Gujral Doctrine

Gujral Doctrine

Introduction

The Gujral Doctrine, named after former Indian Prime Minister I.K. Gujral, encapsulates a set of five principles that serve as a guideline for conducting foreign relations with India’s neighbouring countries, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. Formulated during I.K. Gujral’s tenure as the External Affairs Minister in the H.D. Deve Gowda Government in 1996, this diplomatic framework emphasizes cooperation, non-interference, and the resolution of disputes through peaceful negotiations. This article explores the origins, key principles, and the contemporary relevance of the Gujral Doctrine in India’s foreign policy.

Origins of the Gujral Doctrine

I.K. Gujral, a seasoned politician and diplomat, played a crucial role in shaping India’s foreign policy during his tenure as the Prime Minister (1997-98) and External Affairs Minister. The doctrine emerged as a response to the evolving geopolitical landscape in South Asia, with a focus on fostering positive and cooperative relations with neighbouring nations.

One of the defining aspects of I.K. Gujral’s legacy is his firm refusal to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) despite intense international pressure. This decision underscored India’s commitment to maintaining its strategic autonomy and safeguarding its national security interests.

The term “Gujral Doctrine” was coined by journalist Bhabani Sen Gupta in his article, “India in the Twenty First Century in International Affairs.” This recognition highlights the significance of the principles outlined by Gujral in shaping India’s approach to diplomacy with its neighbors.

Key Principles of the Gujral Doctrine

The Gujral Doctrine comprises five fundamental principles:

a. Non-Reciprocity: India, in its dealings with neighboring countries such as Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, commits to giving and accommodating without expecting strict reciprocity. This principle is grounded in good faith and trust.

b. Non-Use of Territory: No South Asian country should permit its territory to be used against the interests of another regional nation, promoting mutual respect and security.

c. Non-Interference: The doctrine firmly asserts that no country should interfere in the internal affairs of another, emphasizing sovereignty and autonomy.

d. Territorial Integrity and Sovereignty: All South Asian nations must respect each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, fostering a sense of mutual trust and cooperation.

e. Peaceful Bilateral Negotiations: The doctrine advocates for the peaceful resolution of disputes through bilateral negotiations, promoting stability and diplomatic solutions.

The Gujral Doctrine also aimed to improve cooperative relationships between India and Pakistan, serving as a foundation for diplomatic engagement between the two nations.

Successes and Challenges

The success of the Gujral Doctrine is exemplified by the Farakka Agreement between Bangladesh and India, which addressed issues related to the sharing of water from the River Ganga. However, with ongoing tensions in the region, the doctrine’s success appears to be fading, raising questions about its contemporary relevance.

Conclusion

The Gujral Doctrine stands as a testament to India’s commitment to fostering positive and cooperative relations with its neighbouring countries. While it has achieved notable successes, the evolving geopolitical dynamics present new challenges. The principles outlined by I.K. Gujral continue to shape India’s foreign policy, reflecting a commitment to regional stability, non-interference, and peaceful resolution of disputes.

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