ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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National Interest: A Flawed Notion

National interest, as this article contends, does not determine foreign policy. The belief that a state can, does and should pursue the national interest presupposes that the state in some way or the other represents all sections of the national society; after all, modern states are nation states legitimised in the name of peoples constituted, however, as separate nations. It is, in fact, the political and therefore moral character (which changes over time as well) of the leadership strata that makes and shapes foreign policy decisions. It is against this background that this article makes an analysis of Indian foreign policy and the shifts seen in policy since 1991.

Indian Foreign Policy since 1991

T he main reason why the notion of national interest is given such enormous, indeed decisive, weight in explaining the foreign policy behaviour of any country, including India, is because of the widespread belief that the Realism paradigm, even in its crudest form, accurately describes and explains the essential character and functioning of the world order.1 According to this paradigm the world is basically an interstate system where states are the primary, unitary and rational actors. Moreover, the state is perceived in a cartographic and not sociological sense, i e, as a national-territorial totality encompassing that whole space marked on any map as the country in question. This, of course, automatically makes the international order an interstate system where it is the external relations between states that essentially shapes and establishes the character of the world order. And given the uneven distribution of power it is, of course, the strongest states that determine this character which can then either be unipolar, bipolar or multipolar where the latter term only means a very few more than two states. It follows that it is the foreign policies of the most powerful states and of the aspiring major powers that become the key determinant of global politics. And what else determines the foreign policies of states if not the pursuit of their respective national interests?

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