India’s foreign policy objectives

The Top Ten

Vivek Kumar’s call should help concentrate minds. He is looking for inputs on key foreign policy objectives. I’ll leave it to him to send the following to Mr Shyam Saran.

1. Settle and secure international borders.
Cross-border trade and broader bilateral intercourse can only be achieved when geographic boundaries are beyond doubt.

2. Maintain regional peace and stability through the projection of Indian power.
Pax Indica can help ensure stability of the littoral Indian Ocean region in general and South Asia in particular. That the region is today plagued by vortices of instability is largely due to India’s inability and reluctance to project power in a calculated, strategic manner.

3. Secure unhindered access to international markets on the most favourable terms.

4. Develop deeper and broader economic relations with countries that supply fuel and military hardware.

5. Cultivate and engage political constituencies that can influence policies of foreign governments in India’s favour.

6. Protect — and credibly demonstrate the intention to protect at all costs — the lives and well-being of Indian citizens living abroad. Never forgive governments, organisations or individuals who harm Indians.

7. Participate in multilateral and bilateral military co-operation relationships. Secure visiting and basing rights at geostrategic locations in the region.

8. Develop capacities, capabilities and contingency plans to provide relief and rehabilitation in the region in the event of natural or man-made disasters.

9. Attract talented individuals from across the world to visit, stay, work, study, teach or live in India. Encourage talented Indians to do likewise abroad.

10. Project the Indian model as an example for other countries to emulate.

17 thoughts on “India’s foreign policy objectives”

  1. Hear Hear ,

    If bloggers had a shadow cabinet, then Nitin will be the uncontested defense, home and external affairs minister


  2. I don’t see how number 6 made it ahead of number 7 or that matter on the list at all.

  3. If I may add another one:

    11. Conclude and operationalise free trade agreements with South Asian, East Asian and Central Asian countries.(IMO there’s no better way to improve relations and end petty bickering in the region like the lure of the green)

    In re number 6:
    Nitin has a point because punishing the perpetrator for “harming” Indians demonstrates strength. And has a huge deterrent value to certain terrorists and their buddies. But there shouldn’t be like a blanket rule about it and intervention should be on a case by case basis.
    Remember the Kandahar hijacking. What a freakin’ mess. Compare it to a similar yet different episode, viz. the Entebbe hijacking. Lessons to be learnt methinks.

  4. Patel,

    In addition to Abhishek’s point, I think the Indian government has a duty to protect the lives of its citizens who venture abroad. It is very easy to be caught up over territory or abstract concepts like power, security or stability. In the end, it is really about people. Foreign governments, employers and individuals will be very careful how they treat Indian citizens if they know that the might of the Indian state is behind them.


    Instead of defining FTAs in particular (as you have done in #11) I tend to see them as means to ends (#3 and #4). I would not particularly favour FTAs over WTO or the other way round. What we need is market access on the most favourable terms.


    Thanks for your vote. Now for the next few hundred million…

  5. As far as rule 6 goes

    I don’t mean to be cold but our political capital can be used for other causes.

    Expecting other governments to ensure proper treatment of our citizens when we cannot provide this to them at home seems a little hyprocritical.

  6. unable to post it on vivek’s blog so posting my list here. i’am leaving out some points that are routinely brought up regarding pakistan, china etc.. since they are being discussed all the time and stuck to what india as a country needs and the image it has to present to the world.

    1. Access to oil, gas, natural resources and raw materials from across

    the globe
    2. Access to international markets for india’s products and services
    3. Acccess to the latest scientific and technological developments and

    removal of trade barriers and sanctions on transfer of technology items

    to india
    4. Ensuring safety and security of indian citizens, companies and trade

    interests in foreign lands
    5. Build a robust military industrial complex and actively get onto the

    international arms markets.
    6. perception counts. start winning large number of medals in

    international sports events, make world class music and movies. inshort

    make india a cultural and sporting hub
    7. Build working commercial and trade agreements with ASEAN, GCC, EU,

    NAFTA etc..
    8. Instill confidence in the world community by being a nation ruled by

    laws, respect to the law and spirit of contracts, guarding the indian

    ocean sea lanes and make it safe for trade and commerce
    9. make mumbai a global financial hub on the lines of london, tokyo,

    newyork and hongkong
    10. make lots of friends. each one of us is ambassador for our country

    when we travel abroad or join discussion rooms on the internet and for

    someone out there we might be the first indian they ever met 🙂

  7. Madhu,
    Some of your suggestions are not really part of the MEA’s job, e.g. making India a cultural & sporting hub, or individual citizens like us making lots of friends, so it won’t really help Vivek, i feel :P. (Though promotion of Indian culture through ICCR, etc. is part of the MEA’s responsibility)
    Some of the other suggestions on this site seem to suggest to me that as we increase our power, we are going down the same path of hegemony that the US has been treading for the past century. However, I won’t give any name to my political beliefs, and I won’t call anyone else names.

  8. Chitranshu,

    American Hegemony!

    While not exactly a supporter of US of A, I will prefer US of A, any day over Soviet Russia, Communist China or Wahabi Saudis.


  9. Chitranshu,

    “Disclaimer: Any resemblance to any other country’s foreign policy is unintentional and purely coincidental” 🙂

    But then again, I would think that winning a world war, a cold war and being the richest and pre-eminent economic power for one century is not a bad deal at all. Even if you throw in Vietnam, 9/11 or Iraq. I’m not saying we should emulate them, but just that their policies have served them rather well.

    I will discard political correctness and posturing, and acknowledge that yes, this is about hegemony. Further, as Patel pointed out, though unintentional, there is a certain amount of hypocrisy involved too. But the point is that regardless of what we think, our neighbours will perceive Indian hegemony and hypocrisy anyway, simply because of the scale, size and diversity of India. So actual hegemony or hypocrisy won’t make a great deal of difference in practice in how India is perceived. But it will make a difference in terms of India’s interests.

  10. chitranshu, becoming a cultural hub gives a lot of “soft” clout. even the american strategists concede the advantage that hollywood has brought them has been many times more that any formal government agency like USIS ever could.

  11. Madhushankar,

    I think Chitranshu is not arguing against “soft power” per se, rather that this is not under the scope of the external affairs ministry. MEA’s current remit need not restrict the scope of India’s foreign policy objectives, but, as I wrote recently, harvesting “soft power” to serve hard foreign policy objectives is not straightforward.

  12. I do agree with folks who say that the points sound rather familiar.

    I am surprised to see there are no “do-good” or “make the world a better place” type objectives (or are they part of 10?) and nothing on UNSC seat – I would think that would be pretty high up on MEA priorities.

    I think India is working on most objectivs now – except may be #6 which it can’t justify without first taking care of people at home.

  13. Ok, I see that you are planning a separate national security policy. Shouldn’t it be closely integrated with foreign policy?

    Also, how about using Indian diaspora as a clout to mobilize opinion in diplomatic circles in favour of India?

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