Read this article to learn about the Jawaharlal Nehru’s Foreign Policy and India’s Relationship with China during the first 15 years of independence.

India’s foreign policy was conducted under the guidance of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India.

The shaping of India’s foreign policy was largely influenced by the international development after the Second World War, the weakening of the forces of imperialism and growth of the forces of democracy and progress.

30 Old and Rare Photos of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru –

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Several countries in the post war era in Europe and Asia broke away from the capitalist system to form the socialist system. There was an upsurge in the movements for national liberation that resulted in the collapse of the colonial system of imperialism.

The Indian National Congress party had as early as 1920s adopted a resolution expressing a desire to establish cooperation with the neighbouring countries.

But at that point the internal situation of India did not permit them to pay attention to international developments. It was mainly due to Nehru’s efforts that since the mid-twenties the Congress party began to take interest in international affairs.

The Congress resolved to support the subject peoples and races in their struggle for freedom and equality. They also decided to condemn racial discriminations throughout the world. After 1927 Nehru took an active part in formulating the foreign policy of the Congress that was in effect its first foreign policy statement.


It contained a declaration that India should not participate in imperialist and any other war. This position was taken up as the key foreign policy principle in late 1920s and 1930s. When in 1930s Japan, Italy and Germany engaged themselves in imperialist aggressions, the Congress condemned their brutal imperialist designs and passed resolutions to defend the cause of the nationalist forces in various countries such as China, Ethiopia, etc.

The inter-war period shaped a substantial portion of India’s foreign policy. India agreed to cooperate with Britain against Nazi Germany but since the cooperation was sought on British terms, the newly constituted Congress ministries resigned.

At no time did India have sympathies for the fascist countries. The Indians consistently criticized the Non-Aggression pact signed between Germany and the USSR in August 1939 and regarded it as an eyewash.

The dropping of atom bomb by the Americans on Japanese soil wounded India’s feelings and was strongly condemned. Soon after the formation of the interim government in September 1946, India took steps to establish friendly relations with all countries.


During the time that the interim government was in office, India established diplomatic relations and exchanged ambassadors with the USA, USSR, China and some other countries.

Meanwhile rout of the forces of Nazism and Japanese militarism in World War II altered the correlation of forces in the international arena.

It resulted in an upsurge of movements for national liberation in Asia. Nehru on behalf of the Congress participated in several international conferences including the one held at Brussels in 1926 that declared its profound aim of fighting imperialism. The Congress under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru constantly supported the newly liberated countries and their struggle against imperialism.

After independence, Nehru became the virtual director of India’s foreign policy. And under his guidance India became the first state to have pursued a policy that was new in the history of international relations- the policy of Non-Alignment. He was ably supported by Naser of Egypt, Sukarno of Indonesia and Joseph Broz Tito of Yugoslavia.

Early in 1947, at the initiative of India, the Asian Relations Conference at Delhi was convened where the principles of foreign policy of independent India were proclaimed. It was attended by representatives of 29 countries. The Conference helped to strengthen the solidarity of all Asian countries.

Nehru also participated in the Afro-Asian Conference held in 1955 in Bandung and popularized the policy of non-alignment there. The agenda contained in these conferences was the economic and cultural cooperation, respect for human rights and self-determination and finally the promotion of world peace and cooperation.

The policy of Non-alignment meant the acceptance of the inevitability of war but on the conviction that was could also be avoided. Non-Alignment stood for an independent policy conditioned and controlled by India’s own strength. It meant not to entangle oneself with any kind of alliances or commitments that would lead to war and conflict.

Non-alignment implied a position to judge each issue without prejudice or bias. It enhanced the chances of effective mediation in bitter conflicts and thereby brightens the prospect of world peace. In the Korean War and the tangle of Indo-China, the role of peacemaker that India played was vital.

The secret of this policy is that India is neither permanently pro-west nor with the east. She was clearly with Communist block on the issues such as disarmament, racial discrimination, colonialism and China’s membership of the United Nations. But on major issues of aggression of North Korea, India clearly criticized the Communists. The pro-west move did not prevent India from opposing the US military adventurism in Korea.

India was equally vigorous in condemning the Anglo-French action in Suez and Soviet intervention in Hungary. Non-alignment also did not mean isolation because India had established diplomatic relations with almost all independent states. She was a member of the United Nations and also took part in the Commonwealth of Nations. The basis of all this was cooperation but at the same time following an independent course.

The policy of Non-alignment was based on the five principles of Panch Shila, enumerating international conduct. These were first envisaged and formulated in 1954.

These principles were:

a. Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

b. Non-aggression

c. Non interference in each other’s military affairs

d. Equality and mutual benefit

c. Peaceful coexistence

By April 1955, Burma, China, Laos, Nepal, Democratic Republic of Vietnam, Yugoslavia and Cambodia had accepted the Panch Shila.

Non-alignment was a tactic or technique to maintain world peace in such a way that each nation pursues his own interest without disturbing the other. The policy was also in tune with the domestic requirements of democracy and socialism.

A major economic factor for the adoption of the policy of non-alignment had been India’s economic backwardness. Foreign aid was an important component for developing our underdeveloped economy. Therefore aid was welcome from all quarters- USSR, UK, USA, Germany and Japan. This presupposes non-alignment. India was both tied up with the east and west for economic development.

However the events on the borders in September-October 1962 threw a serious challenge to the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM). Due to the Chinese aggression on India it was now recognized that non-Alignment must be tied up with the immediate defence requirements in order to serve a useful purpose.

Conceived as a struggle against colonialism and growing polarization of international relations resulting from military blocks and cold war, non-aligned India has constantly struggled for all-round emancipation of the people of Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and other parts of the world. Non-Alignment has achieved success and has continued to play a decisive role in efforts to promote world peace.

Some argue on the relevance of NAM after the end of the cold war. However the single existence of the United States and its dominating influence today threatens to make the world uni-polar. Instead of territorial imperialist design, the ugly face of economic imperialism has taken its place.

The widening gap between the developed and the developing countries is a source of instability in the world. Access to resources and debt burden today threaten the survival of smaller nations. The goal of NAM would now change accordingly to economic needs to face new challenges in terms of new forms of imperialism.

Relations with China:

India’s relation with China until 1960-62 rested on an age long friendship and contact. The contact developed in the form of Chinese pilgrims coming to India from 221 B.C. to about 10th c. A.D. Diplomatic as well as commercial relations prevailed through the coast of Arakan and to the Pagan.

Sea was also significant for maritime trade between China and India. These routes became points of numerous contacts, religious, trade, diplomatic and cultural. Buddhism was ardently followed from India. Trade contacts between regions of Far East and South India developed amicably during the early Christian centuries.

Contact between India and China though snapped for a while was revived in the 18th and 19th centuries by sharing similar opposition to British imperialism. After 1911 Indian intellectuals became interested in the national movement in China. It was further strengthened by Tagore’s visit to China in 1920s.

Japanese Aggression on Manchuria was also denounced by India. During the Sino-Japanese war in 1937 the Congress sent a medical mission and supplies to China. In 1942 Chai-Kai-Shek visited India to rally public opinion against Japan. As soon as China became independent in 1949, India established diplomatic relations with her.

The initial problems between India and China started on the question of Tibet. The Government of India in 1947 inherited certain extra territorial rights in Tibet. Delhi now expressed concern to Peking over the unsettled Sino-Tibetan relations that were to be adjusted through peaceful negotiations in 1950.

Even when the Chinese troops entered Tibet on October 1950, Delhi followed a policy characterized by forbearance and patient negotiations. Thereafter even in the UN General Assembly India supported the cause of China in the Korean War and condemned US aggression of Indo-China.

On one occasion China for the first time protested against the presence of Indian troops in Barahoti, U.P India refuted the allegation that Indian troops had intruded into Tibet. The attempt to cross into Barahoti by the Chinese troops was also protested by India. But on July 26th, 1956 Peking for the first time claimed that Barahoti was Chinese territory and denied that Tunjun La was a border pass.

Towards the end of November Chou-Eu-ai paid a visit to India. Nehru and Chou discussed the border question in their meeting and Chou assured his Indian counterpart that the Tibet border dispute would be solved through negotiations. The border with Burma was also recognized.

The years between 1957-58 were crucial in relations between India and China. However Chinese reactions to India’s friendly relations was not responded equally. China in turn went on to occupy illegally India’s territory on the borders. On July 28th, 1955, they occupied the Barahoti area in south of Ladakh and in September they had intruded ten miles inside India’s territory. Gradually they crossed the Shipki pass into India.

In April 1958, talks were held on the question of Barahoti. While China agreed to withdraw military personnel their civilian personnel continued to stay in the area. In April 1960 the talks between ChcL- Nehru ended in failure amidst violations on the border as well as air space of India.

Besides these border disputes, the relations of China and India were further strained on the question of giving asylum to Dalai Lama. Right from 1959 owing to large-scale demolition of Buddhist monasteries and confiscation of lands, the Chinese had caused discontent among the Tibetans. In the revolt of the Tibetans, certain insurgents together with Dalai Lama fled in the direction of India.

Fixed on the question to decide whether he should let the Tibetan refugees into India or refuse them asylum, Nehru was put in a dilemma. On March 30th, 1959, Prime Minister Nehru said in the Lok Sabha that should a large group of people attempt to cross the Indian border from Tibet they would not be allowed into India.

Nevertheless continuous crossing of the border carried on. Not able to hurt the Indian sentiments especially of the Buddhist community, the entry of Dalai Lama was accepted.

By 10th October 1962 a massive Chinese attack was launched on Indian posts and the next day the Chinese captured the Thagla Ridge, the traditional Indo-Tibetan border. The Chinese refused to recognize the MacMohan line or the accepted eastern border.

It took a lot of deliberations before cease-fire was declared and the Chinese agreed to withdraw to the line as it was on September 8th, 1962 .Meanwhile an intense exchange of notes continued between the two governments and efforts were being made to settle down matters.

The impact of Chinese aggression on India has serious consequences not only on the internal situation of India but also on its foreign policy. Internally the invasion led to economic imbalance and inflation along with mounting taxes. More serious effects of Chinese invasion were on India’s foreign policy.

First of all it put forward the need for India’s defence requirements. Before 1962 the Non- alignment movement was not linked up with defence concerns. After this aggression, top priority was given to defence arrangements. Military assistance was taken from all countries and a clear distinction was maintained between China and other Communist countries. Inspite of Chinese aggression non-alignment was not given up. On the international level Soviet Union distanced itself from China.