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Prelims Capsule

International Relations

Five Pillars of Indian Diplomacy for strategic autonomy & global good

Five Pillars of Indian Diplomacy for strategic autonomy & global good


  • GS 2 || International Relations || Indian Foreign Policy || Principles of IFP

Why in the news?

India, like every other sovereign country, has its own foreign policy. With the basic objectives of India’s foreign policy in mind, the country has established and pursued a set of principles to achieve these goals. India’s foreign policy ideas and objectives are inextricably connected.

All about Indian Foreign Policy:

Foreign Policies:

  • Foreign policies are a collection of strategies for dealing with international states and organisations, as well as regional groups.


  • During the Cold War, India’s foreign policy changed from being pro-Soviet and antagonistic to Western interests when it first gained independence in 1947 to today being an essential Western strategic partner and offering a counterbalance to China.
  • Over the previous six and a half decades, India has dramatically increased its global influence, largely via diplomacy and commerce, establishing itself as a major player in global affairs. There are several factors that have influenced India’s foreign policy over time.

India’s Foreign Policy- The Basic Principles:

  • The principles have survived the test of time and are embedded in international law as well as India’s foreign policy. India’s foreign policy fundamentals are as follows:
  • Panchsheel
  • The non-alignment policy
  • Anti-colonialist and anti-racist policies
  • International Disputes are settled in a peaceful manner.
  • Support for the United Nations, International Law, and a Just and Equal World Order via Foreign Economic Aid

The principles of India’s foreign policy:

  • Panchsheel: Indian policymakers recognized the relationship between peace and development and humanity’s existence. Social and economic growth are likely to be put to the background if there is no global peace.
  • On April 29, 1954, Panchsheel, commonly known as the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, was signed and since then it has become a guiding principle of India’s bilateral relations with other countries.
  • The following five foreign policy principles are included in Panchsheel:
  1. Mutual respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of each other.
  2. Non-aggression towards one another.
  3. Non-interference in one another’s personal lives.
  4. Equality and mutual benefit are two words that come to mind while thinking about this topic.
  5. Coexistence that is peaceful.
  • These Panchsheel ideas were eventually integrated into the Bandung Declaration, which was signed in 1955 in Indonesia during the Afro-Asian Conference. They are the Non-Alignment Movement’s (NAM) founding ideals, and they continue to influence India’s foreign policy.
  • The non-alignment policy: The most significant aspect of India’s foreign policy is non-alignment. Its core tenet is to preserve foreign policy independence by refusing to join any military alliance created by the United States and the Soviet Union after WWII, which became a key component of cold war politics.
  • Anti-colonialist and anti-racist policies: When our leaders confronted the sins of colonialism and racism during the independence fight, the roots of India’s foreign policy were built. India has been a victim of colonialism and imperialism, which it sees as a danger to global peace and security. It is a fervent believer in the equality of all people. Its policy is focused at combating all types of racial prejudice.
  • International Disputes are settled in a peaceful manner:
  • One of the pillars of India’s foreign policy is its unwavering belief in the peaceful resolution of international issues. India has consistently opposed foreign military participation in international disputes. This idea remains the cornerstone of India’s foreign policy.
  • At the moment, India supports a peaceful resolution of Iranian nuclear concerns, as well as the challenge of the Middle East’s democratic uprising.
  • Support for the United Nations, International Law, and a Just and Equal World Order via Foreign Economic Aid: India holds a high regard for international law and/or the United Nations’ ideals of sovereign equality and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries. India has contributed significantly to international peace by assisting in the decolonization process and actively participating in UN peacekeeping missions.

Evolution of Strategic Autonomy in India:

  • First phase Non-Alignment (1947-1961): It was Bipolar world (USA and USSR as power centres)
  • Non-alignment: India was a key player in the creation of the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM) (1961), which represented the pinnacle of Third-World unity.
  • Autonomy preservation: India’s goals were to avoid joining any military alliances while developing its economy and consolidating its geographical integrity.
  • Second phase- Realism (1962-71)
  • Following the 1962 conflict, India took realistic security and political decisions.
  • In the sake of national security, India looked beyond non-alignment. For example, in 1964, the United States and Canada signed a defense agreement.
  • Third phase- Regional Assertion (1971-91):
  • Tilt towards the USSR: the India-Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship, and Cooperation is signed.
  • Participating in the 1971 war, which resulted in the formation of Bangladesh.
  • In 1974, India conducted a peaceful nuclear explosive test (Pokhran I), for which it was sanctioned by the United States.
  • India’s peacekeeping mission in Sri Lanka. The formation of the US-China-Pakistan axis posed a danger to India’s regional dominance aspirations.
  • Fourth phase-Strategic autonomy (1991-2005)
  • Economic reforms and rapid development have resulted in a shift in the country’s strategic vision.
  • Multi-alignment: India increased its engagement with the United States, Israel, and ASEAN nations.
  • Fifth phase: India’s strategic autonomy approach in a multipolar world (after 2005)
  • Multi-alignment strategy: To position itself as a global power, India has shifted from a P2 (US and China) attitude to a P5+2 strategy. For example, ASEAN, SCO, and Quad membership.
  • India’s aim for a “free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific” refers to a multipolar regional order that allows Delhi to preserve strategic autonomy.
  • On the margins of the G20, balancing diplomacy was expressed at the Russia-India-China (RIC) and Japan-America-India (JAI) meetings.

Changing dynamics from unipolar to bipolar multipolar:

  • Bipolar World (1945-1991): A bipolar world is a system in which two countries — the United States and the Soviet Union – control the bulk of global economic, military, and cultural power. As a result, the Soviet Union and the United States engaged in a Cold War marked by geopolitical tensions.
  • Unipolar (1991-2008): Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the United States became the sole superpower, and the international system became unipolar. The United States was able to impose its will on other countries after assuming the position of global policeman. Consider the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the war in Afghanistan, and President Bush’s goal of regime change.
  • Multipolarity (2008-present):Multipolarity refers to the rise of various regional powers, as well as the United States’ departure as a global policeman.
  • China’s rise: aggression in the South China Sea, a trade war between the US and China, clashes with India along the LAC (Line of Actual Control), and massive investment in emerging nations through the Belt and Road Initiative.
  • India’s Rise: India’s engagement in organizations such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the G-20 Summit, the Mekong-Ganga Cooperation, and the International Solar Alliance, among others. India is likewise rethinking its strategy. Quad, SAGAR, Blue Dot Network, and so on.

Challenges to strategic autonomy:

  • Fear of becoming a US ally: While India aggressively seeks US collaboration, it must safeguard its basic national interests from US intrusion. For example, in connection to the Chahbahar port and the S-400 agreement with Russia, the US has threatened India with CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act) sanctions.
  • China’s assertive rise may result in security threats such as the Doklam stalemate and fighting in the Galwan valley across LAC. China, Pakistan, Russia, and Iran may form an axis.
  • Regional Power Assertion: Regional power assertion may result in weapons competitions and increased geopolitical uncertainty. For instance, consider India’s and China’s weapons competition.
  • Economic dependence on other developed countries: To address global challenges, India need technology, finance, markets, skills, defense equipment, international networking, and global collaboration. Sensitive technology can only be obtained at the expense of strategic autonomy..
  • Influence of US tilt: Complete reliance on the US will have an impact on relations with Russia, Iran, and defense indigenization.

Way forward:

  • Rather than isolation or alliance, India’s potential must be maximized through multi-alignment.
  • In today’s destabilized globe, we must adapt to the rapidly shifting balance of power and align ourselves with the countries surrounding us.
  • India must collaborate with other nations to keep its area multipolar (preventing dominance of one country of the region)
  • Increased collaboration with middle powers such as the United Kingdom, the European Union, Japan, and ASEAN nations to achieve common interests.
  • Strategic partnerships with international organizations and a diverse range of partners, including developing and least developed nations.

Mains oriented question:

There has been some discussion regarding whether India’s foreign policy is truly changing. Analyze. (200 words)