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Chapter: 12th Political Science : Chapter 9 : India and the World

Evolution of India’s foreign policy (1947-54)

In the pre-independence era India’s foreign policy was the responsibility of the British Raj.

India and the World

Evolution of India’s foreign policy (1947-54)

Independence and Partition

In the pre-independence era India’s foreign policy was the responsibility of the British Raj. India contributed to the British victory in the second world war by providing necessary man power and materials. With the end of the Second World War in 1945 and the subsequent independence of India in August 1947 from the British Raj, India had to deal with the outside world by herself and have to build her own foreign policy. The post-war global political events and India’s own political climate shaped India’s foreign policy.

The world was polarised into two military blocs and each bloc tried to overcome the other which was known as the Cold War. Though a major war was averted, each bloc was spending enormous money in military buildups due to which tense condition prevailed. The newly liberated countries were not in a position to squander their resources in conflicts between two military blocs. They had to divert all their reources for nation building. An ideological battle known as the Cold War happened between the two superpowers of that time – the United States of America and the Soviet Union. These were also extraordinary global circumstances with the emergence of newer nations from the clutches of colonisation with new boundaries. There was large scale human migration taking place across continents while the war-tired Western powers were working on framing a new world order. The world also witnessed the formation of the United Nations Organisation on October 24 1945, through the Atlantic Charter.

Jawaharlal Nehru was the architec of India’s foreign policy. India’s ideological alignment, its role in the U.N and its commitment to a peaceful world were at stake. Nehru’s foreign policy took in to consideration, independent India’s priorities such as nation’s socio-economic development, modernization, global peace, avoidance of war, peaceful and constructive relationship with other nations, decolonization of Afro-Asian countries, strengthening the UN and economic cooperation with other countries.

Pakistan was formed after the partition of the Indian sub-continent in 1947. This event witnessed the largest transporation of refugees across the boundary in human history. The Kashmir issue continues to be one of the fundamental aspects that drives India’s foreign policy causing three wars since 1947.


Panchsheel and Non-Aligned Movement (1954-1991)

Nehru also firmly believed that India must develop and maintain a close friendship with its neighbours, especially with China as both countries have a long history of civilizational and cultural ties. This led to the signing of the Panchsheel Treaty between India and China in 1954 between Nehru and the Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai. The Panchsheel consists of five principles with which the two nations would conduct relations between them. This included;

Panchsheel Principles

·           Respecting each other’s territory and sovereignty

·           Non-aggression

·           Non-interference in each other’s internal affairs

·           Diplomatic equality and cooperation

·           Peaceful Co-existence

Despite the agreement, India and China eventually fought a war in 1962 on border disputes. The border dispute between the two nations stands till now and it is one of the top issues that determine India’s foreign policy. Attempts are onto resolve this issue through negotiations.

Pandit Nehru, who held the position of Minister for External Affairs for 17 years (1947-64) was assertive about India having its own foreign policy without getting caught in the Cold War. This led to the formation of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in 1961.

Bandung Conference(Indonesia) held on April 18-24, 1955 attended by 29 Heads of States are the immediate antecedent for the creation of Non-Aligned Movement.

Nehru was one of the founding fathers of the NAM along with Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Ahmed Sukarno of Indonesia and Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia. Nehru repeatedly explained the concept of ‘Non-Alliance’ that it did not mean neutrality, Non-Alliance meant not committing militarily to any super powers or military bloc, but retaining independence to decide issues on the basis of merit and concentrating on peaceful cooperation among nations. It was this freedom of choice that enabled India to procure arms from western countries during its war with China, and enter into a diplomatic treaty with Soviet Union just before the Bangladesh war in 1971.

The thought of not aligning with the two power blocs existed even before the formation of NAM. The Bandung Asian-African Conference held in 1955 had the principles of such a movement which later became the foundation of NAM in 1961.

As a powerful advocate of decolonisation of Asia and Africa, Nehru’s India envisioned the NAM as an alternative to the USA and the Soviet Union blocs for newly emerging independent countries. This was the central idea of NAM which several new nations decided to be part of as they did not want their country to become a theatre for the cold war.


Fall of the Soviet Union and Economic Liberalisation (1991-present)

The economic compulsion, casued by the fall of Soviet Union and the rise of Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation – LPG forced India to move away from its largely socialistic economy to a market economy. India hence had to open its doors to Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) and it was the beginning of improving relations with the USA.

In present days, India faces a new set of challenges and its foreign policy is tranformed, without changing its core principles, to cope with the ever-changing nature of geopolitics. China has become one of the world powers which has a bearing in South Asia and our neighbourhood policy. With a growing economy, India has also become a regional power and hence it needs to be more responsible than ever before. These changes require India to finetune its foreign policy to protect its interests and improve ties with its neighbours.

Other factors that have contributed in building India’s relations with the outside world over the years include its civilian and defence Nuclear capability and its increasing presence in key international institutions such as the BRICS, G20, SCO, MTCR, etc.. Having steadily grown in stature, several global powers have voiced their opinion for the inclusion of India as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. TO summarise the essence of India’s foreign policy, it is worthy to mention that it holds a rare distinction of being the only nation to have friendly ties with Israel, Iran, Palestine and Saudi Arabia.


Have a discussion on the ‘Ten Principles of Bandung’ under the guidance of your teacher in the class.

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12th Political Science : Chapter 9 : India and the World : Evolution of India’s foreign policy (1947-54) |

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