History and Tradition
India’s foreign policy provides a mirror to its historical heritage. India never mounted aggressive campaigns outside the country for territorial expansion.
Indeed it was targeted in a series of invasions and alien rule, although notably the ruling dynasties made the country their home and adapted themselves to local customs and traditions.
India’s experience as a victim of colonial rule and wars has turned it’s foreign policy anti-war in nature. Moreover, the legacy of the non-violent freedom struggle launched under the leadership of Gandhi and his lieutenants was bound to be evident in its foreign policy. Along with this the legacy of an ancient civilisation and culture also helped in foreign policy formulation. The traditional values of ‘Vasudheva Kutumbakam’ — One World — have come down to the people of India from the ancient scriptures and the spiritual works of great men like Swami Vivekananda.
The values that have helped in shaping India’s foreign policy are tolerance, non-violence and universal brotherhood. Most of the leaders of freedom movement were educated in Britain or were exposed to the system of liberal education. They valued liberty, equality and democracy. These ideals are embedded in the Indian foreign policy. While cooperating with liberal democratic countries, India did not oppose the socialist countries either. The policy of non-alignment is not only an outcome of . keeping aloof from bloc politics, but is also in accordance with the goals and ideals of freedom struggle cherished by our people. These idealistic notions notwithstanding, the realist legacy left behind by, ancient scholars of statecraft like Kautilya too have an important bearing on the country’s approach towards safeguarding its vital interests by coercion if necessary. Prime Ministers of India like Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and P.V.Narasirnharao candidly acknowledged the limitations of idealism to guide state policy at critical junctures.