India completes seven decades of its independence this year. These 70 years have seen a lot of ups and down in all the areas of governance. Of various areas foreign policy remains one of the most vibrant areas since it is an outward oriented area that is supposed to respond to external changes to suit the internal situation of the country. This article takes a look at the seven highlights of India’s foreign policy of the seven decades.
- Non-Alignment – This was the most prominent feature of India’s foreign policy at the time of independence and during the Cold War period. The bi-polar world order that came into existence in the Post Second World War period and India’s internal situation after independence have been the proponents of the Non-Alignment Policy. Idealism in Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s political thought led to the conclusion that aligning India with either the capitalist bloc or the communist bloc would be compromising with hard earned independence. The policy of Non-Alignment did not intend to isolate India from the world. Its purpose was to maintain harmonious relations with all the nations without becoming a part of the rivalry that was prevalent in the world at that time. However maintaining the non-aligned status proved to be challenging for India throughout the Cold War period. Though officially not a part of any bloc, India always had a special proximity towards Russia (then called USSR). During the entire Cold War period and even after the end of Cold War Russia has been India’s one of the most trusted friends and a major arms supplier. Also India did not remain totally immune from the Cold War on account of Russia backing India as against United States backing Pakistan.
- Pakistan – Pakistan remains one of the oldest challenges to foreign as well as defence policy. Inheriting this problem at the very time of independence, relations with Pakistan have all along remained volatile and continue to remain so. Any attempt to resolve the Kashmir problem only results in a stalemate. Four wars (1948, 1965, 1971 and 1999) and a number of dialogues in past seventy years have failed to yield desired results. Pakistan’s support to separatists in Jammu and Kashmir and constant supply of cross border terrorism makes it difficult for India to sustain dialogue and look for a peaceful solution to all the conflicts. Unstable democracy in Pakistan, hold of military over civilian government and Pakistan’s friendship with China are some of the hardest challenges that India’s foreign policy faces while dealing with this neighbour. Despite all the provocation India always maintains that all the disputes should be resolved only through peaceful means. India also believes that methods other than war could be effective. Raising the issue of terrorism through global and regional organizations and attempting to build consensus with regard to terrorism are the diplomatic efforts that are carried on meticulously by India. However Pakistan still remains an unresolved issue and a constant challenge to India’s foreign policy.
- China – China occupies a unique position from India’s point of view. It’s unique because China presents competition, challenge and threat to India all at the same time. It is not just another neighbouring country having border disputes with India. The unresolved border issue has not been an impediment in trade relations between both the countries. China and India are both considered as emerging superpowers and would only expectedly end up competing with each other. However this competition has turned into rivalry more often than not. The cause of rivalry can be attributed to the differences in world view and foreign policies of India and China. India’s policy of co-operation as against China’s policy of expansion has meant that both the countries move in different directions. It also means that convergence of both the countries look difficult. China’s expansion driven policy in the past few years has made India shape its policy accordingly. The fact that India has been giving increasing importance to strategy in foreign policy is because of the challenges posed by China. In this regard Indian policy has to play a dual role – one that of containing China and another of establishing India as a major power.
(This is the first part of the article and the remaining portion will be published on Thursday)
(The author is an Independent Researcher based in Vadodara and can be reached at – [email protected])
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)