Domestic politics and its influence on foreign policy


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- India's relations with neighbouring countries

The article examines the issue of intervention in domestic politics by the external powers and the practical utilities of principles of non-intervention in the internal matters of neighbouring countries.

Political turmoil in Nepal and India’s reaction

  • Nepal has been going through political crisis for some days now.
  • India’s reluctance to be drawn into the political turmoil in Kathmandu has drawn much attention.
  • India’s refusal is in contrast to Beijing’s active effort to preserve the unity of the ruling communist party in Kathmandu.

The principles of sovereignty and non-intervention and its violations

  • India and China always insist that other countries should stop interfering in their respective internal affairs.
  • But big nations always intervene in other nations but fend off potential threats to their own sovereignty.
  • That does not prevent others from messing with India and Beijing.
  • Intervention is part of international life; all powers — big and small — frequently violate the principle of sovereignty.
  • The concept of national sovereignty was never absolute.
  • Big nations tend to intervene more, and the smaller ones find ways to manage this through the politics of balancing against their large neighbours.

Analysing the causes of external interventions

  • The pressure for external intervention often comes from major domestic constituencies within.
  • For example, the conflict between Sinhala majority and Tamil minority in Sri Lanka produces political pressure on Delhi to intervene in Sri Lanka.
  • The demand sometimes comes from outside.
  • In Nepal, for example, elite competition sees different factions trying to mobilise external powers.
  • In recent years, we have also seen the intense interaction between domestic power struggles and external powers like India and China.
  • The Maldives is one example.

Factors responsible for intervention

  • Given the nature of South Asia’s political geography, very few problems can be isolated within the territories of nations.
  • There is also the tension between the shared cultural identity in the subcontinent.
  • There is also the determination of the smaller nations to define a contemporary identity independent of India.
  • The bitter legacies of Partition leave the domestic political dynamics of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan tied together.
  • India’s relations with its smaller neighbours are also burdened by the legacy of India’s past hegemony and the emerging challenges to it.

What should be India’s regional policy?

  • India can neither stand apart nor jump into every domestic conflict within the neighbourhood.
  • It is always about political judgement about specific situations.
  • Active and direct intervention in the domestic politics of neighbours must be a prudent exception rather than the rule in India’s regional diplomacy.


The subcontinent has historically been an integrated geopolitical space with a shared civilisational heritage. Equally true is the reality of multiple contemporary sovereignties within South Asia. In dealing with these twin realities, the principles guiding India’s engagement should be based on  “mutual respect and mutual sensitivity”.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


Join us across Social Media platforms.