Framework of Indian foreign Policy

Framework of Indian foreign Policy

In order to achieve the above stated objectives, Indian leadership formulated certain basic principles on which the
framework of India’s foreign policy was constructed. These could be termed as methods or means of India’s foreign policy to achieve the stated ends. India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, was the chief architect of this framework, which was an amalgamation of India’s principles and concrete realities in international arena.

1. Panch-Sheel:

Jawaharlal Nehru recognized that sovereignty of nation-state is supreme in international arena and peace and  conflict revolved around it. In order to protect the sovereignty of each nation, all the nations need to acknowledge and respect each other’s sovereign rights. India emphasized that sovereignty can’t differ from nation to nation and every state in the world enjoys equal amount of sovereign rights with regard to its people, territory, institutions and decision-making processes.
If these were acknowledged and not violated by each nation, hardly there would be international conflicts and threat to world peace. This could be observed by all the nations by following  Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence, which were enthusiastically upheld and promoted by Nehru as PanchSheel.


In Nehru’s words, “I imagine that if these principles were adopted in the relation of various countries with each other, a great deal of the trouble of the present day world would probably disappear.” In 1954, these principles were enunciated in bilateral agreement between India and People’s Republic of China. They are:

i. Mutual respect for each-other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty;
ii. Mutual non-aggression;
iii. Mutual non-interference in each-other’s internal affairs;
iv. Equality and mutual benefit; and
v. Peaceful co-existence

The fifth principle in it, i.e. the Peaceful Co-existence was drafted keeping in view the then existing world situation, wherein the opposite camps of socialism and capitalism vowed to finish off each-other. Nehru propagated that nations based on different ideologies could co-exist and prosper if they follow the first four principles of Panch Sheel and believed in the fifth one. In 1956, Soviet leader Khrushchev famously announced Peaceful Coexistence as U.S.S.R.’s desired policy and the détente between the two superpowers in 1970s further demonstrated utility of this

2. Non-alignment:

Non-alignment has been the central pillar of India’s foreign policy, which served its objectives and goals in international arena. Nehru realized that India was destined to aspire for its rightful voice in world affairs given its great civilization and gigantic geography in one of the prime regions of the world. Also, the recent hard-won freedom from colonial rule would be meaningless if India did not establish an independent voice among comity of nations. Thus, independent foreign policy was more of an imperative than a compulsion or a choice.

Nehru’s understanding was that India and other poor countries of Asia and Africa would not gain anything but lose out miserably by joining either of the military blocks of that time. According to him, instead of focusing on fight against poverty, illiteracy and diseases, they would end up being used as pawns in the war of no relevance to them. India’s interests was in expanding ‘area of peace’ and not of war or conflicts. Therefore, India neither joined any of the military pacts of capitalist countries, such as SEATO, CENTO, Baghdad Pact or Manila Treaty; nor the Warsaw Pact of the socialist block. India provided leadership to newly independent Asian and African nations in denying joining any of the military blocks that would had been tantamount to compromising their sovereignty. Nehru proclaimed, “We propose, as far as possible, to keep away from the power politics of groups, aligned against one another, which
have led in the past to World Wars and which may again lead to disasters on a very large scale.”

However, non-alignment was not merely staying away from the military blocks or ideological camps, but it was the freedom to decide each issue on its merits, to weigh what was right or wrong and then take a stand in favour of the right. To quote Nehru, “So far all these evil forces of fascism, colonialism and racialism or the nuclear bomb and aggression and suppression are concerned, we stand most emphatically and unequivocally committed against them ….. We are unaligned only in relation to the cold war with its military pacts. We object to all this business of forcing new nations of Africa and Asia into their cold war machine.

Otherwise, we are free to condemn any development which we consider wrong or harmful to the world or ourselves and we use that freedom every time the occasion arises.” Nehru further explained, “…….. where freedom is menaced or justice is threatened or where aggression takes place, we can not and shall not be neutral….. Our policy is not neutralist, but one of active endeavor to preserve and, if possible, establish peace on firm foundation.” Thus, non-alignment was not a policy of isolation or inaction. In fact, it was a positive policy designed to promote national sovereignty and international peace.

There had been concrete instances where India adopted positions according to the merit of the concerned issue. For
example, in recognizing West Germany and voting in the  UN to declare North Korea as invader at the start of the Korean War, India looked like siding with the capitalist block. However, during the same period, India recognized the Communist government in China and disapproved the American-led counter-assault on North Korean territories. Also, it stood in solidarity with freedom struggles in various Afro-Asian countries and severely criticized colonial powers for their oppressive rules. In such instances, it shared positions with the Soviet Block.

Thus, on each occasion, India took a stand against those threatening international peace and dishonoring people’s wishes. The USSR was  quick to shed its biases against India and comprehended its genuine positions based on principles of non-alignment. The Western powers took it a long to understand genuineness of India’s non-alignment policy. Nonetheless, India continued to develop relations with all the major powers and countries in both the camps. This has paved dividends in terms of receiving aid, military equipment and technological know-how from both the blocks. For example, India received all the technical assistance from the USSR in setting up its first steel plant at Bhilai, which was followed by German and British assistance respectively to set up next two Steel Plants. In arms purchases for its national security needs, India had spread its net wide open. Even though the USSR became India’s single largest defense equipment supplier by mid-1960s, it also purchased substantial arms from UK, US and France. While India received the USSR backing in the UN Security Council on Kashmir issue, the US had supported it in its endeavor to usher in the Green Revolution to solve the food crisis in the country. Thus, suspicion about India’s international positions eventually gave way to co-operation and friendship with countries from both sides of the divide. The grand success of India’s non-alignment could be measured from the fact that majority of the poor and developing countries from all parts of the world adopted the similar policy and all of them joined hands to constitute the Non-Aligned Movement against the hegemony of both the ideological blocks during the Cold War period. In 1961 in Belgrade, Nehru stood in unison with Egypt’s Nasser and Yugoslavia’s Tito to provide leadership to non-aligned countries in the world.

3. Promotion of International Understanding and World Peace:

Based on principles of PanchSheel and Non-alignment, India consistently emphasized on settlement of international disputes through dialogue and negotiations. India also laid great emphasize on purity of means. It had maintained that the means for the attainment of national interest must be pious. In order to promote international understanding and peace, Nehru had repeatedly spoke about futility of war and warned of ultimate disasters if Third World War would broke out. Even though such emphasize did not always result in success, it had certainly helped in reducing international tensions. Nehru realized that arms race, including deployment of nuclear weapons, would
result in increased suspicions and mistrust among the nations.

Also, the expenditure on arms would make the governments deprived of sufficient money required for upliftment of people from poverty. Therefore, India campaigned for disarmament in general and de-nuclearization in particular. At the same time, India maintained that onus of de-nuclearization rested on the shoulders of big powers, who must sacrifice their nuclear weapons for the sake of world peace and future of human race.

On this ground, India refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), terming it as exclusionary and discriminatory. As a chief proponent of international dialogues and cooperation, India had extended full support to the system of United Nations. It had not only raised pertinent issues concerning international peace and freedom of the people in the United Nations, but also actively contributed military as well as other personnel for implementing decisions of the world body.

India played remarkable role in resolving the Korean and India- China conflicts through the platforms of the United Nations. Similarly, it played commendable role in many other UN missions to restore peace and order in different parts of the world, such as in Lebanon, Gaza, Congo, Combodia and in recent times in Bosnia-Herzegovina etc. India’s contribution had resulted in strengthening the United Nations system in mediating and resolving the international conflicts. India has also been actively participating in various programs launched by the UN agencies such as ILO, UNICEF, UNESCO, FAO etc.

India’s approach has been to make the UN more effective instrument in preventing armed conflicts and ensuring
international security. This could be ensured by participation and accountability of maximum number of states in the UN system, for which India has been consistently demanding further democratization of the world body including expansion of its Security Council.

4. Indo-Soviet Friendship:

India’s friendly relation with one of the super powers of the Cold War period, i.e. the USSR, was a  result of multiple factors. The then Indian leadership was greatly influenced by the planning method of Soviet economy. Nehru
made the Planning Commission central to India’s economic decision making and adhered to the mixed economy with emphasis on creation of large scale public sector units. The USSR readily helped India in technical and technological terms in its industrial endeavors without any conditions. This was in sharp contrast with developed western countries whose reluctance was more than evident. Also, the USSR echoed India’s zealous campaign for de-colonization and against racism, which resulted into creation of common global goals for both the countries. Further, a complexity of world politics; wherein western countries did not support India on Kashmir issue, Pakistan was lured into anti-Soviet military tactics, China became hostile to India and drift occurred in Sino-Soviet relations; led both the countries to forge friendly ties with each other.


Realizing the necessity and potential of friendship with the USSR, the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi signed a 20-Years’ Bilateral Treaty of Friendship, Peace and Cooperation with the Soviet Union in 1971. This treaty helped India in strengthening its regional as well as world position without compromising its sovereignty. India steadfastly remained committed to policy of non-alignment and did not participate in or support any of the military campaigns of the USSR.


India resisted pressures as well as temptations of supporting the Soviet Union when its military entered Afghanistan, even though India’s arch-rival Pakistan was used as a frontline state by the US to counter Soviet presence in Afghanistan. On the other hand, India received consistent support from the USSR in the UN on Kashmir issue, along with technological and scientific exchanges. This treaty played a significant role during Bangla Desh Liberation War. The US wanted to help Pakistan at that time, but refrained from doing so as the USSR showed readiness to provide all kind of support to India. Thus, friendship with the Soviet Union was important frame of India’s foreign policy doctrine.

5. Promotion of Regional Cooperation:

India seeks friendly ties with all its neighbours and co-operations among all the countries in South Asia. Therefore, SAARC receives big support from Indian establishment, which sees as a tool to promote regional trade, business and people to people exchanges. Since South Asia, which is nothing but an Indian subcontinent in geographical term, faces more or less similar problems in all of its countries; such as poverty, illiteracy, malnutrition, ill-health and gender disparity etc., India advocates joint efforts to get rid of these 20th century problems. However, rivalry between India and Pakistan along with suspicion of some of India’s small-size neighbours about New Delhi’s intentions, have prevented the intended progress of SAARC. India works overtime to make sure that bilateral problems do not become obstacle in the progress of SAARC. Apart from SAARC, India is seeking active cooperation with Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) as well as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and African Union (AU).

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