(Article) Gujral Doctrine

Gujral Doctrine

The Gujral Doctrine: This doctrine is expression of the foreign policy initiated by Inder Kumar Gujral, the Foreign Minister in Deve Gowda Government which assumed office in June 1996. Gujral himself later became Prime Minister. The Gujral Doctrine is a set of five principles to guide the conduct of foreign relations with India’s immediate neighbours as spelt out by I.K. Gujral, first as India’s External Affairs Minister and later as the Prime Minister.

These principles are:

1. With neighbours like Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, India does not ask for reciprocity, but gives and accommodates what it can in good faith and trust.
2. No South Asian country should allow its territory to be used against the interest of another country of the region. (Second Principle of Panchsheel- Mutual non-aggression)
3. No country should interfere in the internal affairs of another. (Third Principle of Panchsheel- Mutual non-interference in each other's internal affairs)
4. All South Asian countries must respect each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. (First Principle of Panchsheel- Mutual respect for each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty)
5. They should settle all their disputes through peaceful bilateral negotiations. (Fourth and Fifth Principles of Panchsheel- Equality and mutual benefit & Peaceful co-existence)

Essence of Gujral Doctrine: The essence of Gujral Doctrine is that being the largest country in South Asia, India decided on 'extension of unilateral concessions to neighbours in the sub-continent'.

Genesis of the Doctrine: Among other factors, these five principles arise from the belief that India’s stature and strength cannot be divorced from the quality of its relations with its neighbours.

The Creator:

  • It was widely believed that this doctrine was actually authored by Gujral's close friend and a 'Saturday Group' member Bhabani Sengupta.
  • 'The "father" of Gujral Doctrine was charged by certain elements as being a so-called "CIA agent", because he had denounced India's nuclear test at Pokharan in 1974.
  • His personal views on Pokharan test were made an object of condemnation in 1997.
  • But Sengupta admitted to the media that if relations with neighbours like Pakistan were to be improved India would have to take initiatives such as demilitarising the Siachin glacier. This step would be central component of the "asymmetry" that marks the neighbourhood policy of the Gujral Doctriine.
  • Thus, according to Swapan Dasgupta (India Today, May 31, 1997), Bhabani Sengupta "would probably have been even less squeamish about suggesting that the Line of Control in Kashmir be transformed into the international border.

Positive Application:

  • Sharing of Ganga Water with Bangladesh: It is in pursuance of this policy that late in 1996 India concluded an agreement with Bangladesh on sharing of Ganga Waters. This agreement enabled Bangladesh to draw in lean season slightly more water than even the 1977 Agreement had provided.
  • Freezing of Border Dispute with PRC: The confidence building measures agreed upon by India and China in November 1996 were also a part of efforts made by the two countries to improve bilateral relations, and freeze, for the time being, the border dispute.
  • Increasing People to People Contact with Pakistan: Gujral advocated people to people contacts, particularly between India and Pakistan, to create an atmosphere that would enable the countries concerned to sort out their differences amicably. India unilaterally announced in 1997 several concessions to Pakistan tourists, particularly the elder citizens and cultural groups, in regard to visa fees and police reporting.
  • “Confidence Building Measures” Talks with Pakistan: The Gujral Doctrine assumed significance when at Foreign Secretary level talks between India and Pakistan in June 1997, the two countries identified eight areas for negotiation so as to build confidence and seek friendly resolution of all disputes.

Positive Significance of the Doctrine:

  • It, thus, recognises the supreme importance of friendly, cordial relations with neighbours.
  • According to Gujral, these five principles, scrupulously adhered to, would achieve a fundamental recasting of South Asia’s regional relationships, including the difficult relationship between India and Pakistan.
  • Further, the implementation of these principles would generate a climate of close and mutually benign cooperation in the region, where the weight and size of India is regarded positively and as an asset by these countries.
  • The Gujral Doctrine was generally welcomed and appreciated not only within the country, but also by most of the neighbours and major powers.
  • In the context of changed international environment in post-cold war world Gujral Doctrine become a new and important principle of India's foreign policy.
  • It can be implemented by different regional powers like USA, Russia, People Republic of China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Germany etc
  • It had an heuristic impact.


Mumbai Terror Attacks: It has come out in India Today, a reputed Indian news magazine, that I K Gujral during his tenure as PM, as part of his doctrine, wound up RAW covert operations in Pakistan. Acting in the belief of earning 'goodwill' of Pakistan, gave details of RAW assets in Pakistan. It has been alleged that this led to physical elimination of RAW human assets through extrajudicial means by Pakistan's intelligence agencies. This was severely criticized in the light of Mumbai terror attacks as a consequence the ineffectiveness of his doctrine - belief in the 'inherent goodwill' of openly hostile neighbours - leaving the legacy of this doctrine in question.

Notes Prepared By: Saurabh Agrawal