Principles of Indian Foreign Policy | UPSC Notes

We will discuss in this blog the Principles of Indian Foreign Policy which is part of International Relations syllabus in UPSC Mains. Through this blog, all the International Relations UPSC notes covering Foreign Policy and International Relations of India will be discussed.

What is Foreign Policy?

It is a set of principles that lays out the plan of action for diplomatic dealings with other nations, international bodies and regional groupings.

The foreign policy of a country is dependent upon a lot of different factors. These factors are called the determinants of foreign policy. They are discussed below:

Determinants of Foreign Policy

  1. National Interest
    The national interests of a country can be broadly categorised into two groups, Core Interests and Temporary Interests.
    • Core Interests are the issues related to sovereignty, territorial integrity, protection of diaspora, economic development, energy security, role in world affairs, etc.
    • Temporary Interests for example voting on issues in international fora like UN.
  2. History
    When you study international relations and foreign policy, you will realise that much of the dynamics in international geopolitics is a result of history. The effect of World War II and Cold War is clearly seen in the regional groupings that have formed. Colonial history of many nations also make them suspicious about neocolonial policies of some countries. The tensions in the Korean Peninsula is the result of the Cold War. The Indo Pak relations are also a direct result of the recent history. So history defines foreign policy to a great extent.
  3. Geography
    Geography of a country is critical in determining its foreign policy. For example the dispute between Ukraine and Russia over Crimea is because Russia wants access to warm sea waters so that they can continue trade all year round. Some of the important trade routes in the seas are points of contention between many countries. Many countries are involved in boundary disputes for decades.
  4. Culture
    The cultural influence of a country increases its soft power. For example, Buddhism is always a talking point between India and countries in East/South-East Asia where Buddhism is followed widely. Similarly the influence of Indian civilisation in the neighbouring countries and the Bollywood increase India’s soft power. Often the relations between India and its neighbours are strained because the countries share Indian cultural identity and it creates identity crisis for neighbours.
  5. Polity
    It is much easier to deal with a country which is a democracy rather than the one which is a theocracy or a dictatorship. Thus the kind of political set up modifies the kind of foreign policy towards the country. For example with Pakistan due to the control of military over the elected government, engaging with the PM is not always effective.
  6. Diaspora
    Diaspora means the people who have spread in different countries other than their country of origin. The Indian diaspora is widely distributed across the world. They form some of the most influential classes in the developed countries. Thus they have strong influence on the policies of their host country towards India.
  7. Public opinion
    General public opinion of the country also influences its foreign policy. For example, anti-Vietnam war protests in USA had ultimately forced President Nixon to virtually end the war in 1973. Public perception of friendliness or enmity towards a country has political importance for the government and hence its influence over the foreign policy towards that country.
  8. Leadership or Ideology of the Government
    For most of the last century, there was a divide in the world along ideologies of Communism and Capitalism. These days we see a lot of right-leaning governments are adopting protectionism and nation-first policies. USA under Trump has been making changes to its Visa policy and Trade Agreements.

Objectives of India’s Foreign Policy

The objectives of India’s Foreign Policy have been clearly defined in the Constitution of India vide Article 51:

The State shall endeavour to —
(a) promote international peace and security;
(b) maintain just and honourable relations between nations;
(c) foster respect for international law and 
(d) encourage settlement of international disputes by arbitration.

Principles of Indian Foreign Policy

The principles of Indian foreign policy have been the following:

  1. Anti-Colonialism
    India has suffered for a long time under colonial oppression. Hence anti-colonialism has been a core principle in its foreign policy. In this regard, after gaining independence, India had advocated freedom from colonialism for all other countries. India also provided leadership for the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) to all such countries with colonial history.
  2. Equal Sovereignty
    India believes that all nations, regardless of their size or economic or military power, are equal. They all enjoy equal sovereignty which must be respected.
  3. Non-Aligned
    For a long period, India kept itself distanced from the Capitalist/Communist Blocks led by USA and USSR respectively. This neutrality was called non-alignment. However, in recent times, there has been a slight shift in that policy as China has emerged in the neighbourhood as a world power.
  4. Panchsheel
    The Panchsheel was a set of five principles of foreign policy given by Jawaharlal Nehru. It will be explained below separately.
  5. Gujral Doctrine
    It was a set of five principles adopted by former Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral. It is explained below separately.

Panchsheel of Indian Foreign Policy

The Panchsheel of Nehru was a set of five principles to guide India’s policy in conducting its foreign relations. They were:

  • Mutual respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty
  • Mutual non-aggression
  • Mutual non-interference in internal affairs
  • Equality and mutual benefit
  • Peaceful co-existence

Gujral Doctrine

Former Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral had adopted a set of five principles to guide the conduct of India’s foreign relations with its immediate neighbours, particularly with Pakistan. Those principles were:

Principles of Gujral Doctrine

  1. Assymetric favour
    India will show big heart towards its neighbours and extend asymmetric support for their development.
  2. No South Asian country should allow the use of its territory against the interest of other countries.
  3. Non-interference in the internal matters of each other
  4. Respect for mutual integrity and sovereignty
  5. Settle disputes through bilateral negotiations.

Application of Gujral Doctrine

  1. Mahakali River Project was gifted to Nepal,
  2. Freezing of border disputes with China
  3. Ganga Water sharing agreement with Bangladesh in 1996 allowed it to withdraw more water than even what 1977 agreement allowed
  4. People-to-people contact between India and Pakistan were increased by easing visa restrictions, movements of cultural groups across borders etc.

Drawbacks of Gujral Doctrine

  1. Though India offered asymmetric support to its neighbours, it is not as resource rich as China. China has often outcompeted India in its neighbourhood, e.g. Hambantota Port in Sri Lanka, Nepal’s shift towards China etc.
  2. There are internal security challenges that are promoted by Pakistan in Indian territory. Trusting such a neighbour was dangerous.
  3. Gujral doctrine had weakened RA&W’s intelligence gathering activities in Pakistan as our assets were exposed.
  4. It affected India’s ability to conduct covert strikes against terrorist organisations operating from Pakistan and PoK.

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31 thoughts on “Principles of Indian Foreign Policy | UPSC Notes”

  1. Sir, I’ve previously asked you a question but unfortunately didn’t get the answer. Pls suggest which book is better in content – India: A comprehensive geography by Dr Khullar or Geography of India by Majid Hussain???

      1. Gaurav Awasthi

        Thank you ss much Sir! You hv taken very good initiative. It is going to a milestone during preparation..Keep continue your help for GS 2.

  2. It is really helpful Sir since International Relations is otherwise a discrete topic and your description is also comprehensive..Request you to continue the series


    Thanks for posting such an illuminating article in Indian ‘Foreign Policy.With due respect I would like to add that the tenor and direction of India’s Foreign Policy has undergone a Paradigm Shift in the present times,esp in the Cold War era.
    There has been a growing realisation of the role of Power and the rhetorics regarding India’s Non aligned status has been dropped…. Moreover India has become much more confident and assertive in pursuing it’s foreign policy aspirations based on its own perceived national interests in the current socio political mileu….

  4. Gud afternoon Sir…..Things you have mentioned above related to foreign policy or above notes are in English medium…. although we can understand in English also but for the basic concepts clarity or those who are the aspirants of hindi medium need a stuff in hindi…So if it is possible can you pls provide these all material in hindi…..Thanku

  5. एक बेहतरीन पहल वैसे छात्रों के लिए जो कोचिंग करने में असमर्थ हैं। तहे-दिल से शुक्रिया आपको🙏

  6. Hitesh Kumar Meena

    Good article but I have one comment that u should also add the content of foreign policy of New India ( After Modi era) in which things are getting changed. Along with reasons why it is happening. Thanks for your wonderful support and encouragement to young mind

  7. Thank you sir…../my ir material is major chunck from your blog…so, please complete this series of blog…

  8. Sir Hindi medium materials provide me. Sir . Sir

    Aap bhu seminar me aye the 2019 me. Us time Mai apse world history ke book ke bare me puchhi thi. Thank you sir. For great job 🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏

  9. Prateek Gautam

    Just one word – Great. The article was so concise yet so informative. Please continue this series, Sir.

  10. Hello Somesh Sir,

    Thanks for sharing this insightful article about Indian Foreign Policy. I am also an upsc aspirant and just wanted to know that are these principles still there or is there any changes or modification to them.

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