The Gujral Doctrine and Beyond

Padmaja Murthy, Associate Fellow, IDSA


The Gujral Doctrine is considered to have made a substantial change in the manner in which India's bilateral relations were conducted with its immediate neighbours, especially the smaller ones. The latter too welcomed the doctrine and had a positive attitude towards the principles it spelt out. In this background, when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led coalition government came to power in India a year ago, there were apprehensions from some quarters within the country and outside that under them the attitude of the Indian government towards its neighbours might change.

The aim of this essay is two-fold. First, to look into the principles of the Gujral Doctrine and the environment in which it was enunciated. Second, to briefly look into the manner in which the BJP-led coalition government has conducted the foreign policy with its neighbours with reference to the principles of the Gujral Doctrine. And, in doing so, to observe if they have adhered to it or deviated from it and, most important, if in certain aspects, the BJP-led coalition government has tried to move beyond the Gujral Doctrine, achieving success in areas the earlier government could not. The essay would, thus, observe the elements of continuity and change for India in conducting the foreign policy with the neighbours.

Gujral Doctrine

The Gujral Doctrine is a set of five principles to guide the conduct of foreign relations with India's immediate neighbours as spelt out by I.K. Gujral, first as India's foreign minister and later as the prime minister. Among other factors, these five principles arise from the belief that India's stature and strength cannot be divorced from the quality of its relations with its neighbours. It, thus, recognises the supreme importance of friendly, cordial relations with neighbours. These principles are: first, with neighbours like Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, India does not ask for reciprocity, but gives and accommodates what it can in good faith and trust; second, no South Asian country should allow its territory to be used against the interest of another country of the region; third, no country should interfere in the internal affairs of another; fourth, all South Asian countries must respect each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty; and, finally, they should settle all their disputes through peaceful bilateral negotiations. According to Gujral , these five principles, scrupulously adhered to, would achieve a fundamental recasting of South Asia's regional relationships, including the difficult relationship between India and Pakistan. Further, the implementation of these principles would generate a climate of close and mutually benign cooperation in the region, where the weight and size of India is regarded positively and as an asset by these countries.1

An important question that arises is whether it is easy to implement these principles. It is evident that these principles not only reflect India's attitude towards its neighbours, but also express the attitude which India would like its neighbours to adopt in conducting relations with India in particular and the countries of South Asia in general. Thus, it is a package as a whole whereby India has stated in one go what it will do on its part and similarly what it expects its neighbours to do. Those who agree, will have to adhere, fully and completely, to all the principles and not in parts, to one of the principles in isolation or in exception to the others. In this sense, it is implied that, to a great extent, the principles of the Gujral Doctrine can be successful only in a specific environment whereby the neighbours too perceive them as being beneficial to their country and the region as a whole. What follows from this, which is unstated, is that beyond a particular point whereby the neighbours do not adhere to these principles, India in its national interest may also not be able to adhere to them. Surely, India cannot continue to stick to its principle of non-reciprocity if any of the neighbouring countries believe either in internationalising bilateral issues or supporting elements inimical to India's interests. Further, these principles are open to different interpretations as each country views them.

On closer examination, it is further observed that these principles are not altogether new and have been spelt out earlier too.2 The principle of non-reciprocity is considered to be one of the most novel elements, applying specifically as it does to India whereby the country acknowledges its additional responsibility towards the region, given its economic strength and other potentials. However, even this principle is not new because there have many occasions when India has acknowledged that it will have to give more to its neighbours and has done so. But by stating it as a policy, India was making its intention clear which was welcomed by the neighbouring countries. Non- reciprocity also meant that the solution to one bilateral problem would not be linked to concessions by the other country for India on an issue that the latter considers beneficial. Gujral, as foreign minister, had stated while negotiations were taking place with Bangladesh towards finalisation of the Ganges water treaty that it was not in any way linked to Bangladesh giving transit through its territory to India to access the north-eastern parts of the latter. Thus, he clearly delinked water and transit, removing any apprehensions which might have been there in this direction.

Similarly, the principle that all the disputes be settled through peaceful bilateral negotiations is a known stand which India has held for long. On the other hand, India's neighbours have on many occasions internationalised bilateral disputes. The principle that none should interfere in the internal affairs of the others becomes difficult to define because the South Asian region has many similarities in terms of culture, language and other factors. Events and activities in one country influence happenings in another. While one country may call it interference, the other may not think so. It is interesting to note that following the demolition of the Babri Masjid in India, the Parliament of Bangladesh, the Jatiya Sangsad, passed a resolution referring to the unfortunate events and also stated that it hoped that the promises made by the Government of India on its reconstruction would be implemented soon. India categorically stated that this act of Bangladesh constituted an interference in the internal affairs of India. Bangladesh thought otherwise and felt that it did not constitute any kind of intervention.3 The problem, thus arises in trying to define some of these principles in black and white because in reality they exist in shades of gray. The principle that all South Asian countries must respect each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty clearly assures the neighbours that India has no expansionist or ulterior motives on its agenda.

The timing of the enunciation of these principles was very appropriate. Together, these five principles spelt out in a crystallised form India's attitude towards its neighbours. One witnesses a positive atmosphere already being created (in spite of the bilateral problems being present), especially in the post-1990s. A series of steps taken by India during this period, some of which were related to economic aspects, facilitated the acceptance of these principles by other countries in the neighbourhood and making them relevant to the South Asian region. It is, difficult to imagine how the doctrine would have been relevant if it had been enunciated either when the Indian Peace-Keeping Force (IPKF) was in Sri Lanka or when the Indo-Nepal stand-off had taken place towards the end of 1989. In this sense, the Gujral Doctrine, as spelt out in 1996, owes a certain share of its success to the actions of the previous governments, (including those taken during the tenure of Gujral as external affairs minister in 1989-90), when the ground work, to a great extent, had been done. In this context, some of the positive steps taken in the 1990s by India towards its neighbours, thus, require a brief mention.

India and its Neighbours in the First Half of the 1990s

In order to understand the significance of the positive moves, it may not be out of place to mention that relations with Nepal and Sri Lanka were particularly at a low ebb towards the end of the decade of the 1980s.The relations had reached such a nadir that any positive step could be considered a forward movement. As regards Bhutan, India has always had friendly relations with it and, in fact, in a region characterised by mistrust and suspicion primarily directed towards India, Indo-Bhutan relations have been an exception. Similarly, with the Maldives, India has had friendly relations, with no differences at all. As regards Pakistan, it is seen that in the first half of the 1990s, the relations could not make substantial progress. This section does not deal with Indo-Pak relations as they existed in this period. A major breakthrough was, in fact, achieved at the 1997 Male Summit when Nawaz Sharif and Gujral met and as a result, the secretary level talks commenced with a purpose and the issues to be discussed were spelt out. Later, however, the talks were stalled, to be restarted again under the Vajpayee government. A certain section in Pakistan was of the opinion that one of the aims of the Gujral Doctrine was to isolate Pakistan by building up relations with the other South Asian countries.

In April 1990, India welcomed the success of the mass movement for multi-party democracy in Nepal which led to the installation of an interim government headed by Prime Minister Krishna Prasad Bhattarai. In June 1990, Prime Minister Bhattarai's visit to India ended with the signing by the two prime ministers of a joint communique which restored status quo ante in bilateral relations to April 1, 1987, the period before the bilateral tensions emerged. During the visit, both sides undertook to fully respect each other's security concerns, not to allow activities in the territory of the one prejudicial to the security of the other, and to have prior consultations, with a view to reaching mutual agreement on such defence related matters which, in the view of either country, could pose a threat to its security. Having done so, they seriously moved to cooperation in the spheres of industrial and human resource development and for harnessing of the waters of the common rivers for the benefit of the peoples of the two countries, and for protection and management of the environment. Various possibilities of widening bilateral economic cooperation were also considered. Later many new agreements were also signed. The Indian prime minister visited Nepal from February 13 to 15, 1991, which was the first such visit in 14 years and Prime Minister Chandreshekhar's first bilateral visit abroad. During this visit, many significant decisions were taken and work programmes finalised for intensifying bilateral economic cooperation for mutual benefit.4

With reference to Sri Lanka, the withdrawal of the IPKF, in March 1990, brought an end to India's direct involvement in Sri Lanka and led to a new phase in Indo-Sri Lanka relations. India expressed its concerns at the outbreak of hostilities between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and Sri Lankan armed forces, which had led to civilian sufferings and casualties. This had also led to an influx of refugees into Tamil Nadu. The Government of India believed that only a negotiated political settlement that takes into account the legitimate demands and aspirations of the Tamils could bring lasting peace to the island. India clearly stated that the political settlement must be finally arrived at between the government and Tamils of Sri Lanka. It was also agreed to upgrade the Joint Economic Commission to a Joint Commission at the foreign ministers' level. 5

It is interesting to note that President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom visited India from January 25 to 27, 1991, as the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations. During the meetings, new areas of cooperation were considered and it was decided to review the 1981 Bilateral Trade Agreement.6

With regard to Bangladesh, it is observed that the meeting of the Indo-Bangladesh Joint Economic Commission was held after a gap of seven years. India announced a Rs. 30 crore government-to-government credit to Bangladesh. India also welcomed the restoration of the democratic rights of the people of Bangladesh and stated that it was looking forward to working closely with a democratically elected government in Bangladesh. 7

In 1991, the newly elected prime minister of Nepal visited India in December. This was preceded by four months of active and extensive consultations between the two sides. For the first time, an Indo-Nepal High Level Task Force was set up—chaired by the cabinet secretary or equivalent on both sides and including the foreign secretary, finance secretary and commerce secretary—which prepared a comprehensive programme for bilateral cooperation. This was a unique effort, for this was the first time such an approach had been adopted between Nepal and India. The emphasis on expanding economic and industrial cooperation was highlighted by the fact that Prime Minister Koirala was accompanied by a delegation of Nepalese industrialists and businessmen besides ministers and senior officials. The subsequent discussions at the prime ministerial level resulted in a wide-ranging set of decisions of crucial significance for intensifying Indo-Nepal cooperation for mutual benefit. As many as five important treaties and agreements were signed. These include a new trade treaty, a new transit treaty, an agreement for cooperation in controlling unauthorised trade; a Memorandum of Understanding for cooperation in agriculture, meant to promote rural development and rural employment in Nepal; and another Memorandum of Understanding for the estabilishment of the B. P. Koirala India-Nepal Foundation. Many measures regarding cooperation in water resources and economy were taken. An especially favourable access regime has also been provided for the products of approved Indo-Nepal joint ventures.8

With regard to Sri Lanka, in July 1991, both countries decided to establish the Indo-Sri Lanka Joint Commission. Its Sub-Commissions include those on Trade, Investment and Finance, and Science and Technology.9

During 1992, with regard to Bangladesh, a positive development was that the Tin Bigha issue was satisfactorily resolved. However, bilateral relations came under strain following the violent reactions in Bangladesh to the Ayodhya incident, whereby the Indian diplomatic premises in Dhaka came under attack. The relations also saw a setback due to the controversy regarding the steps to push back illegal Bangladeshi migrants and the resistance by Bangladesh in accepting them.10

The year 1992 saw expanding cooperation in various fields between India and Sri Lanka. Especially significant were the increasing contacts between the business communities of the two countries as illustrated by the convening of the Indo- Sri Lanka Joint Business Council in Delhi in March 1992, after a lapse of 11 years, and the participation of over 100 business delegates from India in the EXPO'92 held in Colombo in November 1992.11

In May 1993, the King of Nepal, His Majesty King Birendra Shah, paid a state visit to India. India's economic cooperation programme with Nepal continued with the commissioning of an industrial estate at Rajbiraj and a telephone exchange at Rangeli in Nepal. Under the new trade regime that came into force in April 1993, access to the Indian market free of customs duty for manufactured articles was improved to include articles containing not less than 50 per cent of Nepalese materials and labour. 12

With regard to Bangladesh, it is seen that differences persisted on the repatriation of Chakma refugees to Bangladesh and illegal immigration from Bangladesh. The internationalising of the bilateral issue of river waters at the UN General Assembly with references to the Farakka Barrage and related issues was noted with regret. India stated that it remained committed to devising, "an equitable, long-term and comprehensive arrangement" on water sharing with Bangladesh through bilateral discussions. However, a positive point was that in July 1993, the first meeting of the Indo-Bangladesh Business Council was held in New Delhi. 13

The year 1993 also saw an active interaction between India and Sri Lanka in economic, commercial and technical areas. The meetings of the Sub-Commissions on Science and Technology, and on social, educational and cultural matters were held in Delhi. The Joint Business Council also met in Colombo apart from many other bilateral exchanges.14The following year too, many economic activities took place between India and its neighbours.15

With specific reference to Sri Lanka, in 1994, it is seen that the second session of the Indo-Sri Lanka Joint Commission was held in New Delhi. Some decisions taken in pursuance of the meeting include : restoration of preferential tariff margins on Sri Lankan cloves; reduction in tariffs on select items of export interest to Sri Lanka such as ceramic tiles, glycerine, graphite and rubber; extension of a new line of dollar -denominated credit; permission to the Bank of Ceylon to open a branch in Madras; and enhanced seat capacity for airlines following civil aviation talks in July 1994. Further, India's interest in broadening economic relations with Sri Lanka resulted in two delegations from the Confederation of Indian Industries visiting Sri Lanka in March and October 1994. A joint task force was also set up to identify and follow up implementation of specific proposals.16

In 1995 too, it is seen that the diverse economic relations continued. However, the disturbing element was the continued attempts at internationalising the issue of river waters: the prime minister of Bangladesh raised the issue at the United Nations General Assembly in October 1995.17

In 1995, President Kumaratunga visited India and as a result, the friendly ties between the two countries were further cemented. The Sri Lankan government sought tariff concessions and greater investment from India as part of efforts to reduce the trade imbalance. A credit line of US$30 million had been extended to Sri Lanka and an announcement made granting reduction in customs duties on 18 items of export interest to Sri Lanka. During the visit, various issues were discussed which included problems pertaining to fishermen from both countries straying into each other's territorial waters. It was decided that both sides would avoid incidents of violent actions.18

We, thus, observe that there was already a favourable atmosphere created by the time the Gujral Doctrine was spelt out. The economic aspect of the relations with the neighbours, as has been seen, was already in focus. This is not to say that differences did not exist. The important aspect is that in spite of the differences,clear positive movement was evident and the economic aspect of the relations could get started. As we have seen, some of the Joint Business Councils were established for the first time or some which had been set up earlier and were non-functional, were reactivated. Further, to discuss various issues, the relations were upgraded, signifying the importance the concerned country attached to them. Democracy in Nepal and Bangladesh facilitated a new beginning, putting behind the past. Similarly, in Sri Lanka, the withdrawal of the IPKF and later the coming to power of Chandrika Kumaratunga provided a fresh start to the establishment of mutually beneficial relations.

This process continued with added vigour and vision during the tenure of Gujral, and he built on this crucial base, first, as foreign minister and, later, as prime minister during 1996-97. His own personality had a lot to do with the positive response that his doctrine evoked. By putting his words into action in the manner he conducted relations with the neighbours, Gujral was able to prove beyond doubt India's sincerity. He clearly understood the importance of maintaining friendly relations with the neighbours and clearly stated the five principles necessary to do so. The result was the creation of a positive constructive atmosphere in South Asia and especially in the relations between India and its neighbours.

In 1996, India and Nepal renewed the Indo-Nepal Trade Treaty for a period of five years up to 2001. As a result, the articles of Nepalese manufacture could enter the Indian market free of customs duty and quantity restrictions. It was also agreed to accord parity to Nepalese products in the levy of countervailing duty, which would be equal to the treatment provided to Indian products, on the basis of a certificate issued by the Government of Nepal. With regard to Bangladesh, a landmark Treaty on Sharing of the Ganga Waters at Farakka was signed by the prime ministers of India and Bangladesh on December 10-12, 1996. A change of government in Bangladesh which brought the Awami League led by Sheikh Hasina to power was an important factor for the successful conclusion of the treaty. This treaty received widespread international notice and was welcomed by the UN secretary-general. Discussions on security related issues also yielded positive results with both sides reiterating their determination not to permit their territory to be used by insurgents and undesirable elements. India and Sri Lanka continued to hold discussions on the economic aspects of cooperation . India extended a fresh line of credit worth Rs.105 crore through an agreement signed in January 1996.India maintained that it had always stood for a peaceful political settlement of the ethnic issue.19 The year 1997 saw the continuation of friendly relations between India and its neighbours. With reference to Bangladesh, it is seen that over 12,000 Chakma refugees from Tripura voluntarily returned to Bangladesh. As has been spelt out, 1997 witnessed the historic meeting between Gujral and Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the ninth South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit in Maldives. The secretary level talks could get started and the areas of differences were spelt out.

Vajpayee Government's Relations with the Neighbours

When the BJP-led coalition government came to power in 1998 there was scepticism that the principles spelt out by the earlier government would not be followed. Though to begin with, relations started out on a doubtful note with India conducting the nuclear tests and the neighbours doubting India's intentions, it is seen that later the relations have been conducted on a positive note. India's relations with the neighbours in the past one year have been in a sense a continuation of the principles of the Gujral Doctrine without referring to the doctrine per se. The aim of the Gujral Doctrine could not be disputed and its importance has been fully realised. While there have been some differences, the Indian government's seriousness in conducting its foreign relations with the neighbours and the forward movement thereof has been clearly visible.

Four specific events clearly point towards this understanding: first, the two specific economic proposals spelt out by India at the Tenth SAARC Summit; second, the visit of Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga to India towards the end of 1998, resulting in the conclusion of the historic Indo-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement; third, the visit of the King of Nepal to India in January 1999 as the chief guest at the Republic Day parade in Delhi; last, the historic bus journey by Prime Minister Vajpayee to Lahore.

These four events have led to continuity in the aim of the principles of the Gujral Doctrine to establish friendly relations in the neighbourhood and have, in a certain sense, moved ahead too. For, while the Gujral Doctrine was seen by those in Pakistan as an attempt to isolate it by India, Prime Minister Vajpayee's bus journey to Lahore would have removed this apprehension to a great extent.

Soon after the BJP-led government's coming to power, India conducted the nuclear tests which took the world community by surprise. In a scenario wherein the world community was taking a very tough stand with resolutions being passed in various international fora condemning India, the regional association, SAARC, did not do so. It needs to be mentioned here that Pakistan did try to include the agenda of peace, security and development in the subcontinent in the changed scenario but this did not happen. SAARC decided that the nuclear issue would not be taken up for it required a broader forum to do so.

This is not to say that the members did not mention the nuclear tests at the Tenth SAARC Summit held in Colombo. They did so by using the phrase "recent developments". Thus, the support which India got from the smaller member countries of SAARC was critical in meeting the global onslaught. One can, of course, debate whether these countries could have taken a different view and discussed the nuclear issue. They could have, because the issue of nuclear tests was not a bilateral one, limited to the two countries, India and Pakistan, and thus the SAARC Charter would not have been violated . But they chose not to do so. India soon realised that the positive position of these countries had a lot to do with the benefits that had accrued to them as a result of the Gujral Doctrine and specifically with its principle of "non-reciprocity". Most important, a positive atmosphere had been created in the subcontinent by the Gujral Doctrine .Even before the commencement of the Tenth SAARC Summit, though the smaller member countries had expressed their concern over the nuclear tests, they had not taken a view which was against India. The same policy was reiterated at the SAARC Summit.

That the Vajpayee government was conscious of the positive developments following the Gujral Doctrine was clearly visible in the seriousness with which the Indian government went to the Tenth SAARC Summit with two specific proposals dealing with the economic aspect of relations. First, that India would unilaterally lift quantitative restrictions on over 2,000 products when imported from the SAARC countries, and, second that it would be willing to conclude bilateral free trade agreements with the member countries. The first proposal has been implemented since August 1998 through the requisite government notification. According to studies done, the removal of these non-tariff barriers is going to benefit Pakistan and Bangladesh in a limited number of products, but is likely to benefit Sri Lanka the most .20

Later, towards the end of 1998, the Indo-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement was signed during President Kumaratunga's visit to India. Prime Minister Vajpayee stated that India respects Sri Lanka's territorial integrity and sovereignty. The Sri Lankan president said that the agreement would not only cement close relations between India and Sri Lanka but also serve as a pacemaker for regional cooperation in South Asia.21 However, it is important to note that while the agreement has been welcomed not only in both the countries but also in the region, there have also been dissenting elements on both sides of the border. Some have argued that the trade gap is bound to increase and that a new form of imperialism is emerging. That, since both Sri Lanka and India produce similar types of goods which are also exported, issues may arise which may be difficult to resolve. Opinions in Sri Lanka have also questioned the need for all the secrecy that was associated with conclusion of the free trade agreement. They have questioned India's political agenda in rushing through this agreement.22 Thus, the working of the agreement would have to prove such sceptics wrong in order to make real, meaningful forward movement.

One of the most significant steps in bilateral relations with Nepal was made with King Birendra being the chief guest at India's Republic Day ceremony. This was welcomed by the Nepali people and government as an honour and respect shown to the King by the government and people of India. A Nepali newspaper reported, "The Nepalese have much to thank India for, and now, by honouring their beloved monarch, the people and the government of India have touched the core, the hearts of a thrilled Nepalese populace." There was an almost unanimous opinion that the visit would add a new dimension to the relations between the two nations which would further deepen the good neighbourliness. India too welcomed the visit as a great milestone in the history of Indo-Nepal relations. However, it needs to be pointed out that there was a delay in renewing the Indo-Nepalese Transit Treaty by a month and this caused unnecessary mistrust and uncertainty in Nepal. The treaty was finally renewed on January 5, 1999, in Kathmandu. The provision for automatic renewal every seven years in the new transit treaty was welcomed as a positive step, enabling further consolidation of the close and special relations between the two countries.23 But the episode clearly points to the fact that delays on certain issues have a tendency to whip up animosity, and various doubts are raised regarding India's intentions.

Around the same time, during the end of January 1999, the prime minister of Bangladesh visited India. A special convocation was held by the Vishwa Bharati University at Shanti Niketan to honour Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.24 Further, in April 1999, the trial run of the bus service from Calcutta to Dhaka took place. A section of the Press in Bangladesh has termed it as neighbourliness on wheels, the bus ride taking place after a gap of 52 years. They have expressed the opinion that this should in future facilitate the bus journeys from Dhaka to Ajmer, Kathmandu and Thimpu.25 However, one of the major controversial issues between the two countries was regarding the deportation of illegal Bangladeshis by the Maharashtra government. The prime minister of Bangladesh has gone on record to say that there are no illegal Bangladeshis in India. The officials of the two countries have met to discuss this issue and it was agreed that the matter would be resolved through discussions and that there would be no forceful deportation by the Indian authorities. The issue, however, has the potential to raise emotions on both the sides of the border, thereby, seriously disrupting relations.26

The positive trend in relations between Bhutan and Maldives continued and they were tension-free.

If an analysis of the performance of the Vajpayee government in conducting its foreign relations with the neighbours was being undertaken prior to the outbreak of fighting to oust the Pakistani backed infiltrators at the line of control in May, one would have easily concluded that the bus journey from Delhi to Lahore and the consequent Lahore declaration were very significant events. Though the events since the first week of May have shown that the intentions of Pakistan were not sincere, one need not reach a hasty conclusion that the bus diplomacy has failed. Whatever talks take place between India and Pakistan in the future (for there is no other way than dialogue), the Lahore Declaration will be the reference point.

It is important to note that the declaration covers a number of issues concerning both the countries and is just not restricted to the Kashmir issue. Given the nature of strained relations that exist between the two countries and the tendency to go from a "peace-like" situation to a "war-like" situation, there is no doubt the Lahore Declaration will provide the parameters within which the two governments will work.

Taking a broader view, it is noticed that through the bus journey Vajpayee has conducted relations without making Pakistan feel that his actions or policies were aimed at isolating it with respect to the other countries of South Asia, which, to a certain extent, was the case with the Gujral Doctrine. Second, the visit is equally important with regard to the positive signals it sends for bilateral relations between India and the other SAARC members. Vajpayee's bus journey clearly shows that India is ready to go that extra mile to establish good relations with its neighbours. In this sense it will reinforce the principles and working of the Gujral Doctrine as far as the smaller countries are concerned.

It is evident that Vajpayee has not only been able to build on the gains of the Gujral Doctrine by strengthening ties with the smaller neighbours but, through his bus diplomacy, tried to make a dramatic change in conducting relations with Pakistan.


The above discussion clearly brings out the continuity that has existed in the Indian foreign policy in the Nineties, thereby, inaugurating a period in which relations with the neighbours have seen a positive trend. It brings out the importance of the economic aspect of cooperation in the overall relations with the neighbours. The analysis also brings out that the beginning of the Nineties had seen the start of a positive movement between India and its neighbours which got intensified under Gujral. Thus, there was already a positive base on which the Gujral Doctrine could build itself in the absence of which the doctrine would not have been relevant and effective. The Gujral Doctrine played the cardinal role of clearly defining for India the importance of friendly relations with its neighbours. It gave a direction and sense of purpose which will forever remain one of the objectives of the Indian foreign policy. The advantages of the Gujral Doctrine could be clearly felt in the aftermath of the nuclear tests by India, and the international reaction to it contrasted with the reaction of the South Asian neighbours. The manner of articulation of these objectives by various governments may be different but their permanence cannot be questioned.

We, therefore, see that under the Vajpayee government too there was a continuation of these policies without per se saying so. In certain aspects, the Vajpayee government tried to move beyond the Gujral Doctrine, through bus diplomacy with Pakistan. Whichever government comes to power at the centre in India, the principles and purposes of the Gujral Doctrine will remain at the forefront. But it should not be forgotten that the success of the doctrine depends on the attitudes of the neighbours too, towards India and the region. In this sense, it will be dynamic in its implementation, calling for a great degree of maturity from all the countries of the region.



1. I.K. Gujral, A Foreign Policy for India, (External Publicity Division, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, 1998).

2. For example, one of the principles of SAARC spells out that cooperation within the framework of the association is based on respect for the principles of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, political independence, non-interference in the internal affairs of other states and mutual benefit.

3. For details on the text of the resolution passed by the Bangladesh Parliament and the subsequent Indian objection to it, refer to Documents 185, 186 and 187 in A.S. Bhasin ed., India-Bangladesh Relations 1971-1994, vol. I, (Delhi:SIBA Exim Pvt Limited, 1996) pp. 321-324.

4. Report, 1990-91, Government of India, Ministry of External Affairs, pp. 1-3.

5. Ibid., pp. 6-7.

6. Ibid., pp. 7.

7. Ibid., pp. 5.

8. Report, 1991-92, Government of India, Ministry of External Affairs, pp. 1-2.

9. Ibid., pp. 4-5.

10. Report, 1992-93, Government of India, Ministry of External Affairs, pp. 16-17.

11. Ibid., pp. 19-20.

12. Report, 1993-94, Government of India, Ministry of External Affairs, pp. 1.

13. Ibid., pp. 3.

14. Ibid., pp. 5-6.

15. Report, 1994-95, Government of India, Ministry of External Affairs, pp. 1-14.

16. Ibid., pp. 7.

17. Report, 1995-96, Government of India, Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi, pp. 3-4.

18. Ibid., pp. 6-7.

19. Report, 1996-97, Government of India, Ministry of External Affairs, pp. 1-7.

20. Refer I.N. Mukherjee's paper presented at the national seminar on "Building Regional Cooperation: India's Role" held at IIC, New Delhi, sponsored by the ICSAC, on December 11, 1998 where details have been given about the beneficiaries of India's measures.

21. For reactions on the Indo-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement, refer "India-Sri Lanka FTA Signed", POT, Sri Lanka Series, vol. 5, no. 6, January 25, 1999, pp. 29-30. Also refer, "FTA is a Landmark Achievement: Chandrika," POT, Sri Lanka Series, vol. 5, no. 7, January 27, 1999, pp. 35-36.

22. For details on the dissenting views, refer "Comments: Indo-Sri Lanka FTA," POT, Sri Lanka Series, vol. 5, no. 8, January 29, 1999.

23. Refer POT, Nepal Series, January 1999, for details on the misgivings entertained following the delay of the conclusion of the renewal of the treaty and the positive reactions following its renewal finally on January 5, 1999.

24. For views on the visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to India and the issues discussed, refer POT, Bangladesh Series, vol. 24, no. 38, February 15, 1999, and vol. 24, no. 39, February 16, 1999.

25. Daily Star, (Bangladesh), Internet Edition, April 14.

26. Padmaja Murthy, "Lines Without Actual Control," Telegraph, November 3, 1998.