Indian Foreign Policy – An Overview

In this article, we talk about the foreign policy of India, its principles and objectives, determinants, factors concerning domestic and international matters in relation to foreign policy. It is a very important part of the UPSC syllabus coming under the International Relations segment for the IAS exam.

Indian Foreign Policy Essay

Principles and Objectives

In international community every country has to interact with other countries. This interaction is not haphazard but takes place with definite orientations and objectives. These orientations and objectives form the core of foreign policy. According to noted scholars Appadorai and M.S. Rajan, ‘Foreign policy is the sum total of principles, interests and objectives which a state formulates in conducting its relations with other states’. Foreign policy is not a fixed concept as it keeps on changing according to changing domestic and international conditions. Still there are certain principles and objectives, which are not amenable to fast changes. National interest is the core objective of foreign policy of a nation. The secondary national interest may change with time but the primary national interest endures. National security is an example of primary interest. No country can compromise with her national security for the sake of most beloved principles of foreign policy. Thus, the foreign policy is the instrument to realize the national interest of a country. A foreign policy bereft of national interest is a purposeless exercise.

Determinants of India’s Foreign Policy

Foreign policy of a country is shaped by two set of factors – domestic and international. These two set of factors have shaped India’s foreign policy also. Domestically, its history, culture, geography and economy have played important role in determining the objectives and principles of India’s foreign policy. The international environment, characterized by cold war rivalry between the two superpowers, establishment of United Nations, arms race, particularly nuclear arms race, colonialism and imperialism etc have influenced the priorities and objectives of our foreign policy. The first Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, gave due consideration to these factors and played a leading role in shaping country’s foreign policy’

Domestic Factors

Under domestic factors, the role of geographical, historical, economic and cultural factors needs to be understood. Geographically, India is surrounded by Indian Ocean from three sides, Himalayas in the North, great desert in the West and hilly terrain and porous border in north¬east. Indian security to a large extent depends upon the security of its sea frontiers. The Himalayas, which used to be a natural barrier against foreign attack is no longer so in view of development of air power. The porous and open border in the north-east creates problem of foreign infiltration and a fertile ground for anti-India activities. Historically, India has been a land of Gautama Buddha, Mahavir and Gandhi. The spirit of tolerance, peace and non-violence are rooted in Indian ethos. These values have influenced the basic tenets of India’s foreign policy.The foundations of India’s foreign policy were laid during the freedom movement when our leaders fought the evils of colonialism and racialism. The principles of sovereign equality of all nations, respect for all races and opposition to colonialism were articulated and evolved during the freedom struggle itself. Economically, India has been subjected to long colonial exploitation. At the time of independence, India was suffering from many economic ills like poor economic infrastructure lack of capital and technology, poverty, unemployment, hunger and poor health services. In order to overcome these evils, India needed foreign support in the form of capital and technology both. Thus, the fast economic growth became one of the primary objectives of India’s foreign policy also. Socially and culturally India is a multi-religious and multicultural society. In view of nascent democracy, India has to keep in mind the sensitivities of her social and cultural composition. Since India has opted for democratic form of government, the role of popular perception cannot be ruled out in the formation of foreign policy choices.

International Environment

When India became independent in 1947, the World War II was over and a new world .order was emerging which was led by two super powers—the US and Soviet Union. The UN was founded with the mandate of global peace and security. However, it could not stop the rivalry between the two super powers and intensification of cold war. This led to the emergence of military alliances and arms race, particularly the nuclear arms race. India could not afford to join military blocks and weaken the cause of world peace. For her own economic development India wanted world peace. She also wanted easy access to financial resources and technology from both blocks for her development. India’s policy of non-alignment has been influenced, to a large extent, from the prevailing international environment after the World War II. In brief, the above domestic and international factors played important role in shaping India’ foreign policy.

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