India attained independence in 1947 and since then its foreign policy has been evolving through the years. During the cold war period, post disintegration of USSR and now in today’s world, it has become one of the important strategic partners in the world.
India was born in a very challenging world that was grappling with the issues of reconstruction. In the period immediately after the Second World War, many developing nations chose to support the foreign policy preferences of the powerful countries who were giving them aid or credits. This resulted in the division of countries of the world into two clear camps. One was under the influence of the United States and its western allies and the other was under the influence of the then Soviet Union. India on the other hand decided to go on its own path.
Meaning of Foreign Policy and diplomacy, and their importance:
Foreign policy is a policy pursued by a State in its international interactions, world affairs and in its foreign relation. These policies are made in context with the external environment. Foreign policy is basically both a policy and a course of action. Foreign policy connotes a greater degree of rational procedure, and a type of planning involved in a step-by-step progress to a known and defined goal. It is a relatively rational answer to prevailing external conditions. Though there are certain constraints, national and international, to any such well thought out planning, yet an endeavor is invariably made, and will continue to be made.
In simple terms, Foreign Policy is a framework within which the Government of a given country conducts its relations with the outside world in different formats i.e. bilateral, regional and multilateral or global.
Diplomacy on its part is a profession, skill and art of managing country’s relations with the rest of the world with a view to achieving the objectives of country’s foreign policy. Broadly, Diplomacy can be political, economic or cultural, and ideally should work in tandem. As a rule the diplomacy is pursued through established diplomatic channels and mechanisms. It may or may not always be transparent and in public knowledge.
Evolution of India’s foreign policies:
- Constitutional Principles: Article 51 of the Indian Constitution lays down some Directive Principles of State Policy on ‘Promotion of international peace and security’. “The State shall endeavor to – (a) Promote international peace and security, (b) Maintain just and honorable relations between nations, (c) Foster respect for international law and treaty obligations in the dealings of organized people with one another; and (d) Encourage settlement of international disputes by arbitration.”
- Panchsheel: The Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence, were first formally iterated in the Agreement on Trade and Intercourse between the Tibet region of China and India signed on April 29, 1954, which stated, in its preamble, that the two Governments “have resolved to enter into the present Agreement based on the following principles: – 1. Respect each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, 2. Mutual non-aggression, 3. Mutual non-interference, 4. Equality and mutual benefit, and 5. Peaceful co-existence.
- NAM: Non-alignment has been an important feature of India’s foreign policy. The aim of Non-alignment was to maintain national independence in foreign affairs. Non-alignment was neither neutrality nor non-involvement nor isolationism. It was a dynamic concept. Furthermore, Non-Alignment gained popularity in the developing countries. Consequently, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) was created and founded during the collapse of the colonial system and the independence struggles of the peoples of Africa, Asia, Latin America and other regions of the world. During this era, Nehru played an important role. As a Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, he exercised profound influence in the formulation and implementation of India’s foreign policy from 1946 to 1964. The three major objectives of Nehru’s foreign policy were to preserve the hard-earned sovereignty, protect territorial integrity, and promote rapid economic development. Nehru wished to achieve these objectives through the strategy of non-alignment. There were, of course, parties and groups in the country that believed that India should be friendlier with the bloc led by the US because that bloc claimed to be pro-democracy. Among those who thought on these lines were leaders like Dr Ambedkar. Some political parties, which were opposed to communism, also wanted India to follow a pro-US foreign policy. These included the Bharatiya Jan Sangh and later the Swatantra Party. But Nehru possessed considerable leeway in formulating foreign policy.
- Cold war era: During this era, military alliances were made by the US and USSR, and India did not join either of them. The foreign policy of independent India vigorously pursued the dream of a peaceful world by advocating the policy of non-alignment, by reducing Cold War tensions and by contributing human resources to the UN peacekeeping operations. India tried to maintain a balance between both the alliances. However, controversial situations kept arising and US resented the growing partnership of India with the USSR.
- Post 1990 Scenario: The four most important variables that guided the framing of India’s foreign policy after the cold war were:
- India’ search for its due place in the international order which is largely dominated by the US;
- An accommodation with the global nuclear order as the international system comes to terms with ‘nuclear’ India;
- India’s balancing act of tackling the challenge of global terrorism without alienating its Islamic minority;
- And India’s search for energy security to ensure its current rate of economic growth.
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