Role of Indian National Congress in India’s Foreign Policy in British Era

Indian National Congress right from its inception and first session had started voicing against the foreign policy of British imposed on Indians. The stance of congress was based on four basic principles as follows:

  • Opposition to imperialism and colonial rule.
  • Active sympathy and support to the people fighting for independence.
  • Opposition to militarism, war and devotion to peace, and
  • Avoiding foreign entanglements for India.

These four principles were recognized as integral part of Foreign Policy of Congress aimed at prosperity of entire human race. This is evident from the following activities of INC:

  • In its very first session in 1885, the Congress strongly disapproved the annexation of upper Burma by the British.
  • In 1892, it objected the military activity around the natural defence lines of India. The use of India, by Britain as a base for political manoeuvring for military moves against India’s neighbours like Tibet, Burma, Afghanistan and Persia was opposed by the Congress.
  • In 1904, it opposed the British involvement in Tibet.

It was after the First World War that Indians led by Congress started taking more active and articulated interest in foreign affairs.

  • In 1920, the Congress sent a message of sympathy to the Irish people who were struggling for their independence.
  • It was in 1921 that Indian National Congress in its Delhi meeting adopted a complete resolution on foreign policy and affined India’s desire to establish good neighbourly and friendly relations with neighbouring and other states.
  • It criticised the Government of India for adopting a policy governed by the imperial interests of Britain over and above the interests of India. This was the first significant declaration made by Indian leadership.
  • In the 1927 Madras session, the Congress passed a resolution against the use of Indian troops in China, Mesopotamia and Persia.
  • The Calcutta Congress of 1928 directed the Indian National Congress to open a Foreign Department for developing contacts and organising the anti-imperialist movement of the dependent people. Jawaharlal Nehru came to head this department and became the director of the foreign policy of Congress. It was this experience that made him retain and act with precision and efficiency the role of the architect of Independent India’s foreign policy.
  • In 1930, the Congress came out with a thorough condemnation of the aggressive acts of Nazis and Fascists. It warned against the outbreak of an imperialist war and declared that India would not be a party to this war.
  • In 1939, at the Tripuri session, the Congress asserted the right of India to have and direct its own foreign policy. It again strongly condemned the forces of Imperialism and Fascism in international politics. When Second World War broke out and Britain made India a party to war on its side, the Congress strongly attacked the British policy. Later on, it demanded the recognition of right of India to be a full state on the basis of the letter and spirit of the Atlantic Charter.

During 1945-47, the Congress, through a number of declarations spoke out strongly “for the freedom of all countries and for the elimination of all traces of imperialist control by whatever name it may be called.” It welcomed the formulation of United Nations but expressed its dissatisfaction with the big power domination of its organisation. In 1946, the Congress voiced concern and apprehensions regarding the consequences of the Atomic Bomb and of the continued power struggle among the imperialist powers. It further demanded an end to the foreign domination of Asian and African countries.

Most of the resolutions of the Indian National Congress on foreign policy were drafted by Jawaharlal Nehru. In those resolutions, the cause of democracy was advocated and imperialism and colonialism were denounced.

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