India's External Relations
India was born in a very trying and challenging international context. The world had witnessed a devastating war and was grappling with issues of reconstruction, yet another attempt to establish an international body was in progress; many countries got freedom from colonialism. After getting independence, India had two important tasks to achieve, i.e., welfare and democracy. The task of poverty alleviation was waiting for fulfillment.
The world was divided into two major blocs after the Second World War, i.e., the USA and the Soviet Union bloc. The Cold War was just beginning. The roots of Indian foreign policy were attached to freedom movement and Jawaharlal Nehru’s personality. Since independence Jawaharlal Nehru was not only the Prime Minister for 17 years, but also the Foreign Minister of India. India developed the policy of non-alignment for the maintenance of peace and security in the world. The non-alignment policy of India was meant to stay away from power politics of American blocs versus the Soviet bloc. Most of the underdeveloped countries joined NAM after India’s insistence but Pakistan joined the US bloc. The Afro-Asian Conference was held in the Indonesian city of Bandung in 1955. This conference marked the zenith of India’s engagement with the newly independent Asian and African nations.
The joint enunciation of Panchsheel, the five principles of peaceful coexistence by the Nehru and Zhou Enlai in 1954 was a step in the direction of stronger relationship between the two countries. China attacked India in October 1962 and captured Aksai-chin and laddakh region of Jammu and Kashmir. China declared a unilateral ceasefire and its troops withdrew. The process of state reorganization began soon after the China war. The matter of Kashmir continues to be the bone of contention between India and Pakistan. The armed conflict between the two countries began in 1965. Pakistan got defeated in the war due to valour and determination of the Indian armies. Both countries signed the Tashkent Declaration in 1966. In December 1971, India was officially at war with Pakistan. Two weeks later, the war was over. The Indian Army had overrun erstwhile East Pakistan (Bangladesh). Both the countries signed the Shimla Agreement in July 1972.
India’s nuclear programme was initiated under Homi J. Bhabha. India conducted its first nuclear test on 18 May 1974 at Pokhran. India was committed to the policy of using nuclear power only for peaceful purposes. It refused to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). India again conducted the series of nuclear tests in May 1998, to use nuclear energy for military purposes.