What are the internal determinants of Foreign Policy?

Following are the internal determinants of foreign policy:

1. Size

Territorial size of a state influences its foreign policy in a sense that bigger the size greater role the state can play in international politics. India’s ambitions to achieve great power status in world politics can be attributed to its size, which is 7th largest sovereign state in the world. Similarly, one of the major factors of importance of United States, Russia and China is their gigantic size. On the other hand, smaller countries generally do not get opportunities to perform larger than life roles in international arena. Smaller island countries in the Asia-Pacific region and in Africa continent do not play significant roles in world politics. Big size makes the geographical location of a state crucial in international sphere. India is geo-politically important in world politics because its vast size places it at the inter-junction of South-East Asia, Central Asia, West Asia, South Asian countries and China. India’s huge population, if seen in terms of human resources, also provides strength to its foreign policy. No important country in the world can ignore such a vast size of people, and on the other hand, India needs co- operation from other states to fulfill growing needs of its population. Thus, territorial size, geographical location and population play important role in determining a state’s foreign policy.

However, there are examples of smaller countries acquiring importance in international domain, either due to its substantial population, or geographical location, or superior economy. A case of Bangla Desh fits in the first scenario, while a land-locked country like Nepal becomes important due to its location between two emerging powers, i.e. India and China. Japan and South Korea have gained much superior status in world politics, in comparison to other countries of their size, due to their rich economic structures. Their substantial population within a small territory and geographical location in the Pacific Ocean adjacent to Russia and China are also the factors in their emergence at world stage. In the recent past, a small-size Britain dominated world politics for about two centuries due to its advance maritime, industrial and management skills. In today’s world, comparatively smaller countries in the West Asian region have acquired importance due to rich oil and gas resources. On the other hand, big size countries like Australia and Canada are not significant actors in international politics because of their isolated location and smaller population.

2. Geography

A state’s climate, fertility of soil, access to water- ways, deposits of mineral resources, diversity of crops, availability of drinking water etc. affect and influence its foreign policy. Sufficiency of these factors makes the state self- sufficient, and thus, it can assert in relations with other states. It is observed that land-locked countries, countries in the tropic region and those bordering superpowers are more dependent on other states than the countries with access to warm ports, in the temperate region and at a considerable distance from superpowers. After independence, India could not be compelled to join either of superpower blocks and it could formulate its own policy of non-alignment because it had more than one ways of doing trade with other countries, it was confident of developing capacities to utilize natural resources and development of agriculture, and it was at a geographical distance from the then superpowers, i.e. U.S. and U.S.S.R.

3. History and Culture

Historical experiences and cultural traditions of a state exert influence on its foreign policy. Generally, state with unified culture and common history finds it easier to formulate effective and consistent foreign policy. In such a case, overwhelming majority of people, who share similar experiences and common perceptions of historical events, support the state’s foreign policy. On the other hand, country with divergent cultures and various historical experiences in its different parts, finds it difficult to formulate foreign policy in unison. Without a common anti-colonial legacy and deep-rooted culture of peace and co-operation in Indian society, it was not possible for the government to formulate country’s foreign policy in post-independence era. Yet, of late, Indian government has been increasingly facing dilemma in its foreign policy on such issues as nuclearisation, strengthening relations with Israel, engaging Pakistan, atrocities on Tamils in Sri Lanka etc. It is, indeed, an enormous challenge before the policymakers in India to generate unanimity in the country on its foreign policy; given the vastness, diversity, different regions’ geographical proximity with neighboring countries and lineages across the borders.

4. Economic Development

Level of economic development influences state’s foreign policy in more than one ways. Advanced industrialist countries play dominant role in world politics, and formulate their foreign policies to maintain such superiority. These countries have large resources at their disposal to build military capabilities on one hand, and disperse monetary benefits on other states in the form of aid and loan. They remain in constant search of new markets for their products, access to raw and natural resources as well as skilled and unskilled labour. It makes pertinent on them to develop close diplomatic ties with other states and encourage people to people contacts among them. Developing countries, too, follow their suit to receive benefits of trade and technological breakthroughs. However, developing countries remain dependent on advanced industrialist countries to a large extent to get developmental loans, import of technologies and even food-grains to meet their ends. Accordingly, it has to adjust its foreign policy. Similarly poor or least developed countries orient their foreign policy to garner maximum support from rich nations, in the form of aid, technology, provisions of health-care and access to higher education etc. In recent years, we have witnessed that Germany is playing leading role in Europe’s politics, despite not being permanent member of U.N.S.C. and being a non-nuclear state. Germany’s increased weightage is entirely attributed to its economic development. Talks of emergence of China and India on world stage are based on their economic resurgence in recent years. On the contrary, in post-cold war period, Russia’s influence waned to a considerable extent as its economic power has diminished after disintegration of U.S.S.R. In fact, one of the prominent reasons of collapse of U.S.S.R.-led communist block was said to be stagnant economic conditions prevailing for many years in those countries.

5. Technological Progress

Economic development and technological progress are closely inter-wined with each other. As a result, economically developed countries have technological advantage too. The advance industrialized countries provide technological equipment and know-how to developing and poor countries, but can exert such leverage to mould their foreign policy. Technological breakthroughs in military sphere have further increased developing world’s dependency on advance countries. Rosenau rightly says, “Technological changes can alter military and economic capabilities of a society and thus its status and role in the international system.” (James N Rosenau, in Thompson and Boyd, (eds), World Politics: An Introduction, pp.21-22) However, developing countries can counterbalance advance countries technological dominance by producing semi-skilled, skilled and trained human resources. Today, Germany, South Korea and Japan are in a position to play crucial roles in international politics due to their technological excellence. On the other hand, India and China have gained currency in world politics because of their capabilities in adapting to new technologies due to their technically skilled labour force.

6. Military Preparedness

Capabilities of a state to defend its borders against armed aggression plays important role in its foreign policy. Militarily capable states exercise greater independence from external forces in formulating their foreign policy. Increased military preparedness of a country might result in change in its foreign policy. Indian foreign policy has acquired new dimensions after nuclearisation, as it attempts to gain the status equivalent to P-5 countries. Since country’s pride is associated with military victories; in the case of defeat, state suffers international humiliation that negatively affects its foreign policy. India has undergone this experience after the 1962 boundary war with China, when its prestige declined among third world countries. India had regained the lost pride and prestige in 1971 when it decisively defeated Pakistan that resulted into latter’s partition and creation of Bangla Desh.

7. National Capacity

National capacity of a state is comprised of its economic development, technological progress and military capability. It exercises profound influence on state’s foreign policy. In early 20th century, the United States changed its foreign policy from that of isolation to engagement, as its national capacity had seen tremendous increments during that period. Similarly, today, China is exerting its influence in international politics as it has become confident of its national capacity.

8. Social Structure

Social structure influences, albeit indirectly, foreign policy of any country. It is true that it is difficult to measure divisions or homogeneity of a particular society, and more difficult is to judge its impact on foreign policy. However, it is certain that changes in social structure cause a change in the foreign policy in long term. A state divided on racial or religious or regional lines struggle to put forward its best possible foreign policy, as it becomes difficult for it to receive co-operation from all quarters of society. On the other side, a homogenous society produces more coherent, and even aggressive, foreign policy. In post-World War II era, nationalism and other ideologies were used to bridge the social differences to strengthen country’s foreign policy.

9. Ideology of State

A proclaimed ideology of the state comprehensively influences its foreign policy. In 1930s, Nazi Germany’s emphasis upon superiority of Aryan race played important role in its foreign policy. Similarly, United States and U.S.S.R.’s stated objectives of promotion of democratic system and socialist system respectively dominated much of their respective foreign policies during cold war period. Ideological preferences of the state reflect upon process of policy formulation as well.

State with democratic values of open debate and dissent tend to listen to the public opinion seriously. Under democratic set up, pressure groups, political parties with different shades of ideologies and press indulges in public opinion making that deeply influences foreign policy of a country. In 1970s, the United States government bowed to tremendous domestic pressure to withdraw from the Vietnam War. It is said that the United States actually lost that war within its borders than in Vietnam. On the contrary, there was no scope for building such public opinion in erstwhile U.S.S.R. due to its authoritarian set up, which had emanated from its ideological understanding of Dictatorship of Proletariat. In authoritarian systems, only government’s positions on foreign policy issues are allowed to be published in the press. Electronic media is also monopolized with government propaganda on foreign policy. In democratic systems, press plays important role in discussing government’s actions and inactions, and in the process determining its foreign policy. Thus, role of press becomes important in democratic systems in disseminating information and views on foreign policy of respective governments.

10.Spread of Internet

Internet, particularly social media websites, circulation of bulk e-mails, news portals and blogospheres have begun to influence state’s foreign policy. Dissemination of internet services in any society, even if for commercial or scientific purposes, leads towards its emergence as a tool of public debate and opinion making. In China, even after governmental restrictions and vigilance, Internet has become a medium for people to express their opinions. During diplomatic crisis of bombing of Chinese embassy in erstwhile Yugoslavia and Japanese premier’s controversial visits to war shrines, public opinion generated on internet sites created immense pressure on Chinese government to act decisively to defend country’s sovereignty and honour respectively. In coming days, Internet is bound to play an increasing role in the state’s foreign policy.

11. Form of Government

Form of government established in a state plays its role in a country’s foreign policy. Totalitarian or authoritative forms of government, such as governments in one- party system or under complete control of military junta, are capable of quick foreign policy decisions. In such systems, decision-making is restricted to elite core within the government, making it easier to formulate foreign policy. However, it is observed that decision-making under closed system has often, if not always, lead to country’s isolation in international politics as happened with the regimes in North Korea and Myanmar. Dissenting voices are suppressed by oppressive methods like detention, censorship and promulgation of strict regulations.

On the other hand, within democratic systems, different forms of government act differently in formulating the foreign policy. In West-ministerial system, executives lead the decision- making process of foreign policy formulation. The legislature does debate government’s foreign policy in parliamentary system, however, it is not necessary for the latter to ask for legislative consent for foreign treaties and agreements. Thus, governments in parliamentary system enjoy considerable autonomy of decision-making in foreign policy matters. Under the U.S. style presidential system, Congress’ nod is essential for execution of any treaty or agreement with other states and foreign entities. The Congress can even initiate and pass legislations on foreign policy matters that are binding on the President of the United States for execution. In a bi-party polity, generally, the government of the day enjoys clear majority on its own, which makes it less susceptible to opposition or allies’ pressure in its foreign policy. In a multi-party polity, coalition governments have to sort out conflicting view points and interests of two or more ruling parties. This may lead to avoidance or postponement of the decision on foreign policy.

12. Leadership

Leadership plays influential role in the country’s foreign policy. Rosenau says, “A leader’s belief about the nature of international arena and the goals that ought to be pursued therein, his or her peculiar intellectual strengths and weakness for analyzing information and making decisions, his or her past background and the extent of its relevance to the requirements of the role, his or her emotional needs and most of other personality traits these are but a few of the idiosyncratic factors that can influence the planning and execution of foreign policy.” (James N Rosenau in Rosenau, Thompson and Boyd, (Eds), World Politics: An Introduction, p.28) Even though, government structure and societal realities constrain the qualities of a leader, during crisis time the leader shows the path to the government and society. Winston Churchil’s astute leadership had steered the England to victory in second World war, while Indira Gandhi’s apt decision-making in 1971 helped India not only to defeat Pakistan militarily but also to counter diplomatic pressures applied by the United States and China on the latter’s behest. In recent years, AtalBihari Vajpayee’s leadership played crucial role in breaking the self-imposed freeze on country’s nuclearization.

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