India's Foreign Policy: Part-II

February 21, 2018

For India's Foreign Policy: Part-I (click here)

For India's Foreign Policy: Part-III (click here)


India's foreign policy: After independence-

The basic foreign policy has remained consistently through out the century but minor adjustment has taken place according to the requirement of time and changing world wide circumstances. According to Nehru, India is kind of bridge between the East and West, and becomes inevitably involved in major global issues. That is the main reason why both the superpowers USA and USSR have kept strategic relation. It displays a key role in many Cold war issues, non-alignment movement and north-south conflict.


The main factors that help determine India’s foreign policy are:

  • the geographical situation,

  • the economic requirements and resources,

  • the defence needs and strategy,

  • the existing alliances and understandings, tacit oral or written, with other states, and of course,

  • the recent past,

  • contemporary world events,

  • the ideology and

  • the political system. 


The national interest has been the first and foremost consideration, as is the case with the foreign policies of every government. 


The US had the Monroe Doctrine—to prevent European interference in the Americas—that was executed with firmness by generations of American leaders.

Similarly, Indian political leaders have been inventing different doctrines, according to the demands of the international and domestic milieu.


Turning points leading to reorientation of foreign policy of India:


In 1954-55, US military pacts with Pakistan had forced Jawaharlal Nehru to lean towards Soviet Union.


In 1962 Chinese aggression taught our leaders to become more pragmatic and realistic in relation to our ‘national interest’.


The Bangladesh’s liberation struggle and Nixon-Kissinger hostility in 1971 led to treaty with Moscow. In 1991, end of Communism as well as power and new economic groups has changed global equations.


Gujral doctrine (1996): The Gujral doctrine was a five-point roadmap which sought to build trust between India and neighbours, of solution to bilateral issues through bilateral talks and to remove immediate quid pro quos in diplomatic relationship between India and her neighbours.


The five principles of the Gujral doctrine are:


1. With neighbours like Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, India does not ask for reciprocity, but gives and accommodates what it can in good faith and trust.


2. No South Asian country should allow its territory to be used against the interest of another country of the region.


3. No country should interfere in the internal affairs of another.


4. All South Asian countries must respect each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.


5. They should settle all their disputes through peaceful bilateral negotiations.


The essence of Gujral Doctrine has been that being the largest country in South Asia, India can extend unilateral concessions to neighbours in the sub-continent.


In 1998, India and Pakistan declared themselves as nuclear power.


In the year, 2001, in the day 9/11 US twin tower were blown by terrorist attack and the Indian national interest to fight against terrorism became legitimate aim of US. The relation between two democratic nations culminated in Indo-US civilian nuclear deal.


Atal Bihari Vajpayee's Neighbour First policy (1998-2002), which was later continued by Narendra Modi (2014-...)


Manmohan doctrine (2004-14): to put economics prior to every other factor.


Narendra Modi: 2014-... Continuation of "Neighbourhood First" policy, invented by Atal Bihari Vajpayee during his tenure.


India's foreign policy, region-wise:


I. Act East policy:

  1. Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, Republic of Korea (ROK), Australia, Singapore and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and  all countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

  2. A special focus on Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam (CLMV)

  3. Objectives:

    1. Economic:

      1. Deepen each other's manufacturing capabilities.

      2. India's trade with the CLMV nations has grown 10 times from 1.5 billion USD to more than 10 billion USD during last 10 years.

    2. Cultural:

      1. Encouraging people-to-people contact.

      2. A linchpin between Indian states in North-east and East Asia.

  4. Projects:

    1. Kaladan Multi-modal Transit Transit Project

    2. India-Myanmar Thailand Trilateral Highway Project

    3. Rhi-Tiddim Road Project

    4. Border Haats

    5. ASEAN-India Plan of Action: 2016-20: August 2015: 3 pillars:

      1. Political security

      2. Economic security

      3. Socio-cultural security

  5. Delhi Dialogue 9:

    1. Annual event to discuss politico-security, economic and socio-cultural engagement between ASEAN and India. It has been held since 2009.

    2. Theme: "ASEAN-India Relations: Charting the course for the next 25 years".

    3. It is being organised by the MEA in collaboration with the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), FICCI and other bodies of the Asean countries.


II. "Connect Central Asia" policy:


The strategic location of Central Asia means that it is a central locus of geopolitical manoeuvring affecting India’s relations with Pakistan, China, the US, and other powers in the region. India is keen to tap the considerable commercial potential of the Central Asian region. 


In June 2012, India launched a new ‘Connect Central Asia’ policy. India would seek to build stronger political relations and strengthen strategic and security cooperation with Central Asian states. It proposed to step up India’s engagement in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the establishment of a new Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement to integrate its markets with those of Central Asia. 


Shanghai Cooperation Council:

  • Advantages of SCO membership:

    1. Being a part of a major security coalition in Asia, with easy access to "stans", Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgystan and Uzbekistan.

    2. Important forum on counter terrorism cooperation, connectivity, and on resolving the situation in Afghanistan.

    3. Observer status: 2005


Two objectives for having a vibrant "Connect Central Asia" policy:

  1. Securing and diversifying India’s energy supplies in order to sustain economic growth; and

  2. Keeping a check on the rise of radical groups that may pose a threat to India’s security. 

According to Robert Kaplan in South Asia’s Geography of Conflict, India was closely linked to Central Asia through trading routes historically.



India’s primary concern and focus of engagement in the wider region is Afghanistan, which re ects both historical links (much of Afghanistan was once part of the Mughal Empire).


  • Air corridor for freight

  • India-Afghanistan Partnership Council meeting was held in September 2017

  • India signed a Treaty of Friendship with Afghanistan which also permitted opening of consulates in each other's country.

  • In 2011, India was the first country Afghanistan signed a strategic partnership agreement with.

  • Economic, political, security, trade, cultural cooperation as well as capacity development.

  • India has always wanted a democratic, stable and strong Afghanistan able to decide its own future.

  • The Heart of Asia process remains a viable platform to forge cooperation to realise Afghanistan's potential to be a vibrant Asian hub.




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