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Determinants of Foreign Policy, for any country

Updated: Oct 6, 2022

A countries foreign policy is driven by a lot of factors such as it's geography, governance model, culture, ethnicity, history, wealth etc. similarly it is for India where the foreign policy is not made in vacuum, there are multiple factors shaping country's foreign policy. Let's try and understand the factors that lead to the foreign policy.

Once John f. Kennedy said that - Domestic Policy can defeat us, but foreign policy can kill us.

Historical Factors:

Wisdom and collective experience of the predecessors play a major role in shaping the foreign policy. Such as China, it has faced about 2 centuries of humiliation in the past that could be seen in their strategic culture now and the policy of expansionism stems from their itself.

In India, the foreign policy structure smells from British India, our border disputes are inherited by us due to British, that now play huge role in formation of the foreign policy of India. After Independence, the loss in the war with China continues to dominate Indian prism of looking at geo-political relations. However national interest play major role outstanding historical reasons such as Japan and USA, in spite of Hiroshima and Nagasaki incident both countries share close relationship with each other.


One of the reason for US hegemony is the economy and vice versa. It plays a huge role on how you stand up to the world, talk to other countries and the negotiating power of the nation. If the country has strong economy that means it has something to offer to others and that creates a difference in diplomacy. Such as developed countries that are highly industrialized and economically developed. Requirement of the raw material to an economy leads to mercantilist foreign policy. For example the economic crisis of 1980 lead to new set of foreign policy rules in 1991 for India and LPG reforms happened.

Geographical factors:

It is said that we can change history but not our geography.

Napolean Bonaparte said that "Any country's foreign policy is determined by its geography".

Dis-advantaged countries in this aspect will be the one that are:

  • Landlocked

  • Tropical

  • Bordering superpowers

Our Ex- Prime Minister Shri Vajpayee said that, one can change it's friends but not neighbors.

Even the policy of Non-Alignment that India lead after Independence stems from this factor only as we had our neighbors as Russia and china and America was sitting far from us which benefitted Pakistan in some way as US needed Pakistan land to counter USSR in Afghanistan.


Culture shapes our world view. Thus cross-cultural interactions between different world views thus can produce conflicts. States with uniform culture can pursue effective foreign policy due to support. Ex. Support to NAM in India. Culture also used as foreign policy tool to spread soft power. Ex. Yoga, Buddhist linkages with ASEAN; Sufi linkage with Central Asia.

Internal situation:

Sudden changes, disturbances within the internal environment influence the nature and course of foreign policy. If the internal situation is not stable such as the era of coalition politics after the death of Rajiv Gandhi in India had played huge role in shaping India's image outside and our decisions because too much focus on the domestic politics leaves lesser scope to focus on the outside world. (Check how democracy plays a role with respect to India here).

Foreign policy is of utmost importance to any country and in todays interconnected world it has far reaching impacts on the citizens. Foreign policy has always been an determinant factor for any nation and it brings huge mark of changes in the way people of that country conduct themselves outside the country.

The importance of foreign policy can be understood with a very recent example of Russia- Ukraine war which lead to affecting millions of lives. It was just a matter of foreign policy that is the option of joining the NATO, which killed so many people.

stay tuned for more..



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