India and Latin America, a new partnership

The Indian foreign policy undertaken after the independence (1947), being influenced to a large extent by the ideals of Gandhian philosophy, according to which morality plays a more important role than strength.

It was based on the fundamental principles of the swaraj (self-rule), Ahimsa (non-violence) and panchsheel (the five principles of sovereign equality): mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty; mutual non-aggression; mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs; equality and mutual benefit; peaceful co-existence. These principles basically met a dual objective: the safeguard of the sovereignty harshly conquered and the preserving of the autonomy of decision and the rescue of the economy of the country from underdevelopment. This ideological framework is sufficient to explain the reason why India wanted to set up the Non-Aligned Movement, why the country was one of the founder members of the United Nations and why the government adopted a mixed economy based on the synthesis of the public and private sector.

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Notwithstanding the adhesion to the Gandhian principles, and in particular to that relating to non-violence, in 1956, Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India, made it clear that although he intended to respect the principle of Ahimsa (non-violence), the country’s foreign policy would not be based on the limitations which the principle itself implied. In fact, in the following years, India was involved in fierce conflicts triggered by territorial disputes with Pakistan and China. In particular, the short but intense war against China did not prevent Nehru from putting into question the principle of non-alignment. He called for the United States and Great Britain’s military aid and signed the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation. Thanks to the treaty, India was provided with large amounts of Russian weapons in order to support the military intervention of India in East Pakistan (then Bangladesh). Finally, during the cold war, the socialist orientation of Nehru led India to an intense relationship with the Soviet Union.

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As far as the Latin American continent is concerned, the outcome of the second world war, marked the end of the intrusion of European powers, which came into the USA’s orbit, in its territories. The White House strove to make the continent ‘safe’ from the threat of international communism. The ‘good neighbour’ policy was substantially set aside and sacrificed on the altar of the cold war which for forty years affected the choices not only of Washington, but also of the Latin American States and other national political actors. (F.R.& P.S)



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