The foreign policy of India started taking shape immediately after independence in 1947. Owing to centuries of suppression and autocracies, India started its foreign policy on very cautious and careful note. India's first Prime Minister Pt Jawaharlal Nehru, who was at the helm of external affairs of India, along with the leaders of those times nurtured the India's foreign policy with the incorporation of legacy of Indian culture and aspirations of freedom struggle. To start with, some of the prominent objectives of India's foreign policy can be enlisted as follows:
However, with changing times and its own requirement the perspective of Indian foreign policies have changed considerably. From NAM to inclination and 20 years treaty with USSR; from survival to assertion of authority in South Asia (as evident in the liberation of Bangladesh); from reliance on foreign powers for arms and ammunitions to being a nuclear power and from a marginal country to a leading country in G20, India's perspective as well as aspirations have been changing to formulate and change its foreign policy to cater to the changing world and changing times. India has been increasingly becoming proactive and vocal in the external arena. Having already proven its worth in regional authority, it now aspires to play and has been playing a superpower role in the world forum.
Even while sticking to the basic ethos and objective, India's foreign policy have taken a paradigm shift in the contemporary era. With the opening of the economy, advantages of demographic dividend, boom in the service sector, formulation of WTO, emergence of regional economic grouping, waiver from NSG and so on, it has been highly imperative for India to adopt to the need of the hour. In light of these, for the contemporary foreign policy aspirations, Gujral Doctrine, Manmohan Mantra and current prime minister Narendra Modi's views should be highlighted as follows:
This doctrine was given by former Indian Prime Minister I K Gujral, when he was the Minister of External Affairs in 1996-97, to establish India as a substantial power in the neighbourhood. This doctrine emphasized on the unilateral accommodation of other states (especially smaller ones) for amicable relation with India. Gujral doctrine has been summarized under following five principles:
1. With South Asian Nepal, Bhutan, neighbours like Bangladesh, Maldives and Sri Lanka, India will not ask for reciprocity, but gives and accommodates what it can in good faith and trust.
2. The territory of any South Asian country should not be allow to be used against the interest of another country of the region.
3. All South Asian countries must respect each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
4. There should not be any interference in the internal affairs of another country.
5. Bilateral negotiations should be the theme to solve any problems with the South Asian countries.
India's foreign policy was substantially impacted by a decadal tenure of ex-prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh in the era of increasing economic affairs. These can be summarized as following 'Manmohan Mantra':
1. It is to be recognized that India’s relations with the world i.e. both major powers and our Asian neighbours are being increasingly shaped by our developmental and growth priorities. Therefore, to create a global environment conducive to the well-being of our great country thereby developing it all around should be the single most important objective of Indian foreign policy.
2. India will immensely be benefited because of the greater integration with the world economy, which in turn will enable our people to realize their creative potential.
3. India has the desire and intention to seek stable, long term and mutually beneficial relations with all major powers. Therefore, India is highly prepared to work with the international community and international organizations to create a global economic and security environment for the welfare of the whole world.
4. Indian sub-continent had uniform culture and hence share same destiny. Therefore, it requires greater regional cooperation and connectivity. India must strengthen regional institutional capability and capacity and invest in connectivity in order to live up to above aspirations.
5. It is not only the interests but also our values which defines the foreign policy.
India's foreign policy currently is being shaped by our prime minister Narendra Modi and his minister of external affairs, Sushma Swaraj. With the fast changing scenario, even the policies to deal with external affairs keep on changing. Narendra Modi, has been very aggressive in pursuing his foreign policy and engaging with other nations of the world. Modi's procative diplomatic activities therefore can be summarized by following points:
1. Prioritizing an integrated neighbourhood; i.e. “neighbourhood First.”
2. To promote India’s domestic development, international partnerships have to be built and leveraged .
3. A gradual transition from "Look East" to "Act East" and thereby to ensure a stable and multipolar balance of power in the Indo-Pacific.
4. Containing Pakistan from supporting the menace of terrorism.
5. Showcasing India as the leaders of global good governance.
India, has fast emerged as a force to reckon with on international platform. Third largest economy, massive military strength, important members and leaders of various international forum and presence across the planet require India's foreign policy to be robust, sustainable and effective. India aspires to be the world leader of this century on its own merit and strength. Hence, a well crafted meticulous foreign policy is the need of the hour to cater to following aspirations of India:
1. Permanent seat of United Nations Security Council
2. Membership of groups like NSG, Australian group, Wassenar arrangement etc.
3. Resolving its international border issues with negotiations.
4. Say and importance in organizations like Arctic Council, G20, World Bank, IMF etc.
5. Molding WTO so as to benefit India's agriculture and services sector along with other developing nations.
India's neighbour had been a part of a homogenous culture prevailing in the Indian subcontinent for last five thousand years. India, along with its neighbours as have been organized in SAARC form a unique region and culture of the world. However, in spite of the close proximity in culture, region, aspirations and values India's relationship with its neighbours have been far from satisfactory.
India's neighbours include Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Maldives, which are bounded by SAARC barring Myanmar. India defines its extended neighbourhood as China, Mongolia, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Philippines, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Mauritius, Iran, Gulf countries and so on. It is a member of various groups having regular interactions with its neighbours as in BIMSTEC, Mekong Ganga Cooperation, East Asia Summit, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, IOR and so on.
Apart from the economy and trade cooperation, India also aspires to have warm relation with its neighbours and extended neighbours in the field of education, health, fighting terrorism, disaster management, employment for its citizens, curbing organized crimes, technology development and so on. Though, India has not had massive success vis-a-vis the cooperation with its neighbours, but still it is gradually coping up the pace to enahnce affinities with its neighbours with increasing engagement and proactiveness. India has picked up the pace to reflect the maxim - "The closer geographically, economically and culturally relations you have, the greater is the need for closer interaction and reconfiguration of foreign policy and strategic interests.
Owing to its huge population, massive and fast emerging economies, enormous military strength and relatively better position to influence other states on international forum, India has naturally emerged as an inherent leader in South Asia. India has been giving massive aid to Bhutan and has been acting as a guardian for this small Himalayan neighbour. It has also been giving training to the police and bureaucrats of Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan and Maldives. From time to time, India has shown exemplary leadership in helping its neighbour come out of the crisis situation as evident in the form of liberation of Bangladesh from the autocracy of Pakistan, saving Maldives from LTTE attack, helping its neighbours in natural disasters and so on.
However, the biggest impediment in the regional leadership of India has been Pakistan. It has not only watered down India's ambition of showing leadership in its own backyard but has also posed as a challenge to India's assertions on various matters. SAARC has failed miserably due to Pakistan's regular objection and obstruction in India's genuine leadership. Moreover, China too has countered India's leadership effort by luring smaller countries with its heavy economic muscle. In the form of 'String of Pearls', 'One Belt One Road', 'Maritime Silk Road', 'China Pakistan Economic Corridor' etc. China has hugely diluted India's aspirations of regional leaderships
South Asian Countries
Barring few incidents, India has had very cordial and warm relation with all its South Asian neighbours except Pakistan. A brief relation between India and its neighbours can be discussed with the help of following paragraphs.
India enjoys the warmest relation with Bhutan, who it supports financially, militarily and strategically. Inturn Bhutan always tries to act as its protectorate and has helped India drive out its insurgents in the North East.
India shares close proximity with Nepal in terms of culture and relationship. So much so that, there are no visa requirements for these two countries and their respective citizens can move into the other country freely. India supports Nepal financially and strategically. Both these countries have several hydroelectric projects cooperation, there are marriage alliances between the citizens of India and Nepal.
Bangladesh owes its very existence to India. Barring few instances, Bangladesh has had Pro-India government at the center. Bangladesh has helped India in passage to North East, curbing the menace of insurgency in the north-east and amicable sharing of river water. Both these countries have been thriving on trade relations, diplomacy and curbing of terrorism.
Sri Lanka was a part of British India and hence its proximity to India has been well known. India, however had to face jolts on some of the occasions because of LTTE. Trade cooperation, cultural and religion ties etc. Have been very cordial between these two countries.
India has always supported the peaceful and prosperous existence of Maldives. On innumerable occasion, India has bailed out Maldives from various crisis it had faced in the past. However, due to Islamic fundamentalism, China card and adverse government at the center India has been disappointed on many occasions. However, Maldives has huge stake in retaining the cordial relation with India.
Afghanistan was the frontier province of British India and had acted as the bulwark against Russian Empire. Therefore, its proximity and connection with India is well known. However, due to its internal skirmishes for the last three decades, India has constantly been helping Afghanistan cope up with the menace of terrorism and come on the path of development.
India has had persistently thorny relation with Pakistan since the time of independence, Kashmir issues. Sir Creek problem, Terrorism, Organized Crimes etc. Have been the prominent issues for the two countries to remain at loggerhead.
India has been balancing the Super Powers with great care and had been trying to reap the maximum benefit for its domestic development. India has mostly been close to the USSR in the past, which in turn has stood firmly to all its needs. US had never been in the good books of India till last two decades. However, owing to China factor, India is fast moving to have strategic partnership with US. With all the rest superpowers of yesteryears like UK and France, India has persistently warm relation in almost all fields. With the emergence of BRICS, India is carefully negotiating with world powers, projecting itself as the Super Power of the future.