Cold War, Nehru and Non Alignment
After the end of World War II, the political dynamics of the world changed from a multipolar to bipolar world. Those nations that were gripped in war were experiencing severe economic hardships and in the midst of this, two superpowers emerged, The United States of America and the then USSR (United Soviet Socialist Republic). For decades we witnessed neck to neck competition between the two in every sphere, from sports to military powers. The World was thus divided into two blocs- the western bloc (NATO) and the Eastern bloc (Warsaw Pact). The era was quite passive; mostly war like, due to its intensity came to be known as Cold War era.
The viewpoint of India’s foreign policy was “no role, no involvement”, hence India distanced itself from any of the major superpowers of the world, USA and the former USSR.
The first Prime Minister of independent India, Jawaharlal Nehru equipped the nation not only with a domestic vision but also a vision to see international arena. He was a national leader with a global view and also the founding father of independent India’s foreign policy. His policy, his structured way to interact on the international arena is relevant to us still today, till some contexts.
During the era of the Cold War, India was a newly independent nation whose existence and survival was questioned by intellectuals around the world. It was on the verge of establishing its first independently elected government and policies to disintegrate against all adversities. The viewpoint of India’s foreign policy was “no role, no involvement”, hence India distanced itself from any of the major superpowers of the world, USA and the former USSR. This policy later came to be known as Non Alignment. The Non Alignment movement was founded in Belgrade in 1961, and was attended by first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru; Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno; Egypt’s second president, Gamal Abdel Nasser; Ghana’s first president Kwame Nkrumah; and Yugoslavia’s president, Josip Broz Tito. Many third world nations joined India’s initiative. This initiative of Jawaharlal Nehru was very essential for India as it did not want to support any power nation nor it wanted to come under their influence and hence, a formulation of a non aligned foreign policy took place.
Once John Foster Dulles, US Secretary of State, asked Nehru “Are you with us or against us?” and Nehru replied “Yes”. Non Alignment was not just a policy of neutrality; it was a tool for an independent decision making.
India was independent but, independence came with a price. India was facing numerous issues, which it had to fight. It had to rebuild a long dead economy and unite itself. It was on the verge of establishing itself as a free sovereign nation thus, economic relations with other countries were restricted. Hence, during this time foreign policy were simply based on morals and ideas.
Nehru pursued a “macro” approach in foreign policy while Indira Gandhi took a “micro” approach as she was quite determined to establish India as a regional power.
Indira Gandhi and the second half of Cold War
Indira Gandhi became 4th Prime Minister of India in 1966. She was elected twice from 1966-1977 and again from 1979-1984. During her tenure, Gandhi introduced many changes in India’s foreign policy. She used her father’s policies as theoretical base for new guidelines; however she introduced some notable changes in the “implementation side”. Nehru pursued a “macro” approach in foreign policy while Indira Gandhi took a “micro” approach as she was quite determined to establish India as a regional power. She opposed the role India being a spiritual leader on international arena. She didn’t agree with her father’s policy of non alignment and established close relations with one superpower, while removing other from the equation. Thus, Indira Gandhi was the one who made India a strong regional power with a strong military.
Foreign Relations during Indira’s Rule
In 1971, India fought its third war with Pakistan, in support of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). Supported by Soviet Union, India became victorious in just 11 months, which resulted in the independence of Bangladesh. Following the war India enjoyed close ties with Bangladesh. Despite India’s contribution in its liberation, many leaders in Bangladesh, especially military feared that the intervention had client state of India, antagonised by the Bangladeshi leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The assassination of Mujibur Rahman in 1975 led to the emergence of Islamist extremism, who wanted to distance Bangladesh from India. Indira Gandhi’s relations with the regimes were quite restrained as she was supporting the anti Islamist forces in Bangladesh.
In the beginning of 70’s, India had friendly relations with Sri Lanka. Indira Gandhi had maintained a cordial relation with the Sri Lankan Prime Minister, Sirimavo Bandaranaike. India endorsed Sri Lanka’s socialist government under Bandaranaike. In the beginning of Sri Lankan Civil War (1980’s), insurgencies were carried against the Government of Sri Lanka by Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE). In the wake of Operation Black Serpent in 1983, Gandhi rejected demands to invade Sri Lanka. She however emphasised on the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka and expressed that India cannot “remain a silent spectator to any injustice done to the Tamil Community”.
India’s relations with Pakistan grew intense even post Shimla agreement.
Indira Gandhi’s armed intervention in the liberation of Bangladesh, created massive dislike in West Pakistan, or today, Pakistan. India and Pakistan fought for the second time in 1971. India emerged victorious and, East Pakistan, or Bangladesh became independent. After the war, tensions between India and Pakistan increased. To prevent more conflict, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi along with her Pakistani counterpart Zulfikar Ali Bhutto signed the Shimla Accord in 1972. The agreement converted the cease fire line of December 17, 1971 into the Line of Control (LOC) between India and Pakistan and it was agreed that “neither side shall seek to alter it unilaterally, irrespective of mutual differences and legal interpretations”. India’s relations with Pakistan grew intense even post Shimla agreement. In 1974, Indira Gandhi oversaw the nation’s first nuclear explosion in Pokhran. Pakistani PM, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto perceived this as a threat to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, establish its dominance in Asia. In 1976, both the leaders met again to commence diplomatic talks in an effort to ease the tensions between the two states.
India’s relation with Pakistan worsened after the rise of General Zia-ul-Haq’s in Pakistan. General Zia had ties with Khalistani militants in Punjab, and militant infiltration began after Gandhi’s authorization of Operation Meghdoot to capture the Siachen Glacier in 1984.
USSR (United Soviet Socialist Republics)
The Soviet Union supported Indian army and the Mukti Bahini throughout the 1971. The Soviet Union assured India of its extensive support to India even during US and Pakistan faceoff. With deep root ties with India, Soviet Union assured for counter support to India if the situation escalated.
Under the leadership Indira Gandhi, India’s relations with Russia strengthened substantially. Gandhi had a very clear foreign agenda, only “pro-Indian”
In August 1971, the Indo – Soviet treaty of friendship and cooperation was signed between Gandhi and Khrushchev. The treaty mainly involved promotion of friendship, peace and security both at bilateral and international levels. Under the leadership Gandhi, India’s relations with Russia strengthened substantially. Gandhi had a very clear foreign agenda, only “pro-Indian”. Indian critics said that she was very stubborn on her stand, leaning toward Moscow to an extent which was quite difficult and also embarrassing during the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan.
USA (United States of America)
Under the leadership of Indira Gandhi, tensions with the US were quite sour. Frictions between India and the US occurred fro many reasons. America’s stands for Pakistan were very different from India’s. Pakistan and the US were allies throughout the conflict; hence going out war against Pakistan was not an option. One of the most important reason why US came helping was India’s strengthen ties with the Soviets. Gandhi had a different approach, hence she had to deviate from her father’s non aligned agenda, leaning more towards the Soviet and removing the US. The Americans could not accept the Indo- Soviet Treaty of friendship and co-operation.
Post Cold War (1991 – 1996)
Following the 1991 parliamentary elections, P.V. Narsimha Rao became India’s 10th Prime Minister. The end of the cold war brought many changes in the international order. The era of bipolar world politics and bloc politics in international relations came to an end in 1991. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the US retained its position of sole power nation. All the nations, including India witnessed this sudden change in international relations, hence, Indian leaders were now tasked to rethink and reshape their foreign policy.
The post cold war foreign policy of India was linked quiet closely with the India’s economic policy.
Indian foreign policy under P.V. Narasimha Rao was greatly focussed on building relations with the US. Many experts believed that Indian foreign policy post 1991 was based on building strong relations with not only the United States, but also with the European Union, Russia, China, Japan, Israel, Brazil, South Africa followed by economically stable nations in Southeast Asia.
The post cold war foreign policy of India was linked quiet closely with the India’s economic policy. The economic crisis of 1991 – 92, Rao’s government realised that international relations were better for the nation if economics is added in it, as economics played a very determining factor in the soci political equations. Rao’s government then introduced new economic policy. This policy reform was welcomed by the US and other industrialised nations.
India’s relation with the US gradually improved after 1991. P.V Narasimha Rao also tried to improve relations with “just” neighbours Pakistan, China, Nepal and Sri Lanka. India extended its relations with the NATO member nations and successfully established a formal strategic partnership with Israel in 1992.
Today India’s foreign policy has established one of the most important strategic relations with global nations. Coming down the lane, earlier, India’s foreign policy was just a principle rather than a practice. India soon became an example for all the emerging economies in the world. Experts believe that India’s foreign policy is based on “multi- alignment”. India’s foreign policy is now more focussed on strategic partnership for domestic development. Standing firmly on the values of peace and sovereignty, India shares diplomatic relations with most countries. India has attained a prominent voice in global affairs over the years.
Russia is the leading weapons supplier for the nation. Israel has emerged as India’s second largest strategic and military partner. India also has restructured its foreign policy with the US.
India has become one of the leaders in the developing world. It is a member of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) group of nations. India is also a member of United Nations, the G20 industrial nations, the World Trade Organisation, International Monetary Fund (IMF) among many. Territorially, India is a part of South Asian Association for Regional cooperation (SAARC) and the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multispectral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC). India has also established close ties with Arab League, Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the African Union. Today, the nation is building strong relations with the USA, China, EU, Pakistan, Brazil, Japan, Israel and Mexico.
Currently, Russia is the leading weapons supplier for the nation. Israel has emerged as India’s second largest strategic and military partner. India also has restructured its foreign policy with the US. India’s “Look East Policy” is also reformed, enabling partnerships with Southeast Asian countries. India is also a charter member of United Nations and is a member of many UN agencies. India has been calling for support for the seat of Permanent membership in the UNSC. It is also a member of the G4 groups of nations, constituting Brazil, Japan and Germany, all wanting permanent representation in the UNSC. It justifies its demand for permanent representation on the grounds that it is the second most populous country in the world, the world’s largest democracy, and it is the third largest in terms of purchasing power parity, the world’s ninth largest economy and maintains the third largest army in the world.