• Jawaharlal Nehru is considered to be the architect of modern India. Apart from his careful handling of India’s tumultuous domestic situation in the years immediately after the Independence, Nehru’s major contribution lies in the field of foreign policies.
  • Apart from handling the domestic situation, Nehru’s major contribution lies in the area of external relations as he kept foreign affairs under his strict control over seventeen years and made all the major foreign policy decisions himself merely getting consultation from his advisers and aides.
  • His policies were characterized by ideological perspective including Panchsheel, nonalignment, colonialism and racism.
  • Formulating the foreign policy, Nehru not only considered the other states’ foreign policies but also observed the trends in contemporary world politics.
    • These two traditionally discrete realms known as inter-domestic politics increasingly influenced the Indian foreign policy jointly highlighting the need for the leader to integrate his domestic and foreign policies.
    • All activities occurring beyond India’s borders structured the choices of Nehru’s policy making. He wanted India to have an identity without overt commitment to either power bloc; the USA and the Soviet Union.
  • Nehru led newly independent India from 1947 to 1964. Both the United States and the Soviet Union competed to make India an ally throughout the Cold War.
  • Socialism can be said to be one of the greatest international influences on Nehru, but Gandhi’s ideals of Satyagraha also influenced him to a great degree. But he committed himself to neither point of view in framing his foreign policy.
  • Nehru’s foreign policies were characterized by two major ideological aspects.
    • First, he wanted India to have an identity that would be independent of any form of overt commitment to either power bloc, the USA or the Soviet. The first policy led ultimately to the founding of the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM).
    • Secondly, he had an unshaken faith in goodwill and honesty in matters of international affairs.
      • His second faith was terribly shaken by the Chinese attack of 1962, openly disobeying all the clauses of the Panchsheel or five-point agreement of 1954 between New Delhi and Peking.
      • This breach of faith was a major psychological shock for Nehru, and was partially the reason for his death.
  • He was proud of being an Asian, and wanted Asian nations to be the primary determinants of their political fate, not always guided by Western forces.
  • Early in 1947, at the initiative of India, the Asian Relations Conference at Delhi was convened where the principles of foreign policy of independent India were proclaimed. It was attended by representatives of 29 countries. The Conference helped to strengthen the solidarity of all Asian countries.


  • Nehru maintained good relations with the British Empire.
    • Under the London Declaration, India agreed that, when it became a republic in January 1950, it would join the Commonwealth of Nations and accept the British monarch as a “symbol of the free association of its independent member nations and as such the Head of the Commonwealth.” It allowed the Commonwealth to admit and retain members that were not Dominions, so including both republics and indigenous monarchies
    • The other nations of the Commonwealth recognised India’s continuing membership of the association.
  • Nehru was made subject to much criticism back home because of the support he extended towards the Commonwealth, particularly after the complication of the independence issue by the British government in the post World War II years, leading to the unwanted partition. However Nehru, always the believer in peaceful alliances and solution of international affairs based on discussions, went on with his ideals.


  • It was a meeting of Asian and African states—organized by Indonesia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, India, and Pakistan—which took place April 18–24, 1955, in Bandung, Indonesia. In all, 29 countries representing more than half the world’s population sent delegates. The agenda contained in this conference was the economic and cultural cooperation, respect for human rights and self-determination and finally the promotion of world peace and cooperation.
  • Nehru participated in Bandung and popularized the policy of non-alignment there.
  • A 10-point “declaration on the promotion of world peace and cooperation,” incorporating the principles of the United Nations charter and Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s Five Principles (“mutual respect” for other nations’ “territorial integrity and sovereignty,” nonaggression, noninterference in “internal affairs,” equality and mutual benefit, and “peaceful coexistence”), was adopted unanimously.


  • The greatest success of Jawaharlal Nehru’s non-committal international politics was the formation of the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM). Nehru found allies in Tito, Nasser, Soekarno, U Nu and Nkrumah at a later stage in his formation of this new alliance.
  • (More about NAM is already discussed in World History Chapter : Emergence of third world and non alignment )


  • At the partition of British India in 1947, the international boundary between India and what was then West Pakistan cut the irrigation system of the Bari Doab and the Sutlej Valley Project—originally designed as one scheme—into two parts. The headwork fell to India while the canals ran through Pakistan.
    • That led to a disruption in the water supply in some parts of Pakistan.
    • The dispute that thus arose and continued for some years was resolved through the mediation of the World Bank by a treaty between Pakistan and India (1960) known as the Indus Waters Treaty.
  • The Indus Waters Treaty as a water-sharing treaty between India and Pakistan, brokered by the World Bank was signed in Karachi on September 19, 1960 by Jawaharlal Nehru and President of Pakistan Ayub Khan.
  • According to that agreement, the flow of the three western rivers of the Indus basin—the Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab (except a small quantity used in Jammu and Kashmir state)—is assigned to Pakistan, whereas the flow of the three eastern rivers—the Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej—is reserved exclusively for India.
  • Since the ratification of the treaty in 1960, India and Pakistan have not engaged in any water wars.
    • Disagreements and disputes have been settled via legal procedures, provided for within the framework of the treaty.
    • The treaty is considered to be one of the most successful water sharing endeavours in the world.


  • India did not subscribe to the Partitioning of Palestine plan of 1947 and voted against Israel’s admission in the United Nations in 1949. India also did not recognize Israel as a nation till 1950.
  • Nehru and Gandhi, both were pro-Palestine. They opposed the creation of Israel as he was against the creation of countries based on religion.
  • Although India did not subscribe to the partitioning of Palestine plan of 1947 and voted against Israel’s admission in the United Nations in 1949, it did recognise Israel as a nation in 1950. In a statement in 1954, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru said he would not “be a party to a resolution which stated that the creation of Israel was a violation of international law”.
  • In contrast to the official Indian standpoint which had a vast degree of support in the country, various Hindu nationalist organisations supported the creation of Israel. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar supported Israel when it was created and viewed its creation as ‘joyous’ and condemned India’s vote at the UN against Israel.


  • Nehru was afraid that Korean war would lead to WW3 and that atomic bombs could be used (Soviet also developed ‘the bomb’), this might drag India in to the war. Also as China is its neighbor, it was afraid of the spill over effects.
  • India tried to pacify all sides by mediating the matter between all parties.
  • Apparently, The New York Times declared that the struggle for Asia “could be won or lost in the mind of one man – Jawaharlal Nehru”.
  • India condemned North Korea as an aggressor when the Korean War started, supporting Security Council resolutions 82 and 83 on the crisis.
    • However, India did not support resolution 84 for military assistance to South Korea.
    • As a nonaligned country, India hesitated to involve itself in a military commitment against North Korea.
  • India instead of sending its armed forces on the request of UN had sent a medical unit to Korea as a humanitarian gesture, India’s medical services are still fondly remembered in Korea by both sides.
  • India was chair of the 9-member UN Commission that monitored elections in undivided Korea in 1947.
    • After the Korean War, India again played an important role as the chair of the Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission in the Korean peninsula which would handle the prisoners of war (PoWs) of both sides and interview them to determine which of them wanted to go back.
  • India dispatched a 6000 Indian Custodial Force to Korea.
  • At the end of the war, India did not gain much and received flak from all sides. Relationship with US deteriorated (for not siding with it) and US began giving military-aid to Pakistan.
  • On the other hand, the war elevated Nehru’s prestige to great heights in the world, solidifying his image as world’s leading statesman. For the rest of his life, there was no major global discussion in the world, which could occur without his involvement.


  • Nehru, while a pacifist, was not blind to the political and geo-strategic reality of India in 1947.
  • While laying the foundation stone of the National Defence Academy in 1949, he stated:
    • We, who for generations had talked about and attempted in everything a peaceful way and practised non-violence, should now be, in a sense, glorifying our army, navy and air force. It means a lot. Though it is odd, yet it simply reflects the oddness of life. Though life is logical, we have to face all contingencies, and unless we are prepared to face them, we will go under. There was no greater prince of peace and apostle of non-violence than Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation, whom we have lost, but yet, he said it was better to take the sword than to surrender, fail or run away. We cannot live carefree assuming that we are safe. Human nature is such. We cannot take the risks and risk our hard-won freedom. We have to be prepared with all modern defence methods and a well-equipped army, navy and air force“.
  • Nehru envisioned the developing of nuclear weapons and established the Atomic Energy Commission of India (AEC) in 1948.
    • Nehru also called Dr. Homi J. Bhabha, a nuclear physicist, who was entrusted with complete authority over all nuclear related affairs and programs.
    • Nehru famously said to Bhabha, “Professor Bhabha take care of Physics, leave international relation to me“.
    • From the outset in 1948, Nehru had high ambition to develop this program to stand against the industrialised states and the basis of this program was to establish an Indian nuclear weapons capability as part of India’s regional superiority to other South-Asian states, most particularly Pakistan.
    • Nehru also said to Bhabha: “We must have the capability. We should first prove ourselves and then talk of Gandhi, non-violence and a world without nuclear weapons”.
  • He commissioned the first study of the human effects of nuclear explosions, and campaigned ceaselessly for the abolition of what he called “these frightful engines of destruction.”
  • He also had pragmatic reasons for promoting de-nuclearisation, fearing that a nuclear arms race would lead to over-militarisation that would be unaffordable for developing countries such as his own.
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