Indian Foreign Relations: New Foundation of Cultural and Spiritual Traditions

Prof. Narottam Gan
April 21, 2019


Nowadays in the shaft  of diplomacy as prevalent in most of the major powers, the economic, trade and commercial issues are the predominant arrows. While forging bilateral and multilateral relations between and among nations, the nations tend to keep economic issues at the top and center stage of the agenda.

This is not surprising in the age of globalization and uncontested primacy of liberal market economy. All the non western countries having indoctrinated into this liberal and political economy advocated by the west tend to follow the western path. Some centuries ago India followed a policy that did not believe in conquering the world through economic diplomacy.

India believed in the cultural and spiritual binding of all nations in a thread that was like Indra’s net described in Vedas where every node represented a nation reflecting the light of other nodes. It metaphorically represents a world where everyone is inextricably connected with the whole and yet remains important and independent and self illuminating.

The main binding force was the feeling of unity among all diversities with the all pervading omnipresent universal self. India reached the apogee of its greatness in spreading this message throughout the world of eternal values and principles of truth. In this regard Buddhism spread to Japan and China and other Southeast Asian nations. This makes the relations binding, permanent and strong. On the foundation of culture and spiritualism was built the imperatives of other issues like economic and commerce.

The four pillars of the Indian sanatan dharma were dharma, artha, Kama and mokshya. This implies that dharma was the foundation. If economics is made the foundation then the relationship is based on selfish calculation of national interests among the nations. This makes relationships short, transient and ever changing. International politics has been a story of nothing but this changing relationship with changing configuration and permutation of powers every time as exemplified in realism and neo realism. Today’s friends are tomorrow’s enemies based on this narrowly defined and selfishly articulated national interests.

The Kaling war gave attestation to Indian values when King Asoka was transformed and spread the message of truth, non violence and universal brotherhood. Giving importance to and resuscitating the spiritual and cultural tradition of India has been the major plank of Modi’s foreign policy. If India and Japan ever cherish to found their relationship on spiritual and cultural scaffolding taking a leaf from their past cultural ties, it will open a new chapter in the annals of human development trailing the blaze for the rest of the nations of the world.

Popularizing Yoga and making it an international event by Modi is guided by the impetuosity of binding humanity together by the thread of universal brotherhood. Growing relationship on this new thinking will create a strong foundation among the Info-Pacific nations for strengthened relationship of resolving all issues afflicting humanity by means short of war. This feeling of “basudheiva kutumbakam” and its exemplified translations into foreign policy will be an attempt in the direction of building a new world of humanity transcending all boundaries of territories, jealousy of sovereignties, creed , and narrow and blind beliefs.

All vestiges of war, terrorism, environmental crisis and other issues will disappear and the sun of new hope and aspirations on an uncommon path will appear to show the light of wisdom to the world under the able and statesmanlike attitude and leadership of both India under Modi and Japan under Abe.

If nations think of and are accustomed to defining their interests on the anvil of boundaries of state at the cost of or just indifferent and impervious to the interests of other people,  does this kind of thinking lead to a better world or a fragmented world where humanity in one boundary looks the same humanity in other boundary as foes?  If the coming centuries will ever cherish to see a new and different world, then it is not certainly the narrow and state-bound interest but the redefined interests that transcend the boundaries of all sorts and touches the entire humanity.  This should be the goal of foreign policy if at all there is a desire for survival of humanity in a dignified way. India has the spiritual and cultural wherewithal left to it by its seers and men of wisdom to play the role of an apostle which is reflected in Modi. Otherwise international relations will be a repetition and unfolding of the historical context in which arose the imperatives of territorial sovereignty. Let a new beginning thaw under the leadership of India.

*** The author is Professor at the Department of Political Science, Indira Gandhi National Tribal University, Amarkantak ***