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Foreign Policy & National Interest

Foreign Policy & National Interest

In today’s world, we frequently hear the lines like ‘A country’s foreign policy is dedicated to its National Interest’. So let’s try to understand this line through this quick read. The Concept of National interest is not only the key concept in foreign policy but also is a guide to the foreign policy formulation. 

Foreign policy is one of the important aspects in the field of international relations. In this globalized world it is not 

possible for any state to live in isolation and without maintaining inter-state relations. Therefore, to maintain such  relations with other states of the world, a state has to formulate a foreign policy. In fact, inter-state relations can be understood by understanding their foreign policies. 

In simple words, foreign policy is a course of action and inputs that a nation makes in order to influence behaviour of other states and to pursue its goals of national interest. 

It is a set of principles, decisions and means which a nation adopts to secure its goals in international relations. 

Even though there are some fundamental characteristics of foreign policy, it is not a fixed concept. The thrust of foreign policy shifts in response to changing international conditions.

A particular nation’s foreign policy is influenced by various factors. For instance, internal factors, external factors and policymaking factors. 

Internal factors include geography, history and culture, national capacity, public opinion, ideology, social and political structure, and the ultimate NATIONAL INTEREST. 

National interest shows the aspirations of a country, it can be used also operationally, in application to the actual policies and programmes pursued; it can be used polemically in political argument, to explain, rationalise or criticise. Above all, all statesmen are governed by their 

respective national interest. If a diplomat/ bureaucrat agrees to concessions or preferential treatment, one does so only when he is convinced that this brings some advantage to ones country explicitly or indirectly.

External factors comprise of world  organization, world public opinion, and foreign policies of other states.

Lastly, foreign policy is based significantly on the leadership qualities as it determines the strength and direction of foreign policy of a state. The policy makers interpret the national interest and  also perceive the external environment. 

Four C’s are a common part of international relations that impact a country’s national interest. They are Conflict, Coexistence, Competition, Cooperation. Which C to be emphasized in its foreign policy is a particular nation’s call. 

The scope of “national interests” is fairly wide but subject to country specificity. Broadly there are few common areas such as securing  borders to protect territorial integrity, countering cross-border terrorism, energy security, food security, cyber security, creation of world class infrastructure, non-discriminatory global trade practices, equitable global responsibility for the protection of environment, reform of institutions of global governance to reflect the contemporary realities, disarmament, regional stability, international peace and so on. 

We are living in a dynamic world. Thus the national interest evolves as per domestic as well as global changes. 

Therefore, a foreign policy is bound to witness changes. Moreover, if it is proactive, flexible as well as pragmatic then making quick adjustments to respond to evolving situations becomes possible and feasible. 

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