Foreign policy, ideas and state-building: India and the politics of international intervention

  • Priya Chacko
Original Article


The rise of new powers has sparked greater interest in their foreign policy ideas and debates, given their potential to reshape international order. The existing literature, however, has shortcomings in understanding the dynamics of change and continuity in foreign policy ideas and practices, which in turn leads to a poor understanding of the changing foreign policy behaviour of rising powers. For instance, it is often claimed that India’s colonial history has given it an attachment to ‘Westphalian’ forms of sovereignty and an aversion to interventionist policies. This article, however, argues that India’s intervention behaviour has varied considerably. Specifically, India was supportive of multilateral intervention in the 1950s and 1960s, it turned to unilateral interventionism in the late 1970s, and became non-interventionist in the 1990s. These changes constituted significant but not radical changes in foreign policy because foundational ideas about what constitutes legitimate state-building continued to resonate, thereby constraining and shaping the nature of India’s interventionism and non-interventionism. To make this argument, the paper advances a framework that draws on cultural political economy and constructivist approaches to foreign policy analysis. This framework helps to elucidate how shifts in state-society relations, and the domestic and international political and economic contexts in which these shifts occur, shape ideational change and continuity in foreign policy.


constructivism cultural political economy ideational change Indian foreign policy intervention state-building 


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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Politics and International Studies, School of Social Sciences, The University of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia

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