The dominating ideology of India’s freedom struggle undoubtedly got reflected in its post-independence foreign policy. While formulating India’s foreign policy, the policy makers put the national interest at the core of it, along with the strategy to carve out an independent role for it in world politics. Accordingly, following objectives attained most important positions in its foreign policy:
1. Preservation of Sovereignty and Independence
At the time of India’s independence, world was divided into two hostile camps; a socialist block led by the USSR and a capitalist group led by the USA. The ideological rivalry between them had brought the world on the brink of the Third World War with the possibility of devastating consequences for the human race. Each block was cemented with military alliances among its member countries. What was of independent India’s concern was their rivalry in fetching newly free countries in their respective military alliances. This gave birth to what is now popularly referred as Cold War between the two superpowers where in both sides fought each other with all other means but the actual direct war. Free India wanted to preserve its hard own sovereignty and autonomy in decision making under such difficult international conditions prevailing at that time. Indian leadership was more than convinced that such a country of vast geographical proportion, huge population, rich talents and ancient living civilization had been destined to play a major role in world affairs. However, this role can be performed only by maintaining its independent voice in international relations. Also, developmental needs of newly free country demanded preservation and promotion of peaceful international environment, which was threatened by the two rival factions in world politics. This understanding formed the crux of decision- making in the realm of formulating and navigating India’s foreign policy in the post-independence years.
2. National Development
At the time of independence, India was underdeveloped in industrial production, while its agriculture was based on backward means. Vast number of its people had been lingering in perpetual poverty accompanied by ill-health and illiteracy. Therefore, the foremost task before the policy- makers was to ensure rapid development of industry and agriculture, which would result into reduction of poverty and increase in living standards of the masses. In this context, national development acquired prime position in its pursuit of relations with other countries. India was not only in the need of industrial products but sought the technology itself to produce them at home. Similarly, import of food grain was immediate need to feed the hungry stomachs, but vast increase in food production was planned and eventually implemented. Foreign policy was accordingly tailored to meet these needs and goals in the short and long terms.
India benefited from its relations with both the Superpowers as well as with European countries and Commonwealth nations. The food-grain imports from both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. eased the scarcity at home, while the U.S. and European countries helped India to usher into Green Revolution. The Soviet willingness to cooperate in building up industrial base ensured growth of Public Sector Units that formed the backbone of industrial development in India. Similarly, India consciously continued its membership of Commonwealth, which represented a group of nations under the British control. Since India’s most of the trade in its pre-independence period occurred among Commonwealth countries, even on preferential basis, India’s ejection from the group would have heart its trade interests and ultimately the national development. As a result, India decided to remain the Commonwealth member even when it became sovereign and independent.
3. Protection of Interests of People of Indian Origin Abroad
India’s foreign policy devotes much of its attention to protect interests of Indians settled abroad. During the 19th century, many Indians settled in various countries of Africa, Asia and Asia-Pacific region. They made valuable contributions in development of economy and modern society in those countries. However, in few such countries, they became victims of discrimination and government apathy. Indian government consistently attempted to protect their interests and rights, and accordingly have been taking up such matters with the concerned government and in international forums if necessary. In 20th Century and onwards, many Indians settled in Western countries, Gulf countries and South-East Asian countries to pursue their education or career in respective fields, wherein they have become important part of those countries’ economy in short span of time. Indian government takes up matters of any type of discrimination or violence against Similarly; Indian traders have been visiting several countries for business purpose, including not so friendly countries like China and Pakistan. It is an important aim of India’s foreign policy to ensure safety and protection of their rights in those countries.
4. Decolonization of Asia and Africa
India had witnessed the misery and humiliation due to colonial rule for about two centuries. Therefore, it was natural for the Indian people to stand in solidarity with the nations that had been struggling to become free from the clutches of colonial powers. Indian foreign policy vociferously articulated this position and played active role in promoting decolonization of African and Asian nations. India realized that end to hegemony of few powers had become a pre-condition to world peace and development of all the people. The decolonization was a major step in that direction. Moreover, India was victim of colonization even after attaining independence as people in Goa continued to suffer under Portugal rule. India’s plea for ending Portuguese rule in Goa felt on the deaf ears of western powers, who stood in support of Portugal. Ultimately, India responded to people’s movement in Goa against the Portugal rule by sending in Police forces to get rid of colonial control. India’s role in supporting and mobilizing world opinion in favour of independence of Indonesia, Vietnam, Congo, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco etc was commendable, even though it invited wrath of colonial powers. In the same spirit, India supported Palestine’s struggle for statehood. In 1971, India militarily intervened in liberation of East Pakistan, which had waged a heroic battle against military rule of Pakistan against the wishes of their people.
5. End to Racialism
Racialism not only suppressed the rights of many people in the world but also threatened the world peace at large. Anti-Semitism in Europe, absence of civil rights to Afro- Americans in the U.S., apartheid in South Africa and suppression of Palestine’s freedom etc. resulted in denial of basic human rights to vast number of people due to their color, race, belief or religion. People of Indian origin were also victim of racial policies in South Africa and many other dominions in African continent. Also, one of the major reasons of Second World War was racist outlook of Hitler’s Nazism and Mussolini’s Fascism. These were reasons enough for India to adopt staunch anti-racial stand in world politics. Nehru clearly stated India’s position in following words: “We repudiate utterly the Nazi doctrine of racialism wheresoever and in whatsoever form it may be practiced. We seek no domination over others and we claim no privileged position over other people. But we do claim equality and honourable treatment of our people wherever they may go and we cannot accept any discrimination.” On 22nd March, 1949, Nehru told the Indian Councils in his speech that if racial discrimination was to continue in the world, there was bound to be conflicts on a big scale because it is a continuous challenge to the self-respect of vast number of people in the world and they will not put up with it….And that conflict will not be confined to particular areas in South Africa or elsewhere; it will affect people in vast continents.” Accordingly, India highlighted the racial discriminations at international level. It had severely condemned The White regime in South Africa and initiated international sanctions against it by mobilizing world opinion in the United Nations. India also condemned racist policies in Rhodesia and expressed its solidarity with the civil rights movement in America.