General Studies Paper 2 (International Relations)
Question:- 153. Briefly discuss the evolution of India’s foreign policy after independence. What are the key features of foreign policy of India at present? Answer in 250 words.
Dec 29, 2022


In the conduct of its foreign policy, India has adhered to certain basic principles of non-alignment, peaceful settlement of international disputes, protecting the rights of developing world etc. which have reflected in all phases of its evolution. These phases have been discussed as follows:



  1. 1. The first phase (1947-62): Optimistic Non-Alignment
  • -In this phase, India’s goals were to protect its sovereignty, rebuild its economy, and maintain its integrity in the backdrop of Cold War.
  • -India was instrumental in the formation of the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM) 1961, which marked the pinnacle of Third-World solidarity.
  • -The 1962 conflict with China, however, not only brought this period to a close but also did so in a way that severely harmed India’s reputation.


  1. 2. The second phase (1962-71): Decade of Realism and Recovery
  • -Following the 1962 war, India made pragmatic security and political decisions.
  • -As a result, India had begun to lean toward the Soviet Union.


  1. 3. The third phase (1971-91): Greater Indian Regional Assertion
  • -When India liberated Bangladesh in the 1971 India-Pakistan war, it demonstrated a remarkable use of hard power.
  • -However, it was a particularly difficult period because the US-China-Pakistan axis that had formed at the time posed a serious threat to India’s regional power prospects.
  • -After conducting a peaceful nuclear explosion test in 1974, India was sanctioned by the US and its allies (Pokhran I).
  • -In addition, the fall of the Soviet Union, India’s close ally, and the economic crisis of 1991 forced India to reconsider its basic principles of domestic and foreign policy.
  • -The Gulf War (1991-1992), the disintegration of the Soviet Union (1991), long-term economic stagnation, and domestic turbulence all collided in 1991, resulting in a balance of payment crisis in India.


  1. 4. The fourth phase (1991-98): Safeguarding Strategic Autonomy
  • -The emergence of a unipolar world (led by the United States) prompted India to rethink its foreign policy.
  • -This quest for strategic autonomy was centered on securing the country’s nuclear weapons capability (Pokhran II 1998).
  • -During this time, India increased its engagement with the United States, Israel, and ASEAN (Look East Policy)  countries.


  1. 5. The fifth phase (1998-2013): India, a Balancing Power
  • During this time, India began to develop the characteristics of a balancing power (against the rise of China) which was reflected in the nuclear deal between India and the United States (123 Agreement).
  • At the same time, India could unite with China on climate change and trade, as well as strengthen ties with Russia, all while assisting in the formation of the BRICS.



Key features of foreign policy at present:

Sixth phase (2013-until now): Energetic Engagement

  • A. India’s policy of non-alignment transformed into multi-alignment in this period of transitional geopolitics.
  • B.Furthermore, India is now more aware of its own capabilities as well as the expectations placed on it by the rest of the world.
  • C.India is one of the world’s major economies, biggest market, a major defence power and a leading spacefaring nation, all leading to increased global reputation and standing
  • D.India’s demography will likely become more important in the creation and maintenance of global technology over time.
  • E. India’s willingness to influence key global negotiations (such as the climate change conference in Paris) is also significant.
  • F. Through its approach to the Indian Ocean Region (SAGAR initiative) and the extended neighborhood, India has been able to assert itself beyond South Asia (Act East policy and Think West policy), Quad, West Asian Quad, Shanghai Cooperation Organization etc.



In 2022, India returned to Free Trade Agreements with UAE and Australia, after a hiatus of several years. At the G-20, India is expected to highlight climate change transitions, “women-led” development and multilateral reform, among other key issues. In the neighbourhood, India’s foreign policy was marked by economic assistance to Sri Lanka in the midst of its collapse, and regional trade and energy agreements with Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal that could see a South Asian energy grid emerge. India has also strengthened ties with Central Asian countries on connectivity. It can be projected that India’s relations with other countries in future will be not be forced by external forces but guided by its own strengths – economic, defence, technical and its soft power.