India’s foreign policy is fundamentally based on the principles of peaceful co-existence, friendship and co-operation among all the countries of the world irrespective of their political systems. The foreign policy is aimed at promoting international peace and security and maintaining good and friendly relations with all the countries of the world. India, which was a colonial country under the mighty British rule, experienced the power politics of Super Powers during Cold War period, and chose for herself the path of non-alignment and peaceful co-existence.
India has adopted and pursued certain principles to realize these objectives. Some of these principles are given in Article 51 under the Directive Principles of Policy in the Constitution Of India. These principles are: promotion of international peace and security; friendly relations with other countries; respect for international law and international organizations like the UN; and finally the peaceful settlement of international disputes. The principles of India’s foreign policy and its objectives are closely interlinked with each other.
The founder of India’s foreign policy, Nehru gave utmost importance to world peace in his policy planning.
India desired peaceful and friendly relations with all countries, particularly the big powers and the neighboring nations. While signing a peace agreement with China; he advocated adherence to five guiding principles known as Panchsheel.
Panchsheel includes the following five principles of foreign policy:
- Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
- Non-aggression against each other.
- Non-interference in each other’s internal affairs.
- Equality and mutual benefit.
- Peaceful co-existence.
These principles of Panchsheel were later incorporated in the Bandung Declaration, signed in the Afro-Asian Conference held in 1955 in Indonesia.
- Policy of Non-alignment
Non-alignment is the most important feature of India’s foreign policy. Its core element is to maintain independence in foreign affairs by not joining any military alliance formed by the USA and Soviet Union, which emerged as an important aspect of cold war politics after the Second World War. Non-alignment should not be confused with neutrality or non-involvement in international affairs or isolationism. It was a positive and dynamic concept. It postulates taking an independent stand on international issues according to the merits of each case but at the same time not committing to coming under the influence of any military bloc.
India played a lead role in popularizing and consolidating the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
As the world faces greater threat from a unipolar world led by US after the disintegration of Soviet Union, the NAM can act as a check against undue dominance and hegemony of any country or block.
The developed (North) and developing (South) world have divergent views over several global and economic issues. The NAM may provide a forum for third world countries to engage the developed nations in a productive dialogue.
- Policy of Resisting Colonialism, Imperialism, Racism
India has been victim of colonialism and racism and was as such opposed to these evils in any form. India considers colonialism and imperialism as the threat to international peace and security India was the first to bring the issue of Apartheid in the UN in 1946. India raised her voice for the independence of Indonesia and organized Asian Relations Conference for this purpose. Due to India’s consistent efforts through NAM and other international forums, 14 African countries were liberated from the yoke of colonialism in 1964. India made sincere efforts to end the scourge of apartheid in South Africa. At India’s initiative, NAM set up the Africa Fund (Action for Resisting Imperialism, Colonialism and Apartheid) in 1986 to help the frontline states, which were victims of aggression of South Africa for supporting the cause of fight against Apartheid. India made generous contribution to this fund. The end of racialism in South Africa in 1990 was a great success for Indian policy.
- Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes
One of the core elements of India’s foreign policy is its unflinching faith in the political solution and peaceful settlement of international disputes. This principle has been included in the Constitution of India, under the Directive Principles of State Policy as well as in the Charter of the UN. India has played leading role in the resolution of Korean conflict and supported negotiated settlement of Palestine issue, Kashmir problem, border problems with neighboring countries and other such disputes and problems. At present, India is in favour of resolution of peaceful settlement of Iranian nuclear issue, problem of democratic upsurge in Middle East and so on. India is always against foreign military intervention for resolving international problems. This principle continues to be the cornerstone of India’s policy.
- Support to UN and International Law
India has deep respect for the international law and/or the principles of sovereign equality of nations and non-interference in the internal affairs of other nations as espoused by the UN. India has supported the cause of disarmament pursued by the UN. In 1988, India proposed a very ambitious programme of nuclear disarmament before the UN. Though, this proposal was not accepted by the other members of the UN, India stands committed to the cause of universal disarmament even today. India has played a key role in preserving world peace by helping in the decolonization process, and through active participation in UN peacekeeping activities.
These are in the form of guidelines to the policy makers through which India carries out its foreign relations. In essence, these are the means through which national interest is sought to be protected and promoted.