Foreign Policy

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  • N. Kapoor asked: What is the concept of Imagined Community and what is its relevance in 21st century?

    Ashok Kumar Behuria replies: Imagined community is a term used by Benedict Anderson to explain the formation of nations in different parts of the world. His main argument is that identities may not be real; they are often constructed by socio-economic and political processes. He provides an example of print capitalism, census exercise and anti-colonial consciousness as shaping national identities in colonised societies. There is a counter perspective on identities too, which holds that identities are real and based on shared culture, language and historical linkages. In India, leading social scientist Dipankar Gupta has used the term “ethnopreneurs” to argue that certain leaders shape political discourses about ethnic identities and make them politically volatile only to use them for their own selfish interests to acquire power.

    In the post-Cold War period, there has been a surge of movements centred around ethnic identities. The world has witnessed bloody conflicts between ethnic groups in different countries. During this period, many hitherto-dormant ethnic groups have become politically assertive and have claimed their rights to autonomy and sovereign nationhood. This process is likely to continue. Many countries in the world today are multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-national. These countries are vulnerable to assertive identity politics. Hence, they will have to demonstrate resilience and wisdom in accommodating growing demands for autonomy by various ethnic and cultural groups and working out a structure of power sharing through various means— federal reconstitution of power, devolution, consociation politics, etc.

    Sandeep asked : Is India’s foreign policy flawed considering the declining relationship with its neighbours?

    Ashok Kumar Behuria replies: India, like any other country, has to adapt to changing realities and refashion its foreign policy. India has adopted the policy of proactive engagement with all its neighbours since the 1990s. During the mid-1990s, the Gujral doctrine laid emphasis on non-reciprocal concessions to neighbours. Even if his doctrine excluded Pakistan for obvious reasons, India still sought to engage Pakistan despite its reluctance to address the issue of cross-border terrorism in a convincing manner. However, there is a perception that India's neighbourhood policy has not been successful.

    A close scrutiny of facts would reveal otherwise. India has managed to develop better economic relations with Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal, despite concerns about some of the countries using China as a balancer. India realises its limitations in convincing its neighbours about the long-term adverse consequences of such engagement. Therefore, it has, through its quiet diplomacy, sought to ensure that any such relationship between any of its neighbours and an extra-regional power must not be aimed at India. On certain occasions, China has asked leaders in the neighbourhood not to build their relationship with it at the cost of India. While there is a growing anxiety in the Indian strategic community about expanding Chinese footprints in the immediate neighbourhood, the changing pattern of international relations warrant a pragmatic and careful pursuit of national interests through cautious diplomacy. It is also to be noted that India's improved relationship with East Asian and South East Asian countries— especially Singapore, Vietnam, Japan, South Korea (and to some extent with Taiwan)— has induced similar concerns in China about Indian intentions.

    Given all this, it is not correct (or rather it is too early) to lament the failure of Indian diplomacy and foreign policy.

    Amit Rathee asked: What are the ethical issues in international relations?

    Ashok Kumar Behuria replies: A basic issue in international politics is how to reconcile one’s interests with values one professes. Most nations claim their commitment to universal values and try their best to conform to them. On many occasions, states find it difficult to conduct their behaviour as per their values. While most countries pledge their commitment to non-interference and peaceful conduct of foreign policy, in reality, their national interests are defined in realist terms that hurtles them in the path of power maximisation and pits them against their co-aspirants. In certain cases, some states are compelled to put aside their values in their quest for survival and dignity. India’s pursuit of nuclear power in spite of its commitment to non-violence and peace could be cited as an example here. The balance-of-power politics around the world, born out of mutual distrust and sense of insecurity, make it often difficult for nations to strictly adhere to values they profess.

    Pakistan’s Foreign Policy Challenges

    It will be unrealistic to expect any drastic change in the foreign policy orientation of Pakistan, because Pakistan’s geopolitical interests will not allow the new government to bring about radical change

    May 28, 2013

    What India needs to learn from China

    It is important to be conversant with the Chinese thought process in order to deal with them. China respects authoritativeness and it is time that India signals its resolve and intent in dealing with issues of concern.

    May 20, 2013

    Kenneth Waltz R.I.P. (1924-2013)

    Kenneth Waltz hailed as the ‘King of thought’ was a towering thinker in the field of IR. His two most important works, Man, The State, and War (1959) and Theory of International Politics (1979), provided a framework within which emerged the principal debate in IR.

    May 15, 2013

    Syed Shubhani asked: What should be the guiding principles for India’s foreign policy in the next 30 years?

    Reply: Refer to the following on IDSA website:

    India’s Foreign Policy – Future Options
    By Amb. Kanwal Sibal, Third Y B Chavan Memorial Lecture, November 30, 2012

    Opening remarks by Dr. Arvind Gupta, DG, IDSA at Workshop on Kautilya
    October 18, 2012, Workshop on Kautilya, at

    Tasks before Indian Foreign Policy
    By Dr. Arvind Gupta, May 9, 2012, at

    2012: The Changing Geopolitical Environment and Tasks before Indian foreign policy
    By Dr. Arvind Gupta, January 3, 2012, at

    India's Defence Cooperation with its Major Traditional & New Strategic Partners
    By Amb. Ronen Sen, April 1, 2011, at

    Who Sets the Agenda? Does 'Prime Time' Really Pace Policy?

    Who Sets the Agenda? Does 'Prime Time' Really Pace Policy?

    At a time when the country is seeing crises - political, social and moral, the role of the media is rising in perception as never before. But how much does 'prime time' in the era of 24 hour news coverage actually impact policy? This monograph unpacks the perceived influence of the media in specific foreign policy episodes and argues that while it has introduced accountability and real-time responses to issues, it still has not been able to establish long term policy impact.


    Kumar Chintha asked- What is NAM 2.0?

    Reply: Refer to the IDSA comment, ‘Nonalignment 2.0: A Realist Critique of an Establishmentarian Perspective’ by Rajesh Rajagopalan, at