What is India’s Foreign Policy?

In a broad sense foreign policy may be defined as the sum total of the principles, aims and objectives which an independent country evolves in maintaining its relations with other countries of the world without any pressure what so-ever from any country big or small, developing or under-developed, powerful or weak. Foreign policy is the mirror of political status of a country. After attaining independence in 1947 India’s first Prime Minister Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru laid down the broad parameters of India’s foreign policy. These were based on the twin concept of non-alignment and panch-sheel. This policy was followed by India although the cold war period. The policy of non-alignment designated not only to stay out of the power blocks but also to try and bring the blocks together on crucial issues as for as possible.

Under the changed environment of the world, the aims and targets have changed and so have priorities. According to India’s foreign minister Mr. Jaswant Singh the primary aims of India’s foreign policy are economic and energy with security and the establishment of good and harmonious relations with other countries of the world. But he does not fail to reiterate that there will be continuity in India’s foreign policy meaning thereby that the policy of non-alignment will be the guiding policy as ever before. There may be slight diversion but no deviation.

It is believed that foreign, defense and international economic policies of every country in the world have become integrated in the changed international environment after September 11, 2001 terrorist attack in the U.S.A. Indian defense establishment is also engaging the rest of the world in strategic matters and we are aware of the need to synergize the ministry of external affairs and the defense establishment to promote that India is a big emerging market with vast opportunities for intensive commercial engagement. Nuclear weapons have given India a new profile in world affairs after the nuclear test in 1998. India, with a very highly developed and recognized space programme accompanied by indigenous missiles Agni and Prithivi, enjoys a prestigious position in the world. India is developing a multi-track relationship with developed nations like U.S., Russia, France, Australia and Japan. Hence we should combine the diplomatic and military elements of our foreign policy to ensure that we can exercise an influence in the strategic are between the Persian Gulf and the Malacca strait-the heart of East-West trade.

India trying to successfully work out a relationship of co-operative security with the U.S. and other prominent countries like Japan and Australia. A common concern for security is providing a strategic binding among all these countries.


During nineties, on account of the above mentioned factors, national security and economic interest gained prominent place in foreign policy making. The CTBT (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty) was a crucial test of India’s assertion of an autonomous security policy. With the establishment of WTO (World Trade Organization) India had to work out a new strategy to enhance economic growth. There was better understanding about the inevitability of mercerization and expansion of global financial markets. Gujral doctrine, named after the name of former Prime Minister Mr. I. K. Gujral, was based on the compelling vision of regional co-operation and India’s readiness to move ahead for achieving it.

India’s foreign policy is facing certain challenges such as safe-guarding unity of the country. Highest priority has to be given to ensure the unity, continuity and territorial integrity of India. Our foreign to has to create a regional atmosphere and equations with important powers of the world to prevent external encouragement to the centrifugal force affecting the country. Our unity and territorial integrity can be protected by creating national defense capacity. This capacity should be primarily rely on indigenous resources and technology. India’s foreign policy must ensure an atmosphere of peace and stability in which the country can focus on its economic development. A foreign economic policy must be formulated to ensure the necessary financial, technological and foreign trade inputs to meet its developmental requirements. Strengthening of regional co-operation and working for mutually beneficial equations between South Asian and other regional groups is the need of the day. It will ensure peace and stability and long term security and well being. Another important aim of India’s foreign policy is to strengthen the U.N. Its organs and specialized agencies foreign have to be strengthened in order to enable the U.N. to truly reflect the interests and aspirations of the majority of its members as also to restrict to the greatest extent the U.N.’s becoming as instrument of super power policies.

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Diplomatic activity of India after September 11, 2001 global war against terrorism was conducted with great skill and substantial success. India displayed diplomatic maturity by interacting with like-minded countries across the globe including the U.S., Russia, Great Britain, France and the Arab world. Coercive diplomacy had never been a feature of India’s foreign policy but after exhausting all options at her disposal in dealing with the threat of cross border terrorism from Pakistan India had to resort to coercive diplomacy. By pilling up military and political pressure on Pakistan India has for the first time in a decade raised the prospect of reversing Pakistan’s pursuit of using cross-border terrorism as a part of its foreign policy. Coercive diplomacy after terrorist attack on India’s parliament has yielded handsome results. Combined instrument of force and diplomacy has been effectively used. India’s threat to wage war in order to put an end to cross-border terrorism and possibility to consider nuclear escalaluin force the international community to pressure Pakistan to stop cross-border terrorism. As a result Pakistan president General Musharraf had to announce on January 12,2002 that “His country’s soil would not be used for carrying out acts of violence in Jammu and Kashmir’’. India’s new method of dealing with Pakistan may be supposed to reflect the ongoing transition towards pragmatism in the practice of foreign policy. It may also be inferred that the international community has been unambiguously in favor of India.


After India joined the international coalition against terrorism a new and fundamentally different relationship has developed with the U.S. Indo-U.S. ties and relations have strengthened in every bilateral field and military exchanges between the two have increased. Both countries share interests which include energy, security, safeguarding the sea-lanes, political stability, economic modernization and religious moderation. The U.S. and Russia both look at India as friend partner in tiding over the current uncertainties on the global scene. China has also realized the importance of India in the current war against terrorism. The visit of the China has maintained a neutral position in the Indo-pak tension. It wants to maintain friendly relations with India to reduce the U.S. influence in South Asia.

India has signaled its renewed commitment to improve relations with smaller neighbors because there is a need to develop a strategy of positive unilateralism to transform the region. All the neighboring countries have to cope with globalization and are compelled to move towards greater economic co-operation. After the cold war India has tried to reach out to its neighboring regions which had become politically distant. India has also tried to establish links with Central Asian Republics.

India is redefining its relations with Africa. India’s renewed interest in Africa can be marked by significant initiatives from African leaders and the international community to promote economic growth and political stability in the continent. India has recognized its responsibility to contribute to Africa’s security through the U.N. peace keeping operations as also by joining international efforts to end the civil wars in the region.

It is felt that India has high political stake in promoting development across the borders in the sub-continent. Economic development should play a very important role in encouraging democracy in the region. India’s Foreign Minister Mr. Yashwant Sinha has injected significant economic content in India’s relations with its neighbors. Focus is on regional trade. In a message to Pakistan and Bangladesh Mr. Sinha has said that respect for the security concerns of each other is the key to success of trade and prosperity in the region. With SAARC being requirement by the active role and participation of India’s Prime Minister Shri Atal Behari Bajpai, India is demonstrating that is ready to set up the pace of regional economic integration with or without Pakistan. Energy diplomacy has now become an important element of India’s foreign policy. As India’s economy is growing it is becoming one of the world’s biggest consumers and importers of petroleum products.


Keeping in view the external interference into the security politics of the subcontinent such as strong military presence of the U.S. led coalition in Afghanistan, demise of a Saddam’s regime in Iraq, Norway’s mediation efforts in Shri Lanka, growing Anglo-American involvement in Nepal, defense co-operation agreement between Bangladesh and China, emergence of the U.S. as the key interlobular between India and Pakistan, India has to retain its primacy in the region and has to guide its foreign policy in that direction. India has retained its image as the country that is in the forefront of putting across perspectives of the developing countries in the international forum and at the same time adhering to its policy of non-alignment and panchsheel. This is evident from the fact that after downfall of Iraq the U.S. requested India to send its forces for maintenance of law and order in Iraq and thereby restore peace but India on its part clearly declined to oblige the U.S. and emphatically expressed that if suggestion for sending troops to Iraq comes from the U.N., the matter could receive consideration. Thus India continues to follow an independent policy retaining its freedom of options to exercise multifarious choices to meet its national interests.

India is a mature democracy which does not depend upon its nuclear arsenal to be recognized by the world. In the post cold war world the western powers are paying greater attention to India because they understand the importance of India as a truly democratic non-communist country which has successfully survived the battles of the ideological blocks. The Americans and Europeans have now realized that free trade can succeed only in democratic countries. The request for India troops to be sent to Iraq is a reorganization of India’s potential to play the role of a big power in West Asia. But the sending of troops need to be sent it is Afghanistan border spells renewed trouble in Jammu and Kashmir as well as the nascent democratic Government in Kabul. An effective way of engaging militancy in Kashmir Valley is to fight the Taliban along with Afghanistan on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. But America would never like India presence in Kabul. It would not take the risk of displeasing Pakistan and allow tilt in the balance of power in south Asia in India’s favor.

India should aim to redefine its foreign policy in view of the changing power equations in the world. We should Endeavour to further our relations with countries like U.S., Russia and China. At the same time we cannot ignore of the European Union. Strengthening of relations with ASIAN countries should go a long way in building up our economy and exploiting full potential of the Indian Ocean.

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