Swedish sociologist Gunnar Myrdal has (in)famously called India a ‘Soft State’ – a state that requires extraordinary little of its citizens. The same can be said, without loss of generality, about India’s foreign policy which has meandered, since Independence, under Nehruvian predilections of non-alignment, without anchoring itself firmly.
Finally, after many years of neglect, India’s foreign policy is on the right track under the able stewardship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Foreign Minister S Jaishankar. To understand how and why this has happened, we need to delve into a brief background of how international relations are structured before telescoping into India’s past and present foreign policy.
The Law of the Nations
It was Thomas Aquinas (the great medieval philosopher whose works could never escape the affliction of Aristotelian teleology) who cogently summarized in the 13th century how to escape chaotic and anarchic international relations. Aquinas distinguished between the laws of individual states and ius gentium (law of the nations) which all states have a moral and divine obligation to adhere to.
However, Aquinas failed to delineate precisely what his ius gentium meant. In the late 16th century, Spanish Jesuit theologian — Francisco de Vitoria — defined ius gentium as a law that was “created by the authority of the whole world – and not just pacts and agreements between individual nations”.