Ethics in International Relations - Still A Pipe Dream - Daily Current Affair Article


With the recent developments in Afghanistan and the way the whole US-West Asia situation is unfolding, analysis of the foreign policies of the major nations on the parameters of ethics is of utmost importance.


  • The American strategy towards the International geopolitics is stated to be on the values of 'Responsibility'
  • US Foreign Policy reflects the ethical idea of "with great power comes great responsibility".
  • The World power also state their adherence towards maintenance of Democracy i.e. 'Zeal for Democracy'

Reality of US Foreign Policy

  • US debacle in Vietnam, the Iranian Revolution and its ensuing hostage crisis, the 9/11 attacks, and the US invasion of Iraq, and finally the hysteria over Washington’s withdrawal from Afghanistan all points towards a deliberate facade by the US in International situations.
  • The so-called ethical values are just another curtain over personal interests related to each of the interventions by them history has seen.


  • Long-standing principles of Chinese foreign policy are expressed in the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence: mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence.
  • Deng Xiaoping’s "24-Character Strategy" first emerged in 1990 in response both to the global backlash from the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown and to the CCP’s sense of alarm following the collapse of the communist states of Eastern Europe.
  • This is particularly evident in the words of the former Chinese President Hu Jintao, who said that the primary goal of China’s foreign policy is to promote peace and humanitarian development.
  • The new president and commander-in-chief Xi Jinping's signature slogan is "China Dream" or "great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation". The year 2013 witnessed the early stages of China’s abandonment of its long-held "Peaceful Rise" foreign policy, as Chinese President Xi Jinping, one year into the job, turned his attention to the "great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation" outside the country’s current borders.
  • This was ensured even by breaking the ethical and moral boundaries setup by the early Chinese leadership. It is evident from the Chinese interventions towards Hong Kong,Taiwan and Tibet, Dalai Lama issue, the doubtful economic and strategic plans and investments by China like 'String of Pearls' and CPEC-OBOR etc.


  • The 'Neighbourhood First' policy of Indian Foreign diplomacy is one of the major values reflected. The most classic example in recent times is the “vaccine diplomacy” with neighbours in 2021 — supplying vaccines either free or at affordable costs.
  • The well-known 'Panchsheel' policy giving the five principles which even formed the basis of the non aligned movement during the Cold war era and even sustains today.
  • The Five Principles are:
  • Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty
  • Mutual non-aggression against anyone
  • Mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affair
  • Equality and mutual benefit
  • Peaceful co-existence
  • When Upanishads gave the concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam to India and to the world; Swami Vivekananda announced the message of "ekam sat vipra bahuda vadanti” at the World Conference of Religions in Chicago in 1893, the message of global cultural space or a unity of the world away from discord of political divergences was clearly reflected in the message of peace and unity from India.
  • This is evident from India's rescue operations like Operation Sankat Mochan and India's refugee policy.
  • The Golden rule, mentioned in the religious book 'Mahabharata' proposes an ideal where "One should never do something to others that one would regard as an injury to his own self".
  • The Gujral Doctrine proposed five principles namely:
  • 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.
  • No South Asian country should allow its territory to be used against the interest of another country of the region.
  • No country should interfere in the internal affairs of another.
  • All South Asian countries must respect each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
  • They should settle all their disputes through peaceful bilateral negotiations.


Some of the reasons for the lack of ethics in today's International geopolitics are

  • Supremacy of national interest
  • Common dilemmas but different approaches
  • Knee-jerk reactions

With the dynamic International scenarios, ethics and values are very important for conducting relations across the world and maintaining peace and order. Values like Responsibility, Trustworthiness, Cooperation, Respect, Justice etc is needed for

  • More just global order
  • Equal Cooperation amongst all countries irrespective of GDP and economic diversity.
  • Inclusive and sustainable development
  • Multilateralism
  • Avoid wars and conflicts.


C Rajamohan astutely declares and analyses in the Foreign Policy magazine that, “The withdrawal of all US troops from Afghanistan is likely to accelerate current trends in India’s relations with the US, China, and Russia: greater cooperation with Washington, deeper conflicts with Beijing, and wider fissures in the traditional strategic partnership with Moscow. Reinforcing these structural shifts — and their mirror image — are Pakistan’s changing relations with the US, China, and Russia.” Thus, Ethical standards can only maintain peace and provide solutions to deep-rooted problems


  • The Daily Pioneer
  • The Arctic Council website
  • Global security website
  • MEA Website
General Studies Paper 4
  • Ethics