India has formal diplomatic relations with most nations; it is the world’s second most populous country, the world’s mostpopulous democracy and one of the fastest growing major economies. With the world’s seventh largest military expenditure, ninth largest economy by nominal rates and third largest by purchasing power parity, India is a regional power, a nascent great power and a potential superpower.
India’s growing international influence gives it a prominent voice in global affairs. The Economist magazine argues, however, that underinvestment in diplomacy and a lack of strategic vision have minimised India’s influence in the world. India is a newly industrialised country, it has a long history of collaboration with several countries and is considered one of the leaders of the developing world along with China, Brazil, Russia and South Africa (the BRICS countries). India was one of the founding members of several international organisations, most notably the United Nations, the Asian Development Bank, G20 industrial nations and the founder of the Non-aligned movement.
India has often represented the interests of developing countries at various international platforms. Shown here is Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with Dmitry Medvedev, Hu Jintao and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva during BRIC summit
India has also played an important and influential role in other international organisations like East Asia Summit, World Trade Organisation, International Monetary Fund (IMF), G8+5 and IBSA Dialogue Forum. Regionally, India is a part of SAARC and BIMSTEC. India has taken part in several UN peacekeeping missions and in 2007, it was the secondlargest troop contributor to the United Nations. India is currently seeking a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, along with the G4 nations. India’s relations with the world have evolved since the British Raj (1857–1947), when the British Empire monopolised external and defence relations. When India gained independence in 1947, few Indians had experience in making or conducting foreign policy. However, the country’s oldest political party, the Indian National Congress, had established a small foreign department in 1925 to make overseas contacts and to publicise its freedom struggle.
From the late 1920s on, Jawaharlal Nehru, who had a longstanding interest in world affairs among independence leaders, formulated the Congress stance on international issues. As a member of the interim government in 1946, Nehru articulated India’s approach to the world. India’s international influence varied over the years after independence. Indian prestige and moral authority were high in the 1950s and facilitated the acquisition of developmental assistance from both East and West. Although the prestige stemmed from India’s nonaligned stance, the nation was unable to prevent Cold War politics from becoming intertwined with interstate relations in South Asia.
In the 1960s and 1970s India’s international position among developed and developing countries faded in the course of wars with China and Pakistan, disputes with other countries in South Asia, and India’s attempt to balance Pakistan’s support from the United States and China by signing the Indo- Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation in August 1971. Although India obtained substantial Soviet military and economic aid, which helped to strengthen the nation, India’s influence was undercut regionally and internationally by the perception that its friendship with the Soviet Union prevented a more forthright condemnation of the Soviet presence in Afghanistan. In the late 1980s, India improved relations with the United States, other developed countries, and China while continuing close ties with the Soviet Union. Relations with its South Asian neighbours, especially Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Nepal, occupied much of the energies of the Ministry of External Affairs.
In the 1990s, India’s economic problems and the demise of the bipolar world political system forced India to reassess its foreign policy and adjust its foreign relations. Previous policies proved inadequate to cope with the serious domestic and international problems facing India. The end of the Cold War gutted the core meaning of nonalignment and left Indian foreign policy without significant direction. The hard, pragmatic considerations of the early 1990s were still viewed within the nonaligned framework of the past, but the disintegration of the Soviet Union removed much of India’s international leverage, for which relations with Russia and the other post-Soviet states could not compensate. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, India improved its relations with the United States, Canada, France, Japan and Germany. In 1992, India established formal diplomatic relations with Israel and this relationship grew during the tenures of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government and the subsequent UPA (United Progressive Alliance) governments.
In the mid-1990s, India attracted the world attention towards the Pakistan-backed terrorism in Kashmir. The Kargil War resulted in a major diplomatic victory for India. The United States and European Union recognised the fact that Pakistani military had illegally infiltrated into Indian territory and pressured Pakistan to withdraw from Kargil. Several anti-India militant groups based in Pakistan were labeled as terrorist groups by the United States and European Union. India has often represented the interests of developing countries at various international platforms. Shown here are Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with Dmitry Medvedev, Hu Jintao and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva during BRIC summit in June, 2009. In 1998, India tested nuclear weapons for the second time which resulted in several US, Japanese and European sanctions on India.
India’s then-defence minister, George Fernandes, said that India’s nuclear programme was necessary as it provided a deterrence to potential Chinese nuclear threat. Most of the sanctions imposed on India were removed by 2001. After the 11 September attacks in 2001, Indian intelligence agencies provided the U.S. with significant information on Al-Qaeda and related groups’ activities in Pakistan and Afghanistan. India’s extensive contribution to the War on Terror, coupled with a surge in its economy, has helped India’s diplomatic relations with several countries. Over the past three years, India has held numerous joint military exercises with U.S. and European nations that have resulted in a strengthened U.S.-India and E.U.-India bilateral relationship. India’s bilateral trade with Europe and United States has more than doubled in the last five years.
India has been pushing for reforms in the UN and WTO with mixed results. India’s candidature for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council is currently backed by several countries including France, Russia, the United Germany, Japan, Brazil, Australia and UAE. In 2004, the United States signed a nuclear co-operation agreement with India even though the latter is not a part of the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty. The US argued that India’s strong nuclear non-proliferation record made it an exception, however this has not persuaded other Nuclear Suppliers Group members to sign similar deals with India. During a state visit to India in November 2010, US president Barack Obama announced US support for India’s bid for permanent membership to UN Security Council as well as India’s entry to Nuclear Suppliers Group, Wassenaar Arrangement, Australia Group and Missile Technology Control Regime.