Important Aspects of the Indian Foreign Policy under the Alliance Governments of NDA (1998-2004) and UPA (2004-09): A Comparison


Sandeep Malhotra

Political Science, Research Scholar, Department of Political Science, Punjabi University Patiala, 147002

*Corresponding Author Email:



The foreign policies of the NDA and the UPA governments were marked with similarities except the difference of approach between the two governments. The foreign policy of the NDA was further expanded and deepened by the UPA government. Both the alliance governments developed constructive bilateral relations with global powers of the world but they failed to solve Kashmir issue with Pakistan and to secure support for a permanent seat for India  in the  expanded  U.N. Security Council.


KEYWORDS:  Nehruvian, Nuclear, Credible Minimum Deterrence, Track-II.





The foreign policy during the alliance governments of the NDA (1998-2004) and UPA (2004-08) were almost conducted on the similar principles. It has been observed the policy differences between the two alliance governments were almost blurred on the foreign policy front. The NDA was more realistic regarding its focus on the relative power and military instruments of influence whereas the UPA was more Nehruvian in its approach. The NDA followed a harder, more assertive line of policy and the UPA by contrast emphasized role of the negotiations and discussions.1 The NDA combined the political and economic diplomacy and made use of the grown economic clout of India as an effective means to protect the national interests and similar approach was extended by the UPA government.



As compare to its predecessors, the perspective of the NDA government always remained pragmatic and it faced challenges of improving relations with all the neighbouring countries especially with China and Pakistan. The two governments deepened and extended relations with the major global powers like U.S. and Russia. The present study has attempted to understand the important aspects of the two alliance governments with US, Russia, China and Pakistan.


The first NDA government was formed in March 1998 and it conducted five underground nuclear tests at Pokhran on May 11(Shakti-1, 2 and 3) and May 13 (Shakti-4 and 5).The Prime Minister Vajpayee in a same day detailed letter to U.S. President Bill Clinton justified the rationale behind the tests and without naming China explained that India had an overt nuclear weapon state (China) on its borders which committed armed aggression against India in 1962.2 In a way China was directly held responsible for the Indian action though in reality it was not the only reason. The letter was subsequently leaked and the immediate fall out was the derailment of the improved Sino-India relations since resumption of bilateral talks in 1988. The real intention of the NDA government behind the conduction of nuclear tests was to end the long term ambiguity regarding the nuclear status of India. The government conveyed a strong message to the world that India was in dire need to maintain credible minimum deterrence as it was surrounded by a declared nuclear power and a covert nuclear power (Pakistan). Moreover, the fulfillment of the ever growing energy needs of the Indian economy was the another important reason. The BJP tried to establish strong foreign policy credentials by positioning itself as force that was capable of enhancing India’s national interests, national security and national greatness as compare to the past governments.3


A strategic affairs analyst admitted that the government mishandled the post-explosions situation by referring China as the reason for going nuclear and deteriorated bilateral relations with China during early weeks in power.4 The nuclear explosions abruptly strained Indian relations with other close neighbours and major global powers of world like US, UK, France and Russia. The US was quick to impose stringent sanctions on India under the ‘Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Act’ of 1994, known as Glenn Amendment (to the Arms Export Control Act).5 Notwithstanding the intense international pressure, Pakistan followed India and exploded five nuclear devices on May 28 and one on May 30, 1998 at Chagai hills. The then Chief of the Pakistani Army Staff, General Jehangir Karamat announced that Pakistan made bare minimum response only to re-establish the strategic balance in region. Pakistan Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmed stated that the contemporary history held only one lesson for them, credible deterrence.6 The nuclear competition between India and Pakistan further deteriorated already tense relations bilateral.


The US was always susceptible regarding the Indian nuclear programme but soon reconciled to the fact that India was a declared nuclear power that led to first ever strategic dialogue between the two countries.7 The U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott visited India to end the stale mate in Indo-US relations. The meeting between him and Indian PM’s special envoy Jaswant Singh in New Delhi on July 20-21, 1998 ended without any signs of softening the Washington’s tough stance and on the issues related to nuclear nonproliferation in specific context of the South Asia because Talbott insisted on signing of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) by India but India categorically denied since long due to its discriminatory nature and unless the Indian security concerns were not accommodated and sanctions were lifted.8 India always stood against the CTBT which furthered the nuclear apartheid among the countries. The government took tough stand and justified the nuclear explosions without compromising its stance on the CTBT.  The positive perspective of the nuclear tests was that they provided stimulus for a close engagement between the two countries as the U.S. started to deal with India more seriously and tried to engage it in a more sustained manner than it had ever done before.9


The estranged Indo-Pak relations have always direct bearing in the South Asia and related regional and other international fora. The 10th SAARC Summit which was held in Colombo on July 29-31, 1998 after the nuclear explosions. The Indian side stuck to its demand of a comprehensive and composite dialogue on all the outstanding issues including Kashmir. Expectedly, the Pakistani side reflected its hardened stand on the core issue of Kashmir and demanded the final settlement. The one point stance of the Pakistan failed all the expectations of improving the bilateral relations between the two countries and the Summit ended in fiasco.10 The Indian efforts to maintain peaceful relations received a serious set back when during the Summit Pakistani military opened firing across the Line of Control (LoC) in J&K, in order to divert attention of the international community.


The 12th NAM Summit which was held in Durban, South Africa from September 2-4, 1998 endorsed the Indian demand for convening of the International Summit to formulate a joint global response to terrorism. Moreover, the NAM Chairman, Mandela's speech focused on developmental issues that affected the Third World countries and surprisingly he included Kashmir.11 India being the victim of the international terrorism used its influence to demand action against every type of terrorism. The genuine national concerns of the India at different fora estranged the Pakistan and bilateral relations during that period continued to remain strained.


The NDA government resumed its efforts to normalize the tense Indo-Pak relations for the objectives of improving peace, stability, progress and prosperity in the region. The urgency of maintaining good relations between the two neighbours was important to avoid the escalation of post nuclear explosions situation by finding ways of stabilizing nuclear competition and reassuring each other about the nuclear motives and intentions.12 The Prime Minister Vajpayee took initiative by taking a bus to Lahore and signed the ‘Lahore Declaration’13 with Pakistan on February 21, 1999. The much expected positive action of the Indian Prime Minister failed to improve the Indo-Pak relations rather Pakistan blatantly derailed peace process and responded by intrusion of the Pakistani troops in Kargil followed by ‘Kargil War.’14 Meanwhile, amidst the tense Indo-Pak relations, the NDA government did the best to develop constructive relations with U.S. and other nations.


The year 2000 witnessed new heights in Indo-US relations when the US President Bill Clinton visited India from March 21-25. It was a landmark development after which a Joint Statement ‘Vision 2000’15 was signed that was described as the foundation for a dynamic and lasting partnership between the two growing economic powers.16 The President Clinton described that the purpose of visit was to strengthen friendship that was critical to future of the entire planet.17 The visit turned up a historic achievement and a big diplomatic win of the NDA’s foreign policy that ushered a qualitative and intense phase of the Indo-US relations.


The NDA took positive moves to improve the strained Sino-India relations since 1998.The President K.R. Narayanan visited China in May 2000 to bring back both the countries on the dialogue track. The Chinese side responded in affirmation and described India an old friend. Both countries proposed a reasonable settlement of the vexed boundary dispute and decided to set up an Eminent Persons Group (EPG) to enhance the overall bilateral ties. China put contentious nuclear issue on the backburner but conveyed serious concern for presence of Karmapa and Dalai Lama in India that could instigate anti-Chinese activities.18 Another agreement was signed in January 2001, to improve constructive interaction and cooperation in all areas of common interests. China clearly conveyed that India was not a threat for it rather believed in maintaining friendly relations based on the mutual trust and understanding. Moreover, the Chinese side asserted it preference for peaceful resolution of all the disputes in the South Asia.19 The pragmatic approach of the NDA was reciprocated with good gestures by China and it seemed that Indian policy of maintaining peaceful relations with neighbours delivered positive results.


The Defence Minister George Fernandes visited Russia in June 2000 to further expand and consolidate relations between the two countries. Russia and India shared a long history of amicable relations. The visit ended with signing of important agreements to upgrade the military and technical cooperation between the two countries. A joint commission was set at the Defence Ministry level to coordination bilateral defence cooperation to level of the Defence Chiefs of two countries.20


The Prime Minister Vajpayee attended Millennium Summit of UN and addressed the Summit on September 8, 2000. The final declaration adopted the important Indian concerns like, principle of sovereignty, non-interference, value of tolerance, need for comprehensive reforms of the UN Security Council and call for an international conference to identify ways of eliminating the nuclear dangers.21 The Prime Minister also attended US-India Business Summit and emphasized that the comprehensive process of economic reforms in India was irreversible and impressed upon the US businessmen to take a long-term view, considering magnitude of opportunities and rewards in the future.22 The NDA government used track-II diplomacy to enhance bi-lateral relations and combined it with the grown economic clout of India.


The June visit of the Indian Defence Minister to Russia was reciprocated by the Russian President Vladimir Putin in October 2000 and quick visit conveyed a new qualitative change in the Indo-Russia relations. Both the countries called for a multipolar world and concluded a comprehensive strategic partnership for a structured cooperation in the fields of nuclear sciences, defence, space, fight against international terrorism, separatism, religious extremism, organised crime and illegal drug trafficking.23 Russia reiterated unqualified support for India’s candidature for the permanent membership of an expanded UN Security Council24 and appreciated Indias’ voluntary moratorium on the nuclear tests and efforts to develop a broad national consensus on the issue of CTBT.25 The frequent visits of the highest level of dignitaries helped to increase the Indian prestige.


Meanwhile, India once again initiated bi-lateral dialogue with Pakistan after Kargil conflict. The Indian government invited President Musharraf for Agra Summit level talks in July 2001.Although the talks were held in a positive, purposeful and constructive manner yet Pakistan insisted on the core issue of Kashmir. The talks could not proceed beyond and the Summit ended in fiasco.26 India always tried to convince Pakistan to abandon its compulsive hostility and to abide by commitments of the Shimla Agreement and Lahore Declaration but Pakistan never stopped support to cross border infiltration in Kashmir and anti-India propaganda at all the important international fora.27 Once again the Indian efforts failed miserably and joint statement could not be issued.


The U.S. terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 in New York and Washington dramatically changed world political scene and especially the approach of the U.S. foreign policy towards terrorism. India being a long time victim of terrorism, the NDA government stood for a joint tough action against the terrorism and extended full cooperation to U.S. in its fight against the heinous crime of terrorism.28 The U.S. acknowledged the Indian commitment and after that there was a visible qualitative change in the Indo- U.S. relations. The U.S. launched counter offensive attacks ‘Enduring Freedom’ against the Taliban militia. The NDA allies were offered unreserved and wholehearted support to the government to fight global terrorism.29 The two countries were declared natural allies in the battle against global terrorism.30 The official recognition of India as a friend of U.S. and concern for the state sponsored terrorism against India were milestone achievements of the Indian diplomacy. Infact, the nuclearisation of the South Asia gave a new negative importance to the region and aftermath of the U.S.  terror attacks, the decision of U.S. to establish the military-political presence gave South Asia a more positive and strategic salience31 and India emerged an important ally for U.S.


The Prime Minister Vajpayee visited US on the invitation of President Bush from 7-9 November 2001. The two countries reiterated commitment to qualitative transformation of bilateral relations in pursuit of the common goals in Asia and beyond. A number of new initiatives for dialogue and cooperation in areas of defence, high technology commerce, counter-terrorism, space, nuclear energy, bilateral economic dialogue and Afghanistan were announced.32 That was to expand bi-lateral relations between two countries. During the same month the Prime Minister visited Russia. Several bilateral documents were signed to strengthen cooperation in different fields including important strategic issues.33 The major focus of the visit was situation in Afghanistan and defence cooperation. The ‘Moscow Declaration’ by the two countries underlined the completion of negotiations under the U.N. auspices on draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism to combat global menace of terrorism effectively and reaffirmed central role of UN in struggle against terrorism.34


The attack on the Indian Parliament by Pakistan sponsored terrorists on December 13, 2001 deteriorated the Indo-Pak relations to the lowest ebb and there prevailed war like situation. The affect of the estranged Indo-Pak relations was visible during 11th SAARC Summit at Kathmandu in January 2002. The Indian Prime Minister categorically ruled out the Indo-Pak dialogue till Pakistan cleaned up the terrorism, stopped aiding and abetting such immoral activity.35 All the Indian efforts to normalize failed due to non conciliatory approach of Pakistan.


Mean while the Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji visited India from 13-18 January 2002 to develop friendship, deepen trust and expanded cooperation. He emphasized need for more interaction at the governmental, parliamentary and people to people levels including broader economic cooperation and trade between the two countries. Both sides agreed to establish a bilateral dialogue mechanism against terrorism, accelerated process of clarification and confirmation of Line of Actual Control (LoAC) on India-China boundary. India expressed willingness to develop friendly and cooperative bilateral relations based on Panchsheel, mutual sensitivity while addressing differences through dialogue.36 The agreements and frequent interactions between the two countries developed a positive atmosphere since the abrupt deterioration of relations in 1998.


The Indian government took initiative to improve relations with Pakistan and the Prime Minister in a public rally on April 18, 2003 extended gesture of friendship to Pakistan. The Pakistani PM responded telephonically on April 28 and discussed the commencement of bilateral relations including economic cooperation, cultural exchanges and people-to-people contacts and CBMs to bring thaw in relations. Subsequently, India offered unilateral announcements to promote people to people contact as part of its Track-II diplomacy and Pakistan responded positively.37


The Prime Minister Vajpayee visited China from June 22 to 27, 2003 and talked about a long term approach to rapprochement between India and China and tried to please China on the issue of Tibet and opening of cross border trade through Sikkim. The Premier Wen Jiabao agreed that the joint work on clarification of LoAC should continue smoothly while maintaining peace and tranquility.38 A new Indian approach towards the Chinese concerns infused a fresh momentum to the ongoing development and diversification of bilateral co-operation as both the countries expressed willingness to broaden bilateral relations to face global situation.39 There was a visible improvement in the Sino-India relations with emphasis on the economic diplomacy and Track-11 diplomacy while contentious political issues were being discussed positively on the sidelines.


India’s renewed focus on economic diplomacy reflected during the India-ASEAN Business Summit on September 4, 2003.There was a visible transformation in India’s ‘Look East’ policy from phase-1 to phase- II. The  phase-1 primarily focused on  the ASEAN countries while phase-11 was characterized by a new  meaning of the ‘East’ that extended from Australia to China and East Asia.40 The NDA extended Gujral Doctrine to new and emerging regions of strategic importance.


The Indian Prime Minister visited Moscow on November 11-13, 2003 for the Annual Summit meeting and signed seven-page declaration on ‘Global Challenges and Threats to World Security and Stability’ and nine agreements, five of them related to cooperation in the field of science and technology and remaining on trade and investment.41 The NDA government took a comprehensive review of the national security (both external security and internal security) and initiated corrective measures which included firm measures to combat the Pakistan sponsored cross-border terrorism. The combination of strong security policy and far sighted foreign policy forced Pakistan to commit for the first time that Pakistan would not allow its territory to be used for terrorist activities against India.42


From the above discussion it can be concluded that the NDA government took Indian foreign policy to the new heights. It was based on developing constructive and expanded relations with major powers of the world while taking hard stances towards various issues and countries which affected the national interests of India, its sovereignty, peace and tranquility.

UPA Foreign Policy:

The foreign policy of the UPA government was broadly on lines of the NDA foreign policy. There were marked similarities on the important aspects like composite dialogue to maintain peaceful relations with neighbours, deepening and expanding constructive relationship with global powers, economic diplomacy, expansion of Look East policy, use of Track-11 diplomacy and determination to stand against every type of terrorism at global level.


Like its predecessor, the UPA government recognized India’s continued closer ties with the countries of South East Asia and initiated purposeful, result oriented and highly pro-active foreign policy.43 There was a renewed vigour of the UPA government that wished serious, sustained and comprehensive dialogue with Pakistan.44 The government believed in the peaceful co-existence and expansion of good relations with all the neighbours and especially with Pakistan. The UPA government’s serious intentions towards Pakistan resulted into the first high level Indo-Pak talks which were held in New Delhi from June 19-20, 2004. The significant Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) on the nuclear weapons issue were announced. Both the sides admitted that their nuclear capabilities were a major factor of stability and balance in region and they were conscious of their obligation to their people and international community that they were willing to achieve to the strategic stability.45 It was hoped that the peace initiatives would help to bring thaw between the relations of the two countries.


The meeting was followed by the Foreign Secretary level bilateral talks in New Delhi on June 27. Both the countries discussed issue of J&K and agreed to continue sustained and serious dialogue for the consensual final settlement of the Kashmir issue. India proposed a Peace and Tranquility Treaty to end hostility on the border because such treaty was already in operation with China since 1993.46 The two quick meeting resulted into the positive developments between two countries and a renewed confidence was built to resume composite dialogues and foreign secretary level talks. The UPA government seriously pursued extensive bilateral relations and worked for a long lasting qualitative transformation of the Indo-Pak relations.


The UPA government especially extended Indo-U.S. relations to the new heights of cooperation and deepening relations. The Indian Prime Minister met President Bush on 21 September 2004 on the sidelines of U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York. In a joint statement ‘U.S.-India partnership: Co-operation & Trust’ both sides acknowledged historical closeness of the two countries which was never seen before and set a new direction to further strategic partnership. The President Bush emphasized the greater integration of the two economies.47 That was time when significant consolidation of bilateral relations was witnessed which broadened and diversified with very meeting between the two countries. The Bush administration abandoned the CTBT48 that was the most troubled factor of the bi-lateral relations. The abandonment of the CTBT by U.S. was the milestone achievement of the Indian government as it was one of the major bottlenecks on the way to streamline bilateral relations on the nuclear policy front.


The UPA government accorded the prime importance to Indo-Russia bilateral relations. The Russian President Vladimir Putin visited India for the Fifth Annual India-Russia Summit from December 3-5, 2004 at New Delhi. A Joint Declaration and Nine Agreements were signed between the two countries. The important agreements included Indian use of Russian Global Satellite Navigation System (Glonass), cooperation in outer space, strategic cooperation agreement in gas sector and direct banking relations. Russia reiterated India as a strategic partner and supported Indian demand for permanent membership of U.N. Security Council without affecting the existing veto system. India on its part recognized Russia as a market economy and offered full support for its early entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) and called for cooperation for peaceful use of the atomic energy.49 The deepening of Indo-Russia relations since the NDA times were qualitative taken ahead by the UPA government that was evident from the extensive strategic engagement of the two countries. The strategic location of India and its emerging economy played a vital role that wooed major global powers to change their approach towards India which provided impetus to boost relations with India.


The Sino-India relations kept on improving from the extreme rivalry on core issues to engaging each other for economic cooperation and effective use of the Track-II diplomacy for the long lasting and durable relations. The bilateral relations got boost when the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited India from April 9-15, 2005 and both the countries upgraded their relationship to the strategic level, commitment to maintain peace and tranquility along Line of Actual Control (LoAC) and extended CBMs. The most important aspect was the recognition of genuine concerns of each other by the two countries. The Premier Wen clarified that Sikkim was an integral part of India and India on its part acknowledged the ‘One China Policy’ and recognized Tibet as the Chinese territory. Both sides sought all round expansion of the India-China economic cooperation.50 The mutual concerns and regard for the sensitive issues helped to develop bonhomie between the two countries. The milestone visit resulted in eleven agreements of importance and year 2006 was declared as the ‘Year of India-China Friendship’. In addition, other important agreements were finalized to complete modalities for executing the CBMs in military along LoAC and for Joint Working Groups (JWG) to work on early clarification and confirmation of the LoAC.51 As mentioned earlier, the Sino-India relations sidelined major impediments on the way to closer relationship and focused on the positive deepening and expansion of relations to new heights while continued talks on the contentious issues. The economy played a very important role for the ever deepening bilateral cooperation and developed shared mutual regard and concern for boosting economic relations and amicable diplomatic relations while maintaining peaceful coexistence.


Meanwhile, the Indo-Pak relations marked increased engagement at different levels. The Indian government shifted focus on the Track-11 diplomacy. The Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf visited India from April 16 to 18, 2005 and the two sides accepted each other's stand and agreed on the measures to make LoC a soft border. The beginning of such efforts was marked by the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service which was the part of the CBMs. The two countries committed that the peace process was irreversible and agreed to push ahead the CBMs for future except the core issue of Kashmir. Finally, both the sides pledged to not allow terrorism to impede the peace process.52


It has been observed that since the formation of the UPA government the Indian government was always keen to improve relations with Pakistan and tried to extend cooperation on different aspects. The UPA government was determined to end the long standing nuclear isolation imposed on India after 1998 nuclear explosions. Similar to the NDA government, the government took important steps to bring India out of the unjustified restrictions. The very important visit of the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to U.S. from July 18-20, 2005 was a major step towards that objective. The two countries signed a Civil Nuclear Treaty and U.S.  recognized India’s nuclear weapons and referred India as a responsible nuclear state which should avail same the benefits and advantages at par with other nuclear states. The new steps were drafted on defence and counter-terrorism to secure a safer world. India agreed to follow the best practices of being a responsible nuclear weapon power and commitments to prevent proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), identification and separation of civil and military nuclear facilities and related programmes, placing civilian nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, negotiations with IAEA, moratorium on nuclear testing, working with U.S.  for Fissile Materials Cut off Treaty (FMCT) and to maintain responsible export controls.53


The U.S. in a paradigm shift abandoned its longtime aim to compel India to eliminate its independent nuclear capabilities meant the tacit acceptance of India as a de facto member of the exclusive nuclear club.54 The U.S. acknowledged the Indian responsibilities and after a gap of more than 30 years both the countries resumed cooperation in the field of civilian nuclear energy. The joint statement mentioned that U.S. would work with India as a friend to enable full civil nuclear energy and trade. The U.S. permitted India to buy nuclear fuel and advanced reactors from U.S. and other countries.55 The visit  of the Indian PM and subsequent developments which termed India as a close ally, symbolized bonhomie between the two countries. It was an achievement of the Indian diplomacy that the chief opponent of the Indian nuclear capabilities recognized India as a responsible nuclear state as compare to Pakistan and removed restrictions related to the nuclear programmes.


The Indo-US bi-lateral relations set a new landmark when US President Bush visited India from March 1-3, 2006. The visit led to radical transformation of the bilateral relations as both countries concluded first stage of civilian nuclear cooperation agreement.56 An agreement on India’s nuclear separation plan under bilateral civil nuclear understanding was finalized. According to the plan, India agreed to place 14 out of 22 Indian thermal power reactors under the IAEA safeguards. The U.S. Congress passed the Hyde Act in December 9, 2006 that legalized resumption of the full civil nuclear energy cooperation between the two countries. The Act became Law when the President Bush signed that on December 18, 2006.57 That was a historic movement for the UPA government and the Indian foreign policy because after the 1998 nuclear explosions US spearheaded the movement for imposing sanctions against India. The NDA government initiated and the UPA successfully finalized removal of unjustified restrictions on the Indian nuclear programme.


Another important diplomatic event of 2006 was the four-day visit of the Chinese President Hu Jintao from November 20-23. Hu emphasized friendship with India as priority of China. The Joint Declaration by the two countries included up gradation of the bilateral relations to a new qualitative level. The highlight was the comprehensive economic engagement as both sides fixed a trade target of US$ 40 billion by 2010 and mandated Joint Task Force to study feasibility and benefits of an India-China regional trading arrangement to complete the work by October 2007.58 Both the countries developed consensus for an early settlement of the important strategic boundary issue.59 The President Hu clarified that the objective of his visit was to enhance mutual trust and devise a new ways for the future and expressed hope that the boundary between two countries would be converted into bond of good neighbourliness.60 The improved relations were the legacy of the NDA government and dilution of the core stand on the boundary issue was discussed amicably and by mutual trust.


In January 2007, the Russian President Vladimir Putin visited India. Similar to U.S., Russia also formally acknowledged the Indian nuclear weapon capabilities and offered to sell more reactors. Putin described India as a state with advanced nuclear technologies. That was the first public affirmation of the India nuclear programme by Russia.61 The two countries signed agreement to triple bilateral trade from $3 billion in 2007 to $10 billion by 2010 and underlined importance of multi-polarity in the world affairs.62 The acknowledgement of the Indian nuclear capabilities and India as a responsible state by two big nuclear powers of the world in short duration of time raised Indian status in international arena.


The 14th SAARC Summit was held in New Delhi from April 3-4, 2007. Unlike the earlier summits, that was free from harsh attitudes. The External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee described the summit as the least contentious held so far. The summit ended with agreements to establish a South Asia University and a SAARC food bank. The ‘New Delhi Declaration’ highlighted the need to develop a road map for a South Asian Customs Union in planned and phased manner, emphasis on the speedy implementation of the South Asia Free Trade Area (SAFTA) agreement to other areas of the regional economic cooperation. The Pakistani side highlighted the importance of resolving Kashmir issue for achieving the lasting and durable peace for region and suggested a Northern Ireland type of peace process to solve the issue.63 The Summit witnessed India's new found political will to accelerate regional integration through unilateral gestures on opening its market to its neighbours.64


The above discussion brought to the notice that the Indian foreign policy during the NDA (1998-2004) and the UPA (2004-08) basically followed the same principles but with a different approach. During that period both the governments expanded and deepened the relations with the major global powers of the world. Both the NDA and the UPA governments made earnest efforts to maintain peaceful relations with neighbouring countries especially with Pakistan and China. The Chinese approach always remained positive and the bilateral relations with China witnessed qualitative change and there developed mutual regard and trust between the two countries. Both the governments could not find a long lasting solution to the core issue of Kashmir due to irrationality of Pakistan. The NDA government made transformed the ‘Look East Policy’ and extended it to the ‘Further East’ policy to include countries of the South and East Asia and the UPA followed.


Similarly, the process of deepening relations with U.S. was given impetus by the NDA government which was constructively taken forward by the UPA government. The NDA ended transformed India into a declared nuclear power and started efforts to end the official nuclear apartheid of the Indian nuclear programme. The UPA government continued the process and evolved a comprehensive process to officially end the nuclear apartheid which culminated in the form of U.S.  acknowledgement of the Indian nuclear programme by passing relevant legislations and signing of the Civil Nuclear Treaty. The success on the nuclear front was historical achievement of the UPA government.


The NDA and the UPA governments deepened and strengthened relations with the big global powers like US, USA, China and Russia which were marked by huge improvement of economic and political relations while development of  understanding on the core contentious issues. The UPA government didn’t make drastic changes in the NDA policies and continued to work for strengthening of the regional organizations and regional integration by narrowing down the political and economic boundaries.


The economic policy and Track-II diplomacy were widely and successfully used by both the governments as important aspects of their foreign policies. Although governments worked hard for the establishment of multipolar world and developed deepening relations with major global powers yet they failed to secure requisite support to claim permanent seat for India in the expanded U.N. Security Council rather efforts were opposed by the powerful countries and the various political groups. The Prime Minister Vajpayee asserted and protected Indian interests globally and led to rise of  India. The NDA set the stage and the UPA government substantiated and deepened those efforts successfully.



1.       Saez, Lawrence and Singh Gurharpal (ed.s) (2012), New Dimensions of Politics in India: The United Progressive Alliance in Power, The UPA’s Foreign Policy, Routledge, London, pp. 99-100.

2.       Muralidharan, Sukumar and Cherian John (1998), Frontline, The BJP’s Bombs,, Vol.15, No.11, May 23-June 5.

3.       Vanaik, Achin ( Dec. 2002), South Asia Journal of South Asia Studies, Making India Strong: The BJP-Led Government’s Foreign Policy Perspectives, Vol. 25, No.3, p.329.

4.       Ram, N. (1998), Frontline, Sino-Indian Relations: What Lies Ahead?”, Vol.15, No.19, Sep.12-25.

5.       Sampathkumar, D.(1999), Frontline,  The Force of Sanctions”,,  May 23-June 5.

6.       Baruah, Amit (1999), Frontline, The South Asian Nuclear Mess,, Vol.16, No.10, May8-21.

7.       Swaminathan, R. (2003), South Asia Analysis Group, Pokhran-11: Five Years Later,, May 15.

8.       Cherian, John (1998), Frontline, Buckling Under US Pressure,,Vol.15,No.16, Aug. 1-14.

9.       Adeney, Katharine and Saez Lawrence (eds.), (2005), Coalition Politics & Hindu Nationalism, The NDA and Indian Foreign Policy, Routledge, New York,  p.203.

10.     Cherian, John (1998), Frontline,  Face-off in Colombo,, Vol. 15, No. 17, Aug. 15-28.

11.     Cherian, John (1998), Frontline, New Momentum for NAM,, Vol.15, No.19, Sep.12-25.

12.     Chakma, Bhumitra (ed.),(2011), The Politics of Nuclear Weapons in South Asia, I Had Gone To Lahore with a Message of Goodwill but in Return we got Kargil: The Promise and Perils of ‘Leaps of Trust’ in India-Pakistan Relations , Ashgate, England,  p.162.

13.     Lahore Declaration: India and Pakistan signed declaration and affirmed that both countries shall intensify their efforts to resolve all issues, including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, refrain from intervention and interference in each other's internal affairs, intensify their composite and integrated dialogue process for an early and positive outcome of the agreed bilateral agenda, take immediate steps for reducing the risk of accidental or unauthorized use of nuclear weapons and discuss concepts and doctrines with a view to elaborating measures for confidence building in the nuclear and conventional fields, aimed at prevention of conflict. Reaffirmed commitment to the goals and objectives of SAARC and to concert their efforts towards the realization of the SAARC vision for the year 2000 and beyond with a view to promoting the welfare of the peoples of South Asia and to improve their quality of life through accelerated economic growth, social progress and cultural development, condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and their determination to combat this menace and to promote and  protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms. Ministry of External Affairs, GOI,

14.     The Kargil conflict led to a limited war between the two countries. The US and West identified Pakistan as aggressor and condemned it. Nawaz Sharif was summoned to United States to withdraw troops from region. This was for the first time since WW-II when United States showed a favourable stance on India. Finally, the Pakistani troops had to retreat from Kargil in July 1999 leading success of Operation Vijay of Indian army.For Details:

15.     Ministry of External Affairs, Annual Report 1999-2000 and US-India Relations: A Vision For the 21st Century, (2000),,  March 21.

16.     Lakshminarayan, T.V. (2000), The Tribune, Clinton’s Mantra for Peace,  March 22.

17.     Ministry of External Affairs, Annual Report 2000-2001, p.70.

18.     The Tribune (2000), India, China Agree To End Border Row, May 30.

19.     Ministry of External Affairs, Annual Report 2000-2001, p.27.

20.     Radyuhin , Vladimir(2000), The Hindu, India, Russia To Upgrade Defence Ties, June 28.

21.     Ministry of External Affairs , Annual Report 2000-2001, p.80.

22.     Singh, Hari Jai (2000), The Tribune,  Vajpayee Woos US Investors, Sept. 14.

23.     Misra, Satish (2000), The Tribune, India, Russia Forge Strategic Tie Up, Oct. 4.

24.     Cherian, John (2000), Frontline,    A Strategic Partnership, Vol.17, No 21, Oct. 14-27.

25.     Ministry of External Affairs, Annual Report 2000-2001, p.55

26.     Mohan, C.Raja(2001),  The Hindu, Hopes Rise For a Productive Summit, July 15.

27.     Ministry of External Affairs, Annual Report 2000-2001, p.2.

28.     The Tribune (2001), PM Condemns Attack, Sept. 13.

29.     The Tribune (2001), Allies Back PM on Terrorism, Sept. 27.

30.     Cherian, John (2001), Frontline, Diplomatic Concerns,,  Vol.18, No.22,Oct. 27-Nov. 9.

31.     Vanaik, Achin, Op.cit, n.3, p. 332.

32.     Ministry of External Affairs, Annual Report 2001-02,p.65.

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Received on 25.08.2018       Modified on 30.08.2018

Accepted on 06.09.2018      ©A&V Publications All right reserved

Res.  J. Humanities and Social Sciences. 2018; 9(3): 701-708.

DOI: 10.5958/2321-5828.2018.00117.1