By: Dr.Rajkumar Singh
Foreign policy is an instrument to serve the goals and national interest of a country. Managing relations with other states is a necessary activity of every state. This activity may very generally be called the framing of foreign policy. It arises from two facts of the international situation. Firstly, that no state is an immured island but a member of a society of states participation of which is inescapable. Secondly, in the international society power is decentralised, that is, distributed among states in unequal measure. Foreign policy assessment of a state includes: i. a general evaluation of a state’s economic, military and international position in relation to other states which may be its neighbours, friends, allies, rivals or enemies; ii. an appraisal of its capabilities for bold action, caution, self-reliance, isolation, economic ties, or military or political alignment; iii. developing broad principles of conduct for itself and for international relations generally; and iv. adopting strategies, tactics and commitments.
Background of theoretical principles
The contradiction inherent in the cold war brought about a situation in which it became essential for the newly independent states to assert their determination to stay independent of either of the two blocs. Alignment with the West was economically attractive but the dependent economic relationship it would have created was perceived by most of the newly independent nations as likely to prevent self reliant growth. Political alignment with the Communist bloc was also not viable option for developing countries which were not prepared for a revolution to restructure its society and economy. While cooperating with the US for realizing these goals, India needs to remain very cautious as regards its commitment towards the policy of Non-alignment as well as that of the movement in order to arouse self confidence among the developing nations and also to win their unflinching support to the goals and ideals of NAM, so that NAM remains united, vigorous and working for achieving its unfulfilled dream of freedom, justice, equity and peace in the world. The changes that took place in international system emphasised the enormity of an event which altered the course of contemporary world balance.
Later,the changes that have brought the phase of post-cold war to our doorsteps also compel us to examine about the Non-aligned Movement and the foreign policy associated with it. Those who feel that the non-aligned movement is no more relevant fail to realise that logically it will continue to be a force against any global domination–multipolar, bipolar or unipolar. It is a movement against the domination of great powers over the weak powers. Even in the post – cold war period and thereafter any country or group of countries that turn dominating will be opposed by the members of the non-aligned movement. At present India is the most developed among the developing countries and therefore, it should guide if not lead them in the struggle for a new international order based on equality, equity and mutual benefits. The new situation arising due to the end of Cold War and emergence of the United States as a single superpower have presented before us the problem to study India and its policy of non-alignment in the entirely changed context.
Prevailing foreign policy approaches
Traditionally, there are two basic approaches applied to the study of foreign policy since the days of the French Revolution. One is ideological approach, according to which the policies of states vis-à-vis the rest of the world are merely expressions of prevailing political social and religious beliefs. In this category foreign policies are classified as democratic or totalitarian, libertarian or socialist and peace-loving or aggressive. The second approach to foreign policy is analytical. At the heart of this viewpoint is the proposition that policy rests on multiple determinants, including the state’s historic tradition, geographical location, national interest, and purposes and security needs. The apparent shortcomings of the psychological or ideological approach, especially in accounting for present day international development made the analytical approach popular and acceptable.
In the early postwar period, it was felt by several western countries that in sphere of foreign policy means, methods, or techniques may have changed, but the interests and objectives have been relatively constant. Gradually, it became obvious in the light of international developments that a foreign policy is nothing more than a by –product of domestic politics could hardly do justice to the elements of continuity in national policy. At some point, it became necessary to recognise that objective requirements of the national interest place certain irremovable limits upon any statesman seeking to formulate foreign policy.
Regardless of the intentions, social philosophy or religious outlook of individuals, there are broad strategic interests intimately bound up with a nation’s geographic position and international role that must be safeguarded if its independence is to be preserved.
But the prevailing approaches to the study of foreign policy provide no ready –made categories that can be applied to every nation. A state’s foreign policy is the course or courses of action that its government adopts in dealing with other states with a view to attaining its national interest, goals and objectives. Nations, at large, differ in national context or elements of foreign policy that are more or less material in character. Some of these are relatively permanent, such as geography and natural resources.
Others, like the economic, industrial, and military establishment are more responsive to change and human manipulation. Then there are human factors, largely quantitative in the case of population, and qualitative as regards national character, social structure, national morale, political institutions and experience and an effective tradition of diplomacy.
Practice as today
Every country must have a foreign policy for a fuller and systematic involvement in the international relations. While formulating the principles of its foreign policy a country has to keep its domestic conditions as well as the realities of the external environments. The sum total of the goals and objectives of a nation’s foreign policy constitute its national interest as the nation conceives it. It is the concept of national interest that helps the nation decide the order of priorities among different objectives and goals. National interest is a matter of crucial concern in the perusal of any foreign policy, for it is a key factor thereof. Although national interest in its details differs from country to country the core of national interest is the same for different countries. All countries big and small desire and continually search for national security. Security implies, at the minimum level, national independence and territorial integrity.
A state’s national interest is rooted in the deepest soil of its consciousness and cultural identity of its people. Its value roots lies in the state’s unique historical background, its political institutions, traditions, mass belief, that is, ideologies, economic need, power factors, aspirations, peculiar geographic circumstances and the basic set of values. It has characteristic permanence in a relative sense in as much as a state continues to hold it at least as long as a particular political system endures. Basic conceptions of national interest have, however, to be adapted to changes in world political, economic, technological, military and even ideological conditions.