United States – United States could be called as a recent addition to India’s friends list. The reason being during the entire Cold War period the relations between India and United States remained strained. India’s friendship with Russia, wars with Pakistan and nuclear tests did not exactly get India into United States’ good books. India has also followed its own path which was necessary for its national interests without feeling the need for United States’ friendship. This situation changed after the end of Cold War. Economic relations between both the countries have certainly helped overcoming decades of political differences. United States that was a fierce critic of India on account of nuclear tests ultimately reached a nuclear deal with the latter. India’s and United States’ relations have been quite warm in the past few years. One of the successes of India’s foreign policy has been United States realizing the value of India’s friendship. United States has also backed India’s entry into the United Nations Security Council and Nuclear Suppliers’ Group. How the relations between both the countries shape during Donald Trump’s presidency remains to be seen and India should be ready to respond to the changes, if any.
Nuclear Tests – The two nuclear tests conducted (one in 1974 and another in 1998) mark an important milestone in India’s foreign policy. But it has also proved to be a tough challenge. As much as it was necessary to strengthen nation’s arsenal, on both the occasions this step has met with severe reactions from a number of countries. In addition to reacting through diplomatic channels these countries also banned the transfer and sale of nuclear technology to India. India was also pressurized to be a signatory to CTBT (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty). However India defied all the pressure and stood its ground asserting that national interest and national security are of the highest priority than anything else. Although India is yet to get entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), over the years Indian diplomacy has been successful in getting the ban removed and striking nuclear deals with countries like United States, Canada and Australia.
Economic Reforms – A number of internal and external situations either coincided or resulted in the economic reforms in 1991. Foreign exchange crisis was the principle reason for ushering of the economic reforms. These developments led to opening of Indian economy and brought liberalization, privatization and globalization. The economic reforms ran parallel to disintegration of the USSR and end of Cold War. New world order came into existence with the end of Cold War. The bi-polar system was replaced by uni-polar system with United States as the sole super power. India’s foreign policy also underwent changes as a result of change in the world order and changes in domestic situation. The idealism in India’s foreign policy was replaced by realism. Non-alignment seemed to lose its relevance with the changes in foreign policy. Not only did India’s economy open up but its foreign policy also opened up. The notions and ideology that were part of the policy making in the Cold War era were replaced with the changes that corresponded with time. India’s foreign policy started taking strides into the hitherto uncharted territories.
New Horizons – As mentioned in the previous point opening of India’s foreign policy led to increased interaction with countries and regions with which there was either restricted or no contact. With respect to regions Southeast Asia, Asia Pacific and Central Asia are prominent. Southeast Asia and Asia Pacific remained at a distance during the Cold War period on account of the influence of United States in those regions. Central Asia is the creation of disintegration of the USSR and so it is relatively a new region. In any case all these three regions are extremely important from India’s point of view – both economic and strategic – and hence increasing diplomatic investment there would certainly be beneficial for India in the coming years. With respect to country Israel deserves a special mention. From being a country with no diplomatic ties with India to becoming one of our close friends and a major arms supplier, Israel has come a long way. Domestic political compulsions had forced India not to establish ties with Israel. However India could find a right balance in developing friendship with Israel without neglecting Palestine. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s de-hyphenating visit to Israel this year has shown the strong assertive character of Indian diplomacy. Another horizon in our nation’s foreign policy has been the importance attached to the Indian Diaspora in conduct of foreign relations. Indian Diaspora had remained a neglected entity for more than 40 years since independence. Today Indian Diaspora enjoys the status of an important instrument of India’s foreign policy.
(The author is an Independent Researcher based in Vadodara and can be reached at – (firstname.lastname@example.org)
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)