and not be abandoning them. The end result matters more than anything. It does take a while to build confidence but the political investment is worth making. A country can give today to gain tomorrow or exchange a ‘concession’ in one domain in order to secure in another domain. The process, as well as the event, are both equally important and in the beginning more so to get things started. The Gujral Doctrine is a process and not an objective. Its aims are changing mindsets, confidence building, having procedures and issues in a larger perspective of national interest.

Criticism of the Gujral Doctrine

  • The Gujral Doctrine had a weakening impact on R&AW’s ability to conduct intelligence operations in Pakistan. Strategic affairs specialists point out that on Mr. Gujral’s directions, the Pakistan special operations desk of R&AW was shut down, leading to a major chink in India’s intelligence capabilities. Experts cite this as one of the chief factors that caused the intelligence failure before the Kargil war.
  • Over years, this doctrine has come under fire particularly Gujral’s decision to dismantle the country’s military capability to launch covert strikes against terrorist groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba.

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