Continuities and Changes of India’s Foreign Policy since its Independence for Making a better India


Rama Rao Bonagani

Assistant Professor, Department of Public Administration and Policy Studies,

#112, Kauveri Block, School of Social Sciences, Central University of Kerala,

Tejaswini Hills, Periye (Post), Kasaragod (District) -671320, Kerala, India.

*Corresponding Author E-mail:,



Foreign policy means a policy pursued by a nation in its dealings with other nations, designed to achieve its national objectives. This is the same in the case of India also. However, the quintessential strands of India’s foreign policy are peaceful co-existence, non-interference, peaceful resolution of disputes, non-alignment, anti-colonialism, anti-racism, multilateralism, pluralism, general and complete disarmament, opposition to all forms of terrorism, extremism and fundamentalism and pro-development. In recent decades, India has pursued a more expansive foreign policy that encompasses the neighborhood first policy embodied by SAARC as well as the Look East policy to forge more extensive economic and strategic relationships with other East Asian countries. This article has explored the major continuities and changes that had been happened in India’s foreign policy since its independence.


KEYWORDS: Policy, Continuity, Change, Peace, Development, Foreign.




The States or countries in the world recently are far more engaged in diplomacy than ever before. This is because actively building relations with other states to harness their mutual commercial and cultural strengths. Indian state has been also currently far more engaged in diplomacy and is set to leverage its role and wants make itself a diplomatic super power1. The present 21st century world will be more open, more integrated and more inter-dependent. This is a globalized world. The self-serving assumption of its early advocates that globalization would be a euphemism for Americanization of the world has turned out to be misplaced. Globalization is no longer a monopoly of the West. The law of unintended consequences is at work.


Technology has been increasingly driving many changes. One of the key questions states are grappling with is how to retain or develop a technological edge in the critical areas. For example, to achieve the mastery of new technologies in advanced science and technology fields of nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology, artificial intelligence and materials that can be determine the global clout as well as standing of a country more decisively than hitherto.


The rest of the world clearly thinks that India will be one of the leading players in the world. In 2003, the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) report  of Goldman Sachs, which was the world’s leading investment banking, securities and investment management firm had created waves when it forecasted the growing importance of  economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China in the coming decades. One of its conclusions was that in the long term India has a potentially greater growth story than China. The main argument was that its favorable demographic profile and dynamic private sector that would enable India to become the world’s third largest economy by 20502.  Moreover, according to assessment of Goldman Sachs by 2040 the four largest economies will be those of China, United States of America(USA), India, and Japan.


Indian foreign policy has been rapidly evolving over the last two decades. As India has risen economically and militarily in recent years, its political influence on the global stage has also seen a commensurate increase. From the peripheries of international affairs, India is now at the center of major power politics. It is viewed as a major balancer in Asia-Pacific, a major democracy that can be a major ally of the west in countering China3. India is becoming an increasingly visible, powerful and influential state within the global system. Centered upon its contemporary emergence as a political and economic power house, south Asia’s largest state is rising to prominence as one of the 21st century’s major Asian global powers4. India also aims to boost its indigenous defense capabilities in coming up two years5.


Foreign policies are claimed to be driven by an ideology. The first two world wars and the following Cold War were all rationalized and explained on the basis of ideology of fighting for democracy, first against the forces of fascism and then against expanding communism. Similarly, an end of the Cold War had been projected as an ideological victory of liberal polities and open economies against communist states which control over economy and political freedom. The post-Cold War unipolar order has also been projected as one based on ‘superior’ moral values of human rights, democracy and economic freedom. But all these global conflicts were precipitated by a clash of strategic and material interests of the states involved and only these interests drove their respective foreign policies. India as a democratic state mostly reacted to the rise of struggles for democracy in the neighbouring countries and responded to the calls of support on the basis of its perceived interests in the given context of political turbulence6.


The constitution of India gives its union central government virtually exclusive jurisdiction over matters of foreign policy. In practice too, the central government at New Delhi has been exercised overwhelming control over India’s external relations since the constitution came into force in 19507. However, the fundamental purpose of India’s foreign policy is to promote its national interest8.


According to E. Sridharan, India’s foreign policy can be divided into three broad phases. The first phase was from 1947 to 1962 or the ‘Nehruvian’ or immediate post-independence phase. In this, Instead of India finding its feet in a Cold War world, it invented nonalignment. The second or extended Nehruvian phase as it might be called from 1962 to 91, which consisted of non-alignment and a heavily state-regulated mixed economy in a Cold War world. But one in which India was tied down by regional conflicts and slow growth. Overall, from 1962 to 1991 was characterized by India’s search for security in the South Asian region, a middle power role, a Third World as well as Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) role and a pro-Soviet tilt from 19719.


The third phase since 1991 has been characterized by gradual economic liberalization and a higher trend rate of growth, the gradual building up of capabilities, a search for security and new relationships, especially improvement with United States in the twenty-first century. There was an emergence of minority and coalition governments in India in which no single party won a majority in the Lok Sabha elections in this period up to 2009. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) led National Democratic Allaince(NDA) got a single party majority in 2014 and 2019. In 1998, India carried out five nuclear tests, the second time it tested after 1974. Over from 2004–14 under the Congress Party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, India has enjoyed the highest average growth rate it had ever experienced over any ten years since independence. But there was some slowdown as well during the last years of its rule10.


However, multilateral institutions are the venue for the demand by India’s leaders that the leadership of these primarily Western-led institutions reflect changed global realities. This is the premise behind India’s claim for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council and its demand for reformulation of the Bretton Woods financial institutions of International Monetary Fund and World Bank. India’s often defiant stance in international institutions like the World Trade Organization (WTO) also stems from its desire for a multipolar world that is no longer to be dominated by Western powers11. India has emerged as a leading voice in global affairs in the past two decades. Its fast-growing domestic market largely explains ardour with which Delhi is courted by powers great and small. India is also becoming increasingly important to global geostrategic calculations, being an only Asian country with the heft to counterbalance China over time12.


The Ministry of External Affairs(MEA) as part of the central government of India is responsible for all aspects of its external relations with other countries in the world. Under this ministry, territorial divisions deal with bilateral, political and economic work. While functional divisions look after policy planning, multilateral organizations, regional groupings, legal matters, disarmament, protocol, consular, Indian Diaspora, press & publicity, administration and other aspects. Indian Foreign Service(IFS) Officer is required to project India’s interests both at home and abroad on a wide variety of issues. These include bilateral, political, economic cooperation, trade & investment promotion, cultural interaction, press and media, liaison as well as a whole host of multilateral issues. However, the functions of an Indian diplomat can be summarized as representing India in its Embassies, High Commissions, Consulates and Permanent Missions to multilateral organizations like UN13 etc.


This Ministry has been continued its pro-active manner through strengthened bilateral, regional and multilateral partnerships and by seeking to build influence in key global forums. The pace of its outreach efforts with Indian diaspora also continued with characteristic vigour and innovative mechanisms. Bilaterally, the BJP led NDA Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi’s informal summits with Russia and China, the 2+2 engagement with USA, high level visits to Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, as also to the Central Asian Republics are an illustrative of a new phase in expansion of India’s diplomatic engagements. India’s broadening horizons on maritime issues were postulated through presentation of a six-point Indo-Pacific policy, reinforcing India’s concept of Security And Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR). India has played a pioneering role on climate change and global warming issues with the holding of the first General Assembly of an International Solar Alliance at New Delhi on 2-10- 2018. India’s emergence as a global forum for deliberations on international relations and globalization was demonstrated through the holding of international conferences which covering the three pillars of geopolitics, geo-economics and geo technology. India is a part of Asia continent country. India’s relations with other counties in all continents can be broadly classified as Asian, Oceania, Africa, Europe and North as well as South Americas14. Before discussing the continuities and changes in India’s foreign policy, it is appropriate to look at the key developments of India’s recent foreign relations with other countries mentioned below.


The key developments in India’s foreign relations during 2020-21:

The Prime Minister of India Mr. Narendra Modi has conducted at least 70 tele conversations and virtual meetings with leaders around the world. The virtual summit meetings were also initiated and Prime Minister participated in summits with Australia, Bangladesh, Denmark, EU, Italy, Luxembourg, Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. Indian EAM has conducted virtual Joint Commission meetings with 27 countries. He also participated in several multilateral and plurilateral Ministerial meetings. These included BRICS, SCO, RIC, G20, Afghanistan Peace Negotiations and Afghanistan Pledging Conference, IBSA, G4, SAARC, Alliance for Multilateralism, India-Central Asia Dialogue, CICA, India GCC Dialogue, India-Nordic Baltic Conclave and East Asia Summit15.


The policy of putting Neighbourhood First remained one of the fundamental pillars of Indian diplomacy during this period. The SAARC Covid-19 Emergency Fund was created with India contributing USD 10 million. India has sent Covid related medicines and medical equipment by air to Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal, and Sri Lanka16. In the broader Indian Ocean region, under PM mr. Modi’s broad vision of   SAGAR relations have been augmented with partners in the region in defense and security, development partnership, training and capacity building. High level contact was sustained. Indian Prime Minister and Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth have jointly inaugurated the new Supreme Court Building in Mauritius during a video conference on 30th July 2020. India’s Act East policy focused on its relations with East and South-East Asian region. High-level contacts were sustained and enhanced. Mr. Modi held telephonic conversations and virtual meetings with 9 countries in the region17.


India has continued to intensify its engagement with various Indo-Pacific frameworks including ASEAN, East Asia Summit (EAS), Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), Mekong Ganga Cooperation (MGC), Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS), and the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI). Mr. Modi has held virtual meetings with Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE18. The business ties with United States of America were deepened by a number of major investments by US technology majors in India. People to people contact continued. An Air Bubble was established and operated19.


India engaged actively in plurilateral initiatives throughout this period. It chaired the Council of Heads of Government of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization(SCO) and hosted a SCO virtual summit on 10 November 2020. Mr. Modi has attended a virtual BRICS Summit on 17 November 2020 and EAM attended the BRICS Virtual Foreign Ministers meeting on 04th September 2020. EAM travelled to Moscow to attend the Russia-India-China (RIC) Foreign Ministers meeting on 10th September 2020. India has joined the United Nations Security Council for a non-permanent tenure on 1st January 2021. India is committed to reformed multilateralism which takes into account human-centric globalization and the current global realities20.


Continuities and Changes:

The continuity and change are features of all foreign policies. The foreign policy of a country reflects continuity because it is based on and guards the long-term national interests of that state. Continuity in foreign policy reflects the foresightedness and the vision of the foreign policy makers. Similarly, change is also an important aspect of all foreign policies. Change reflects pragmatism of the policy makers holding this responsibility. Change is necessary because environment both internal and external is constantly at flux. Hence, countries need to adjust themselves to the changing circumstances. Therefore, both continuity and change are important features of any foreign policy. Indian foreign policy is no exception to this rule21. However, Indian policy community is divided on where the nation’s foreign policy is headed. Some argue that there has been a fundamental shift, whereas others opine that there is no basic departure from the past. But the following analysis reveals that there is an existence of both continuity and change in the foreign policy of India.


A) Continuities of India’s Foreign Policy:

The Janata Party came to power at the Centre in spring 1977 after inflicting a crushing defeat on the ruling Congress party. This Government has not brought about any basic change in India's foreign policy and relations. First, the Janata Government has reiterated its commitment to non-alignment in various international and national forums. Secondly, it has categorically expressed its desire to sort out various global issues through collective action on the part of the non-aligned countries. Thirdly, in pursuance of the policy initiated by the previous Government, it has been able to carry on the task of normalization of relations with India's neighbours. Finally, it has been able to achieve a certain balance in India's relationship with the Super Powers in the context of India's adherence to non-alignment. True, in 1971 there had been a certain bias in India's Soviet policy in view of the immediate necessities underlined by war with Pakistan. Nonetheless, subsequently, the previous Government was slowly working its way towards a more equip distant position between Moscow and Washington. The Janata Government's stress on "genuine non-alignment" is in a sense the recognition of this position in India's interest22.


Preservation of Indian territorial integrity, freedom of policy, international peace, economic development, protection of interest of Persons of Indian Origin(PIO)s abroad, and freedom of dependent people have been the primary objectives of Indian foreign policy. The principles adopted towards the fulfillment of these objectives were Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), Panchsheel, solidarity with the third world countries, establishment of a just world order, support to United Nations(UN), anti-imperialism, etc. All governments, from the times of Nehru to the Congress led UPA led government, have shown due regard to these principles of India’s foreign policy23. India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru has played a crucial role in independence struggle and served as foreign minister in addition to being prime minister for seventeen years. He laid down the principles of Indian foreign and security policy through in his writings, speeches and policy decisions. For thirty-five years or so after his death, Nehru’s successors preferred to continue with the Nehruvian framework, making only cosmetic changes whenever required.


India’s policy of ‘Neighbourhood First’ continued to be accorded the highest priority with a focus on creating mutually beneficial, people-oriented, regional frameworks for stability and prosperity. The pace of bilateral engagements were maintained and the focus was on making progress on execution of infrastructure and connectivity projects. Projects in the realms of rail, road, ports, inland waterways, shipping and energy and fuel transmission are being implemented with our partners in the neighbourhood. Initiatives for broadening people-to-people ties continued side-by-side24. In the case of China, the continuity manifested is of a different nature in large measure because of the sheer dynamism of China's advance in the regions proximate to India. India has sought to meet this with a policy of engagement along with moves to right an Asian power balance. So, India is an enthusiastic member of the Chinese sponsored Asian infrastructure bank, the BRICS bank and more recently, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization(SCO). In trying to deal with the Sino-Indian border, too little has changed in the parallel process where India is working to develop its border infrastructure to meet a more assertive China even as it works to settle the border dispute through the Special Representative's dialogue25.


Elements of foreign policy continuity under the BJP led NDA and Congress-led UPA governments of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh are far more numerous and substantial than the readjustments on the margins. Vajpayee turned around the relationship with USA with sustained engagement after the setback of the 1998 nuclear tests. His diplomatic overtures to Pakistan and China successfully insulated foreign policy from domestic political pressures and delinked the two border disputes from engagement on other fronts. Whereas, Manmohan Singh’s impulse and instincts were the same, but his far weaker position in the domestic structure left him no space to launch and sustain foreign policy initiatives. He outsourced Sri Lanka and Bangladesh policies to coalition allies in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. Even his signature civil nuclear cooperation deal with  USA remains unconsummated because domestic opponents successfully hobbled it with a draconian nuclear liability law26.


In the last few years, there has been a high degree of continuity in foreign policy objectives such as ensuring a peaceful, secure and stable neigh bourhood, securing inward foreign investment and increasing India’s influence. There is a clear recognition that regional stability is essential for India’s development. With clear headed pragmatism, the government has reinforced the primacy of the neighbourhood and Indian Ocean.


B) Changes in India’s Foreign Policy:

At the global level, we see a shift towards playing India a leading world role rather than a mere balancing one with an ambition, energy and confidence. There is a realization in the government that to become a true great power, India will need to set agenda on the burning international issues of the day rather than merely shaping outcomes. At an end of the 2nd World War, India was a passive witness to the creation of a new security architecture for the world, as decisions concerning India were made by the British. This was because India was under the British rule. But India now is prepared to lead the negotiation of global covenants.


India is willing to shoulder the responsibility of securing the global commons. This was demonstrated by humanitarian relief operations in Yemen, Nepal, South Sudan, Fiji, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, and in India’s continuing lead in UN peacekeeping operations. India stood in the frontlines in keeping the maritime commons safe and secure, and in global negotiations such as on climate change. We are seeing a policy framework that radiates India’s diplomatic influence beyond its neighbourhood. In 2015 alone Prime Minister Modi has made 28 foreign visits. This showed that India thinks globally and Indian leaders travel accordingly. There is a change at the regional level as well.


As per Act East Policy is concerned, during colonial rule, India’s links with East were disrupted. After independence, India has leaned on the West for nation building. Asia took a back seat as the West became the main source of technology and capital. With an end of the Cold War, India again shifted its gaze to an East, drawing from the rich ties of history. It began to search for new partnerships with a rising East led by China. Outcome was the Look East Policy. An evolution of the Look East Policy to Act East Policy is a shift from conception to outcomes.


As per India’s relations with Afghanistan, in January 2016, India has made a modest supply of three MI 25 ground attack helicopters to Afghanistan. This was not a force multiplier, but marks a change in policy. There has been a modification in India’s policy towards Israel. In a policy departure on the conflict in Gaza, which was resumed in July 2014, the government took a neutral position and calling for peace talks. In another departure, India has abstained from voting on an application by a Palestinian non- governmental organization for special consultative status in an UN committee. It also abstained on an UN Human Rights Commission resolution that condemned Israel over a July 2014 UN report on violence in Gaza.


In September 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have met on the margins of UN General Assembly at New York. The first visit of an Israeli defense minister to India took place in February 2015. The former President of India, Pranab Mukherjee has visited Israel in October 2015. While in the past India had avoided high level visits to Israel.


With regard to India’s foreign policy towards USA, there is also a breakthrough in implementation of the civil nuclear agreement of 2008. This is not a new policy, but the pace of developments is a departure from the past. India’s policy towards Pakistan is concerned, at one level under the central government we witnessed a change in Pakistan policy. By engaging Pakistan, the government reversed the suspension of official level talks in January 2013 by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, following ceasefire violations across the line of control in Jammu and Kashmir. Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif held talks at Prime Minister Modi’s inauguration in New Delhi in May, 2014 and on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit at Ufa city in 2015. In another policy reversal, back- to- back "talks on terror” led by the two National Security Advisors and talks between the two Foreign Secretaries on all other issues including Kashmir were announced27.


The latest 45th G7 summit of August 2019 held in France is evidenced that the traditional guarantors of international liberal order no longer possess the vision or will to sustain it. It was struggling to find relevance in a parochial world order marked by so-called coalitions of convenience. India’s presence at this G7 as an observer state is an acknowledgement of a dimension of new reality. For India, it is another milestone in its rise as a leading power28. In the sidelines of this summit, India PM Narendra Modi, at a joint appearance with USA President Trump made a polite yet firm statement about India’s position on Kashmir, which has resulted leaving no room for any mediatory excursion. Moreover, Modi said that “All issues between India and Pakistan are bilateral in nature,” he said, adding tartly that India did not want to “inconvenience any (third) country on this issue”29.


However, in an aftermath of India's decision to end the special status to Jammu and Kashmir(J&K) state by revoking Articles 370 & 35A and split J&K into two union territories of J&K and Ladakh. Because of this, all of Trump’s outbursts on Kashmir due to his need to secure Pakistan’s backing for his Afghanistan policy was un able to fundamentally alter either the ground realities in the region or India’s policy vis-à-vis Kashmir. The rest of international community seemed to have come to terms with India, as was reflected in French President Emmanuel Macron’s statement that “issue of Kashmir should be resolved between India and Pakistan and no other party should be involved”30. This was a major diplomatic success for India.


India and France countries had traditionally enjoyed good relations. They have launched their “strategic partnership” in 1998. In fact, France became the first country with which India elevated its relationship to “strategic partnership”. The defining aspect of the “strategic partnership” has been its steady expansion that has raised comfort levels in both these countries. In the present uncertain times, with rising tensions and mistrust between US, China and Russia, negotiated outcomes are being discarded with increasing recourse to unilateralism. So, France and India have a shared interest in developing a coalition of middle powers with a shared commitment for a rule based multipolar world order31.


Modi's World tells the story of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vigorous diplomacy and his aspiration to elevate India's place in the world.  Moreover, Modi's attempted to end Delhi's defensiveness on the world stage, inject greater flexibility into India's positions on trade and climate change, discard past slogans like non-alignment, and construct a new framework of pragmatic internationalism32.


The change of the foreign policy of India in the last past 5 years under Prime Minister Narendra Modi into three paradigms such as  at an ideational level,  at the structural level and at an institutional level33. Modi has changed the nomenclature from ‘Look East’ to ‘Act East’, ‘Act East’ is as much imbued with a distinct soft power push as with a realistic appraisal of the need to expand Indian footprint in East and Southeast Asia. In the Middle East, India has asserted itself like never before and was invited to an inaugural address of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation for the first time in its 50-year history.


In fact, India has announced on 05-09-2019 an unprecedented $1 billion line of credit for the development of Russia’s Far East. For this, PM Mr. Modi said that New Delhi would walk shoulder to shoulder with Moscow in its quest for the development of the resource rich region. At the plenary session of the 5th Eastern Economic Forum(EEF) at Vladivostok, he said that it was an unique case of India providing such special credit line to another country and this was our launching pad in the Far East where India is very active. He also said that his government has actively engaged East Asia as part of its Act East policy34.


India wants to be a big player on the global stage, but it lacks an ability to project its aspirations adequately. Modi’s strong response to the terror strikes in Pulwama(Jammu &Kashmir) at the very end of his first five term made it clear that  he has managed to change the fundamentals of Indian foreign and security policy during his tenure. His government’s use of air power to target terror camps deep inside Pakistani territory was the first such act after the 1972 war. This has shattered the myth of Pakistani nuclear capability and has opened the possibility of India fighting a limited conventional war if need be. This Modi’s government policy message to Pakistan has been heard around the world and will have serious ramifications for India’s global engagement. However, India has not only defined these air strikes as “non-military preemptive” actionbut has also taken Pakistan to an International Court of Justice and worked with the Financial Action Task Force to turn the screws on Pakistan, underlining the central difference between a ‘responsible’ India and a ‘rogue’ Pakistan.


In fact, India’s relations with Pakistan policy has been altered, perhaps unequivocally. Moreover, Modi has also deftly handled major power relations at a time when they are increasingly in contestation.  Modi has asked his senior diplomats to help India position itself in a leading role rather than as just a balancing force globally. This was in fact reflected in Indian foreign policy bureaucracy’s evolving discourse. Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale has asserted earlier this 2019 year in Delhi that “India has moved on from its non-aligned past and India is today an aligned state but based on issues”. He also said that “in the rules-based order, India would have a stronger position in multilateral institutions”.


This is as much an assertion of India’s desire to play a larger global role as it is about India changing its approach to global engagement. While some Indian political intellectuals retain a somewhat reflexive anti Americanism, Modi has used his decisive mandate to carve a new partnership with USA to harness its capital and technology for his India’s domestic development agenda. For examples, he has signed the bilateral Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement with USA in 2016 to facilitate logistical support, supplies and services between USA and Indian militaries on a reimbursable basis and to provide a framework to govern such exchanges. This was followed by the signing of Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement in 2018 to help access advanced defense systems and enable India to optimally utilize its existing USA origin platforms.

Another change is that discarding ideological baggage of the past, Prime Minister Modi has anchored Indian foreign policy on its civilizational ethos and values. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also redefined strategic autonomy as an objective that is attainable through strengthened partnerships instead of avoiding partnerships. For example, when India engages in the so called ‘Quad’ (United States, Australia, Japan, and India), it enhances its strategic autonomy vis-à-vis China. When it sits with Russia and China for a trilateral, it enhances its strategic autonomy vis-à-vis a Trump administration intent on challenging the fundamentals of the global economic order. Foreign policies of nations States don’t alter radically with changes in their respective governments, but Prime Minister Modi in India has ensured that some of assumptions which had governed India’s foreign policy engagements have been fundamentally challenged. He has been imbued Indian foreign policy with a certain amount of risk taking, unlike the risk aversion of the past. India from perpetually being a cautious power  is seemingly ready to take on a larger global role by being more nimble than ever in playing the great power game35.


India under Prime Minister Modi, however has appeared to drift away from its long time ally Russia. Although New Delhi and Moscow have cordial relations, India is now closer to Washington than ever. India's relations with some of its neighboring countries have always been problematic. India views China and Pakistan as its biggest security challenges in the region. This aspect of India's foreign policy has remained unchanged for the past few decades. But security analysts say that unlike his predecessors, Prime Minister Modi has chosen to be more assertive when it comes to national security. As an example of this assertiveness, they pointed to India's "surgical strike"  against militant launch pads across the Line of Control in Pakistani administered Kashmir . Overall observers argued that Modi has changed India's diplomatic outlook in several ways. He has reset his country's relations with the West, especially USA in a bid to counter China's growing influence in Asia. Modi has also taken a more aggressive stance toward Pakistan's alleged terrorism backing36.


The Prime Minister Modi wants to make India no longer just a balancer, but  a major power in its own right37. India’s desire to combine the traditional with the modern permeates also the realm of its relations with the rest of the world. Addressing United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) for the first time as prime minister in September 2014, Narendra Damodardas Modi has championed adoption of an International Yoga Day, This proposal that was adopted by UNGA on 11th December 2014.This was a sign of India’s arrival on the world stage as a major global power. But conventional definitions of what it means to be a great power would differ with this view38.


Both Continuities and Changes in India’s Foreign Policy:

The 2019 was a year of continuity and change for an union Ministry of External Affairs in India. The traditional partnerships and the diplomatic initiatives of the recent past were given a newer dimension by an installation of a new government following general elections in May 2019. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi was sworn in for his second term as Prime Minister of India. Dr. S. Jaishankar was appointed as an External Affairs Minister and Shri V. Muraleedharan as a Minister of State for External Affairs39. Indian diplomacy during the year under review continued its purposeful pursuit of national interest during a time of rapid global change.


The greater economic well-being, peace in our region and in the world, the protection of Indian interests and Indians abroad and projection of Indian influence as well as views were fundamental to an operation of Indian foreign policy during this period. Working with multiple partners on different agendas, this Ministry built on its Neigbourhood First and Act East policies. A focus on intensifying contacts and on concrete manifestations of goodwill and intent in these areas were supplemented by a focus on major bilateral relationships, multilateral and plurilateral activities. An adjustment of foreign policy to domestic priorities to ensure their constant alignment received close attention40.


An external challenges during this period included substantial changes in geo-political equations including major shifts in great power policy on regional issues and countries, potentially disruptive technologies as well as global technology regimes and the response to major international issues such as migration, climate change and global economic and development governance41. The congruent with India’s emphasis on engaging like minded friendly countries in an immediate neighbourhood, leaders of BIMSTEC ( Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation)  countries, Kyrgyzstan and Mauritius attended the swearing in ceremony of the newly elected BJP led NDA government on 30 May 2019. The first overseas visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi immediately after assuming office for the second time was to Maldives from 08 to 09, June 2019. This enabled us to further our partnership with Maldives by opening up new areas of cooperation in health, connectivity, capacity building and maritime operations. This was followed by a visit in the year 2019 to Sri Lanka on 09th June42.


India’s External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar also made his first visit abroad to Bhutan from 07 to 08th June 2019, which was reflecting an importance that India attaches to its bilateral relationship with Bhutan, a close friend and neighbour. The Ministry of External Affairs had continued with an accelerated momentum of international engagements through the  Prime Minister Narendra Modi attending the Council of Heads of States at the  Shanghai Cooperation Organization(SCO )in Bishkek capital city of Kyrgyzstan country(13th  to 14th  June, 2019), G20 meetings at Osaka city in Japan (27th to 29th  June, 2019), Japan-America India and Russia-India-China Trilateral meetings and informal BRICS Summit (28th  June, 2019) on the margins of the G20 Summit. An External Affairs Minister, Dr. Jaishankar had participated in the 5th Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) at Dushanbe from 14th to15th June 2019; the 19th Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Ministers Meeting (09th to 11th    July, United Kingdom). Moreover, External Affairs Minister  had also participated in this 2019 year’s editions of the Ministerial Meetings in the Mekong Ganga Cooperation, ASEAN India, and East Asian Summit formats43.


An engagement with great powers continued apace. An United States Secretary of State Michael Pompeo had visited India in June 2019. The Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov visited New Delhi in July ,2019. The reciprocal visits provided an opportunity for enhancing India’s bilateral and multilateral commitments. An External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar had visited Washington in December 2019 and Moscow in August 2019.The Prime Minister Mr. Modi had concluded a highly successful visit to an United States in September 2019 which cemented India’s strong connections with an United States of America and included an appearance with President Donald Trump at the Howdy Modi event in Houston city in Texas state of USA.


India also further extended the range of its cooperation with Russia with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s successful visit to Russia in September 2019, where India expressed its commitment to work together with Russia for the development of Russia’s Far East Region. The President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping had visited India in October 2019 for the 2nd Informal Summit with Prime Minister at Chennai. While External Affairs Minister Dr. Dr. S. Jaishankar had visited to China for the 2nd India-China high level mechanism on cultural and people-to-people exchanges. The Prime Minister Mr.Modi had visited France in August 2019  in order to attend the 2019 G-7 Summit (where India was designated as ‘Biarritz partner’), wherein he had addressed sessions on Environment, Climate, Oceans and Digital Transformation44.


The Ministry continued its efforts to maintain and augment its position as a pre-eminent player in an Indian Ocean Region. Given an increasing salience of the Indo-Pacific concept in global discourse, the Ministry of External Affairs established a new Division for the Indo-Pacific in April 2019. This was followed by an intensification of India’s engagement with various Indo-Pacific frameworks like an Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), East Asia Summit (EAS), Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) and Mekong Ganga Cooperation (MGC)45.


India had also joined an Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS) as a Development Partner. The Ministry of External Affairs had also under took a programme of bilateral visits to important countries in this region to further our engagement with them. The significant initiatives were undertaken to cement defense and maritime relationships with neighbours in this region. The development initiatives and connectivity as well as infrastructure projects were given high importance. The Prime Minister Modi’s vision of SAGAR, which underpins Indian activity in this region was described by External Affairs Ministr  Dr.S. Jaishankar  in his keynote address on “Securing the Indian Ocean Region: Traditional and Non-Traditional Challenges” at the 4th Indian Ocean Conference in Maldives in September 201946.


The Prime Minister Mr. Modi had attended the 74th United Nations General Assembly(UNGA) in New York in September 2019. He had addressed the General Assembly on 27th September. His remarks highlighted India’s civilizational contributions and its current efforts towards combating terrorism, achieving universal health care and mitigating climate change. The 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi was suitably commemorated at the United Nations. The Prime Minister of India had also announced the launch of the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure(CDRI) during UNGA. The CDRI is designed to be an international platform where knowledge is generated and exchanged on different aspects of disaster as well as climate resilience of infrastructure and will bring together technical expertise from a multitude of stakeholders. In doing so, it will create a mechanism to assist countries to upgrade their capacities and practices. With regard to infrastructure development, institutions such as International Solar Alliance and CDRI are major initiatives by India to harnessing India’s domestic strengths as well as capacities and mobilize international efforts to answer global problems and challenges47.


The terrorist assaults in Jammu and Kashmir in February 2019, which led to deaths of 40 policemen in Pulwama and other efforts directed at destabilizing as well as negatively impacting the security situation in that part of India were resolutely countered by the Government of India through the year. In an absence of action by Pakistan against internationally proscribed terrorist organizations such as Jaish-e-Mohammad, in spite of irrefutable evidence of their being trained and armed inside Pakistan, India undertook non-military pre-emptive action specifically targeted at the Jaishe-Mohammad Camp at Balakot on 26th February 2019. The diplomatic dimensions of this firm display of Indian resolve to combat terrorism and subsequent measures was managed by the Ministry of External Affairs. The message that India reserved the right to take firm and decisive action to protect its national security, sovereignty and territorial integrity against any act of aggression or cross-border terrorism was conveyed to our interlocutors48


The Ministry of External Affairs had continued its efforts to become more user-friendly, accountable and transparent in its administrative and public-facing operations. The reflective of the Government’s commitments in this direction, Ministry of External Affairs had launched its own dedicated Performance Dashboard which is a visual display of important objectives of this Ministry. The data on passports and citizen-centric services like visas as well as Overseas Citizenship of India(OCI) card and up-to date economic data on trade and commerce is now available in the public domain by means of an internet enabled application.


This Ministry had also developed a dedicated e-Audit Portal for the management and monitoring of audit reports which would be accessible globally through its own website. An audit enforces accountability and this is expected to strengthen administrative oversight and prudential controls. This Ministry had achieved and exceeded the targets set for it for the first 100 days of the new Government with 12 new Post Office Passport Seva Kendras(POPSK) (against a target of 10) being opened as part of Ministry’s efforts to open at least one Passport Seva Kendra (PSK) or POP SK in every Lok Sabha constituency in the country49.


An appropriately commemorating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi in an international arena was a major focus of this Ministry’s activities in 2019. An event was organized at United Nations on 24th  September 2019 to mark this event. It was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, several other Heads of State and government and UN Secretary General. An External Publicity Division of this Ministry published an anthology on ‘What Gandhi Means to Me’ with contributions from major personalities from across the world. An Indian Council of Cultural Relations program led to installation of Mahatma Gandhi busts in 40 countries50.The year 2019 also marked the 550th anniversary of Guru Nanak Devji. This Ministry as well as its missions and posts organized events highlighting the teachings of Guru Nanak Dev and celebrating his life as well as teachings. These special events like the planting of trees, “Gurbain Kirtan as well as Ardas, blood donation as well as medical camps, demonstrations of Sikh martial arts  as well as  Hola Mohalla, and institution of an academic Chair in the name of Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji were undertaken in multiple locations globally51. An  UNESCO’s involvement in translating Nanak’s teachings in multiple international languages was a notable decision in this context that will catalyze greater outreach and impact52.


In a coordinated effort with other Ministries and our missions as well as posts abroad, we were able to roll out  an e-Aarogya and e-Vidya Bharti projects in 15 African countries within this period. This set the ground for the launching of more of these innovative, technology enabled education platforms to cover all 54 African countries, thereby providing a new format for engaging with them and for sharing India’s expertise in creation of human capital53.The former External Affairs Minister, Smt. Sushma Swaraj, who passed away suddenly in August 2019 at  New Delhi had addressed an inaugural session of the 46th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Abu Dhabi (capital city of United Arab Emirates) on 01st  March, 2019. Smt. Sushma Swaraj led this Ministry from May 2014 to May 2019 and added new dimensions to activities of this Ministry in India and abroad. In recognition of her invaluable contribution to Indian diplomacy, the cause of an Indian diaspora and ethos of public service, this Ministry had decided to rename the Pravasi Bhartiya Kendra in New Delhi as Sushma Swaraj Bhawan and Foreign Service Institute also in New Delhi as Sushma Swaraj Institute of Foreign Service54.



To sum up this article, it was observed that compared to continuity, more changes of India’s foreign policy had been prevailing under the BJP led NDA central government under the prime ministership of Modi. India also became a more active and popular in the world under this ongoing regime. But India is a developing country and it has been facing many social, economic and environmental problems. So, the central government of India has also to focus more on working in order to solving these problems in India.



1.      Anirban Ganguly, Vijay Chauthaiwale, Uttam Kumar Sinha(editors) (2016).The Modi Doctrine: New Paradigms in India's Foreign Policy, Wisdom Tree Publishers, New Delhi.

2.      Rajiv Sikri(2009), Challenge and Strategy: Rethinking India’s Foreign Policy, SAGE Publications India Pvt Ltd, New Delhi.

3.      Harsh V. Pant(2016), Indian foreign policy: An overview, Manchester University Press, Manchester.

4.      Chris Ogden(2014), Indian Foreign Policy, Polity Press, Cambridge.

5., accessed on 22-09-2021).

6.      S.D.Muni (2011), India's Foreign Policy: The Democracy Dimension, Foundation Books: Cambridge University Press India Pvt. Ltd. online .

7.      Amitabh Mattoo & Happymon Jacob “Foreign Relations of India: The Federal Challenge” in  Shaping India's Foreign Policy: People, Politics and Places, edited by Amitabh Mattoo and Happymon Jacob(2010) , Har Anand Publications PVT LTD, New Delhi.

8.      MuchKund Dubey(2016), India's Foreign Policy: Coping with the Changing World, Orient Blackswan Pvt Ltd, Hyderabad.

9.      E. Sridharan “Raising Or Constrained Power”? in David M. Malone, C. Raja Mohan, and Srinath Raghavan(edited) (2015). The Oxford Hand Book of Indian Foreign Policy, Oxford University Press, New York.

10.   Ibid

11.   Aparna Pande (2017), From  Chankya To Modi :Evolution Of  India’s Foreign Policy, Harper Collins Publishers, Noida.

12.   David M. Malone, C. Raja Mohan, and Srinath Raghavan(edited) (2015), The Oxford Hand Book of Indian Foreign Policy, Oxford University Press, New York.

13., accessed on 06-09-2019.

14.   Ministry of External Affairs(2018-19),  Annual Report  2018-19, New Delhi., accessed on 03-09-2019, Retrieved from

15.   Ministry of External Affairs(2020-21), Annual Report 2020-21, New Delhi, p.10, Retrieved from

16.   Ibid

17.   Ibid, no.15, p.11

18.   Ibid

19.   Ibid, no.15, p.12

20.   Ibid

21., accessed on 06-09-2019

22.   Shivaji Ganguly(1978), “Continuity And  Change In India’s  Foreign Policy”, India Quarterly, January-March , Vol. 34, No. 1 (January-March ), pp. 54-75, Published by Sage Publications Ltd,  p.71.

23.   Ibid, no.21

24., accessed on 03-09-2019

25.   Manoj Joshi(2015) “Modi’s foreign policy style is continuity, not change”, Mail Today, July 19,   Retrieved from, accessed on 04-09-2019.

26.   Ramesh Thakur(2014), India's Foreign Policy Continuity, May 22,  Retrieved from

27.   Amb. (Retd.) Jitendra Nath Misra(2017), Continuity and change in India's Foreign Policy, Distinguished Lecture held at Central University of Jharkhand, Ranchi , January 31, 2017,  Retrieved from

28.   Samir Saran(2019), ‘Seven plus one: India at the G7’, Commentary, August 28, Retrieved from, accessed on 04-09-2019.

29.   Manoj Joshi(2019) “Trump-Modi agree on Kashmir issue, but cracks over trade remain”, Commentary, August 27, Retrieved from, accessed on 04-09-2019.

30.   Harsh V.Pant(2019) , “G7 Summit : Modi and Trump meet in the shadow of subcontinent’s changing geopolitics”, Commentary, August 26, Retrieved from, accessed on 04-09-2019.

31.   Rakesh Sood(2019),“How Delhi and Paris became friends”, Commentary, August 27, Retrieved from, accessed on 04-09-2019.

32.   C. Raja Mohan(2015), Modi's World: Expanding India's Sphere of Influence, Harper Collins India publishers, Noida.

33.   Harsh V. Pant(2019), Indian Foreign Policy: The Modi Era, Har-Anand Publications Pvt Ltd, New Delhi.

34.   The Hindu News paper, Kozhikode,  dated on 06-09-2019.

35.   Harsh V. Pant(2019),“The Modi factor in Indian foreign policy”,  The Diplomat, March 02, Retrieved from  , accessed on 5-9-2019.

36., accessed on 05-09-2019.

37.,  accessed on 05-09-2019.

38.   Ibid,no.11

39.   Ministry of External Affairs(2019-20), Annual Report, Policy Planning and  Research Division, Government of India, New Delhi, p.8, Retrieved from

40.   Ibid

41.   Ibid, no.39, p.9

42.   Ibid

43.   Ibid

44.   Ibid, no.39, p.10

45.   Ibid

46.   Ibid

47.   Ibid

48.   Ibid, no.39, p.11

49.   Ibid

50.   Ibid

51.   Ibid

52.   Ibid, no.39, p.12

53.   Ibid

54.   Ibid





Received on 17.12.2021         Modified on 15.01.2022

Accepted on 24.02.2022      ©AandV Publications All right reserved

Res.  J. Humanities and Social Sciences. 2022;13(1):59-68.

DOI: 10.52711/2321-5828.2022.00011