Impact of Indian Renaissance on India’s Foreign Policy

From the later 18th century onwards, the leaders of Indian Renaissance had started feeling that if India has to find an appropriate place in the comity of nations; it will need to redefine its geo-political and cultural individuality. Towards this end, three distinct views emerged in 19th century before rise of Indian Nationalism.

First was the “Universal Brotherhood” and spiritual and moral unity of human race. The most prominent spokesmen of this view were Keshub Chandra Sen, Swami Vivekananda etc. Keshub Chandra Sen in his 1886 lecture “Jesus Christ: Europe and Asia” examined how Indians and British may regulate their strained relations (due to 1857 mutiny) by adhering to the doctrine of forgiveness inculcated by Christ. Via this lecture, he hoped that one day, rece-antagonism would perish and all types of strife and discord will pass away. Further, in another lecture titled “Message to Europe”, he emphasized that Europe’s aggressive civilization had rent Europe itself with conflict. He made a case for peaceful co-existence here and said that if the Europeans wanted to be on the side of civilization rather than barbarism, they should mimic Asia’s instinctive pluralism.

Similarly, Swami Vivekananda gave a message of mildness, gentleness, forbearance, toleration, sympathy, and brotherhood as qualities for nations to accommodate differences of opinions and as part of collective human existence. It was not possible without conquest of greed and desire. This is what makes a nation survive and this is where India stood out. He repeatedly observed that “India was only nation that never went beyond its frontiers to cut the throats of its neighbours”.

Second thought was drawn on the wide circulation of India classical texts such as Panchatantra, Hitopdesa, Arthashastra, Agni Purana, Gita etc. These led to various ideas upon statecraft, relations with neighbours etc.

Third line of thought was liberal and its spokespersons included Dadabhai Naroji, GV Joshi, Pherozshah Mehta, Dinshaw Wacha, Gopal Krishna Gokhale etc. Everyone of them sought some changes in British Foreign Policy. One of the major demands was that British should refrain from stoking the “Great Game”. This idea culminated in INC’s 1898 declaration that British should keep itself limited in its natural limits. In 1880, Dadabhai Naoroji had come up with “The Moral Poverty of India” in which he asked British to refrain from Opium Trade with China which was “a sin on England’s head and a curse on India for her share in being the instrument”. Similarly, Gokhle and other leaders criticised the British militarism. In the early years, one of the major demands of INC was to reduce military and other unproductive expenditures and spending larger amounts in promoting the welfare and progress of the people.

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