The foundations of India's foreign policy were laid during the freedom movement when our leaders, even when fighting for independence, were engaged with the great causes of the time. The principles of India's foreign policy, that emerged then, have stood the test of time: a belief in friendly relations with all countries of the world, the resolution of conflicts by peaceful means, the sovereign equality of all states, independence of thought and action as manifested in the principles of Non-alignment, and equity in the conduct of international relations.
Under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru, India was the founder member of the Non-aligned Movement. India has played an active role in strengthening the Movement and making it an effective voice in representing the collective aspirations and interests of the developing countries on such vital issues as development, peace and stability. India hosted the 7th NAM Summit in New Delhi in 1983. In recent years, after the end of the Cold War, our foreign policy has been focused on strengthening the Movement by redefining its priorities in keeping with the changing times.
India has also been in the forefront of the world community in the struggle against colonialism. Indeed, the Independence of India itself played the role of a catalyst in removing the vestiges of colonialism in other parts of the developing world, particularly in Africa. India was also the first country to raise the question of racial discrimination in South Africa in 1946. It was at India's initiative that the AFRICA (Action for Resistance to Invasion, Colonialism and Apartheid) Fund was set up at the 8th NAM Summit in Harare in 1986.India was the Chairman of the AFRICA Fund Committee, which wound up in 1993.
A notable feature of Indian foreign policy has been its strong advocacy of general and complete disarmament, with nuclear disarmament being accorded the highest priority. Towards this end, India has taken several initiatives within the United Nations and outside. In 1988,India presented to the 3rd Session of the UN General Assembly devoted to Disarmament an Action Plan for Ushering in a Nuclear Weapons Free and Non-Violent World Order. In order to highlight international concern about the unprecedented nuclear arms race, India was also a member of the Six-Nation Five-Continent joint Initiative in the 1980s.But while India has remained committed to nuclear disarmament, to be achieved in a time-bound framework, it has consistently and in a principled manner opposed such discriminatory treaties as the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and has refused to give up its nuclear options until all countries in the world including nuclear weapon states embrace the idea of nuclear disarmament in a phased manner.
As a founder member of the United Nations, India has been firmly committed to the purposes and principles of the United Nations and has made significant contributions to its various activities, including peace-keeping operations. India has been a participant in all its peace-keeping operations including those in Korea, Egypt and Congo in earlier years and in Somalia, Angola and Rwanda in recent years. Indiahas also played an active role in the deliberations of the UnitedNations on the creation of a more equitable international economicorder. It has been an active member of the Group of 77, and later the core group of the G-15 nations. Other issues, such as environmentally sustainable development and the promotion and protection of human rights, have also been an important focus of India's foreign policy in international forums.
Commensurate with national interests and security, the improvement of bilateral relations is an important component of any foreign policy,and India has succeeded in establishing a network of mutually beneficial relations with all countries of the world.
In particular, the improvement of relations with our neighbors has always been one of the pillars of India's foreign policy. India played an historic and unique role in the liberation of Bangladesh which emerged as a sovereign nation in 1971. Through the implementation of the 1964 and 1974 Agreements, the issues of the stateless people of Indian origin in Sri Lanka were resolved. In 1988, India helped preserve the integrity of Maldives by coming to the assistance of that country and preventing an attempted take over by armed mercenaries. The Indian government has taken recent initiatives to further strengthen ties with our neighbors, which have won international appreciation.These initiatives are based on five clear principles: First, with neighbors like Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, India does not ask for reciprocity but gives all that it can in good faith and trust. Secondly, no South Asian country should allow its territory to be used against the interests of another country of the region.Thirdly, none will interfere in the internal affairs of another.Fourthly, all South Asian countries must respect each other'sterritorial integrity and sovereignty. And finally, they should settleall their disputes through peaceful bilateral negotiations.
These tenets have paid rich dividends. A landmark Treaty has beensigned with Bangladesh on the sharing of waters of the Ganga. WithBhutan and Nepal, major projects of economic collaboration have beenadvanced. Our relations with Sri Lanka have shown steady improvement.With Pakistan, India ha consistently pursued a policy seeking toimprove relations under the framework of the Simla Agreement signed in1972 which provided for the resolution of outstanding issues peacefullyand bilaterally and for establishing durable peace in theSub-continent. Bilateral discussions with Pakistan have resumedrecently and India would continue efforts to have good neighborlyrelations with Pakistan.
An important achievement of India's foreign policy has been thestrengthening of regional co-operation. India is an active member ofthe South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) which waslaunched in December 1985. With India's full support, SAARC hasrecently taken significant steps in accelerating the pace of economicco-operation. The South Asian Preferential Trade Arrangement (SAPTA)became operational in December 1995. At the 9th SAARC Summit in Male inMay 1997, which was chaired by India, a historical decision has alsobeen taken to strive for a South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) latestby the year 2001 AD. The emergence of the Indian Ocean Rim Associationfor Regional Co-operation (IOR-ARC) in March 1997, as a majorinstrument of cooperation in the larger region, has also had the activesupport of India.
India's foreign policy has always regarded the concept of neighborhood as one of widening concentric circles, around a central axis of historical and cultural commonalties. From this point of view, it has always given due priority to the development of relations with South East Asia. In 1947, India organized the Asian Relations Conference. It chaired the International Control Commission in 1954 and was a major player in the organization of the Bandung Conference in 1955. Today,India is implementing a 'Look East' policy which is underpinned by important economic considerations. Some significant steps in the pursuance of this policy have been taken with the admission of India as a full dialogue partner of ASEAN and a member of the ASEAN Regional Forum, in 1996.