Factors Determining International Relations


  1. The Geographic Factor: The location of a State on this planet, its climate and size are such factors which influence its foreign policy in relation to other States. There are numerous authorities who have advo­cated that the foreign policy of a State is determined by the geography of that state i.e., the geographical position of a State determines its foreign policy. The geographical position of a nation is the principal factor conditioning its foreign policy – the principal reason why it must have a foreign policy at all. As for instance “the geographical factors have been decisive for the course of British history and explain, just as they dictated the main principles of British policy and the pre-occupation of British statement”. (Sir A Chamberlain’s view). If the geographical position of a country is sound, and its climate is healthy, if it is rich in food-stuffs and raw materials, it must follow an independent foreign policy. The geographical position and historical developments are such determining factors of foreign policy of a country that regardless of changes in the form of government, the foreign policy of a country has a natural tendency to return again and again to the same general and fundamental alignment. As for instance, if a state is strategically situated having natural barriers like seas, mountains, terrains, deserts etc., it is not ordinarily vulnerable to foreign invasions. Such strategically situated country follows independent foreign policy in relation to other States.

If a country lacks in all these geographical factors, it has to look to the other States and has to follow the course of the neighboring States in her relation with them. It cannot follow an independent foreign policy, of its own. Thus it is clear that a country which has unfavorable geographi­cal positions cannot be able to keep itself isolated from the events hap­pening in its neighboring countries. The typical example of strategically situated country is that of Great Britain which is surrounded by seas on all sides and the English Channel serves as the most effective barrier to foreign invasion of British Isles due to the fact of which Great Britain remains secure and continues to be a great power. Quite similar is the position of the United States of America. Its geographically isolated position on this globe has brought power and strength to it that it became able to compete Great Britain.

  1. Economic Factors: The economic factors hold a key-plate in affecting the relation of a State with the rest of the world. The chief elements of economic factors which determine the position of a country in relation to other states are (i) its self-sufficiency and (ii) its capacity to provide food, clothing and shelters to its population. Since nature has unevenly distributed its wealth all over the world, no country can claim that it is wholly economically self-sufficient and thus a great power.

A State may be purely agrarian or agricultural being rich in its raw materials and food-stuffs only but lack in mineral resources as coal, iron etc. and hence such States cannot be industrially advanced. Again a State may be rich in mineral resources which can establish huge centers of production and hence they may be industrially advanced states. Again there is the third category of States which may be styled as the balanced States capable of producing enough food for their population and estab­lishing industries out of the resources available within their territories, such as Great Britain, the U.S.A. and the Soviet Union. But they also cannot pretend to be self-sufficient because they have to depend upon other States for import of raw-materials without which their industries cannot run successfully. Thus the so-called balanced States becoming able to exert influence on other States and become big powers in course of time. Whether it is the case of Great Britain, or of the United States or of the Soviet Union or of China, the story is the same. Just as the huge supplies of raw materials and natural resources are essential for a country for becoming a big power, a large population is also essential for bringing about greater industrial and agricultural output as well as for raising a powerful army and navy. The great development in China is an illustration on this point which has become one of the Five Big Powers of the world and very recently has taken its seat in the 15 members-Security Council of the United Nations. By population alone cannot make a country strong if it goes on increasing day by day without a corresponding increase in production. The case of India is a leading one on this point.

If a country does not control the increase in its population cor­responding to the increase in its production it must look for some other territories to accommodate its increased expansionist policy. Japan in­vaded Manchuria with this motive; China occupied Tibet for similar ambition, Germany clashed with the Allied Powers with the same motive.

  1. Demographic factor: The demographic factor – (a) the size of the population and (b) ethnic circumstances, also affect the international affairs to a great deal. A nation becomes great and powerful if it has both a growing large population and efficient industrial production. The Soviet Union and the U.S.A. are treated to be big powers only because they have large population and a market industrial development. In contrast to the above two countries, our country though having a large population has not become great power only because it has not been industrially so advanced as to satisfy its needs. Thus the size of the population and equally the huge and efficient industrial production determine the existence to which a nation can claim have an independent foreign policy of its own. Thus the size of population contributes to the weakness of the country. Greater the size more weak economic position is of a country.

Another demographic factor is the ethnic circumstances of a nation. Those countries having a single race or nationality have no internal problems to solve. Such countries are quite free to pursue an independent foreign policy but the countries which have various races or nationalities are bound to face numerous internal problems. The recent split of Pakistan into Pakistan proper and Bangladesh is due to the fact that Pakistan is composed of several racial groups. Though we find that India is composed of several racial groups but the constitution of this country has solved the internal problems of India and there is no likelihood of this country being split up into different entities. The case of India serves an example in that despite diversities there is unity.

  1. Strategic factors: The military strategy of a country is another important factor to determine the foreign policy because is closely con­nected with the national security of the country. If a country has effective protective natural barriers, it seldom worries about its security, as for instance British Isles and Japan. These countries are surrounded by oceans on all sides and they enjoy the position of islands. Thus the natural barriers of these countries have afforded protection from foreign aggression. Since they are surrounded by oceans on all sides, they have become able to have strong navy to safeguard their frontiers from foreign attacks. This is the main reason that they are considered as great naval powers. Besides seas and ocean, mountains, rivers, snow, deserts, swamps and forests play significant roles in safeguarding the territories of countries.

The Soviet Union and Switzerland are among the few countries which have the most secured frontiers. Both of these countries play important roles in their international affairs as they are strengthened by the most effective protective natural barriers. Distance is another factor influencing the foreign affairs of country. Countries which are isolated from the disturbed areas of the world due to distance, remain actually unaffected by the U.S.A. on the globe serves an example in this respect which remained unaffected by the disturbances taking at some distant places. Thus the distance of a country from the centers of trouble spots is an important factors governing the strategic problems of that country.



Additional Factors:

  1. The historical-psychological, sociological factors: If a country has its bold history, and its people are ready to sacrifice their blood for their motherland, its moral shall always be high. The future of a country cannot be assessed well if we do not study its to day’s affairs in light of the yesterday’s history. No country can pursue an independent foreign policy if the morale of its people is not high and their national character is not strong enough. Such elements are necessary for adopting an independent policy by any country or nation.
  2. The organizational and administrative factor: This factor con­stitutes the form of the government within a political society and the attitude of the people towards it. Many of majority of foreign issues can be decided by the sound governmental organization, efficient public ad­ministration of a country. A government which has strong support from its people lasts long and becomes efficient with lapse of time and becomes also able to deal with the foreign affairs peacefully. Thus, general support of the government and the efficient administration are very important factors for the formulation of sound foreign policy.
  3. The Military factor: Last but not the least significant factors is the military factor which determines the foreign relations of a country. This factor is considered from various aspects, e.g., size of the armed forces, quality and morale of army men, quantity and variety of weapons and equipments which determine the foreign relations also.