This paper is an attempt to explore the relationship between international relations scholarship, Indian public opinion and foreign policy making in India. The paper assumes that all large nations, democratic or otherwise, need solid domestic political support for the effective pursuit of interests abroad. The internal support for the conduct of external relations rests on the existence of an ‘establishment’ that sets the broad terms for the ‘mainstream’ discourse on foreign policy; facilitates continuous and productive interaction between the bureaucracies making the foreign policy, the academia that expands and reproduces knowledge and expertise on the subject, the media, and the political classes; rationalises external policies as well as promotes alternatives to them; and defines and redefines national political consensus on foreign policy amidst changing circumstances and unexpected opportunities. The need for such an establishment is far more critical in large democracies, where the governments must continuously cope with volatile public perceptions and the imperatives of popular legitimation.
In the older democracies the mechanisms for forging ‘elite consensus’ on foreign policy and the role of the mass media have come in for some trenchant criticism.3 It is not our purpose to join that debate on the alleged manipulative nature of elite consensus within a democracy. This paper merely assumes that elite consensus is critical for the conduct of state business in democracies and informal mechanisms do exist in most of them to shape and reshape national consensus on a range of issues, including foreign policy. The paper also believes that reformulating domestic consensus is especially important in periods of structural change at home or in the international system. There are some studies that help understand changing Given the absence of similar studies in India, this paper relies, to a large extent, on the author’s own last three decades of experience navigating between think tanks, the media and the academia that focused on studies of foreign policy, national security and international relations. The paper concludes that it is difficult to discern the existence of such a ‘permanent establishment’ in India shaping the nation’s foreign policy. What may exist instead is an informal network that is led by a small but shifting group of activists within and outside the government. In the following sections, the paper lays out the reasons for the absence of a significant permanent establishment and the prospects for one emerging in the near future, especially in the context of India’s increasing weight in the international system and its emerging self-perception as a great power. INDIA’S FOREIGN POLICY very sovereign country has its foreign policy. India too has one. Foreign policy refers to the sum total of principles, interests and objectives which a country promotes while interacting with other countries. Even though there are certain basic features of a foreign policy it is not a fixed concept. The thrust of foreign policy keeps on changing according to changing international conditions. India’s foreign policy is shaped by several factors including its history, culture, geography and economy. Our Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, gave a definite shape to the country’s foreign policy. Policy process in India is done at many levels. The goals of the policy are determined by the vision of the leader of the political party in the ruling. Then these policies are detailed at the secretariat and passed down the ladder for the implementation. By the trickle down effect, these policies are reached to the grass root level. Following are the broad stages of the policy determination.
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...