• In a very generic sense, national interests are “that which are deemed by a particular state (actor) to be a…desirable goal.”
  • Lerche define it as “the general, long-term, and continuing purpose which the state, the nation, and the government all see themselves as serving.”
  • Dyke defines it as that which states seek to protect or achieve in relation to each other.
  • According to Charles Beard (marxist), this can never be an objective or quantifiable process because interests cannot be separated from human motive and concern. There is no such thing as an objective reality called as the national interest. Consideration of the notional interest is a subjective assessment.
  • According to Beard, interest, subjectively considered, may take the form of an idea, and every idea pertaining to earthly affairs is attached to some interest considered as material thing and is affiliated with social relationships. There are no ideas without interest, and no interest without ideas.
  • This claim has important implications for all analyses of the national interest which attempt to disaggregate its component parts. It represents a challenge to claims made by classical realists that permanent, fixed national interest can be identified as objectives which should determine the conduct of the foreign policy of states. It also means that the national interest cannot be reduced to its component parts for scientific measurement and assessment. Any analysis of the national interest must entail an inquiry into the ideas which express and represent the interest to be considered.
  • For critical perspectives of the national interest, the claim that a complex society can have common interest is largely a myth which serves the interest of dominant groups.

Uses for National Intrest

  • Interests serve as the foundation and guiding direction for the formulation of policy for a nation state, there is more often than not a direct correlation between the nation’s interests and foreign policy. In most cases, “statesmen, think and act in terms of interest.”

Types of national Interest

  • Robinson has pointed out six types:
    1. Primary Interests
    2. Secondary Interests
    3. Permanent Interests
    4. Variable Interests
    5. General Interests
    6. Specific Interests
  • Primary interests include protection of the nation’s physical, political and cultural identity and survival against encroachment from the outside. Primary Interests can never be compromised or traded. All nations hold these same interests and must defend them at any price.
  • Secondary interests are those falling outside of primary interests but contributing to it. For example protecting citizens abroad and maintaining proper immunities for a nation’s diplomats are secondary interests.
  • Permanent interests are those which are relatively constant over long periods of time; they vary with time, but only slowly. An example of this kind is provided by the determination of Britain to maintain freedom of navigation during the past few centuries for the protection of her overseas colonies and growing trade.
  • Variable interests are those which are a function of the entire cross currents of personalities, public opinion, sectional interest, partisan politics and political and moral folkways of a given nation. In other words, they are what a given nation at any particular time chooses to regard as its national interest. These interests are considered vital for national good in a given set of circumstances. Interest can diverge from both primary and permanent interest.
  • General interests are those which the nation can apply in a positive manner to a large geographic area, to a large number of nations, or in several specific fields (such as economic, trade, diplomatic intercourse, international law, etc.) An example would be the British interest in the maintenance of a balance of power on the European continent.
  • Through the logical outgrowth of the general interests, specific interests are defined in terms of time and space. For example, Britain regarded it as a specific national interest to maintain the independence of the new countries for preserving balance of power in Europe.
  • Thomas W Robinson has included three more national interests:
    1. Identical Interests between nations are those national interests which those nations hold in common. For example, Greta Britain and U.S have had an interest in assuring that the European continent is not dominated by a single power.
    2. Complementry Interests between nations are those which, although not identical, at least are capable of forming the basis of agreement on specific issues.
    3. Conflicting Interests are those not included in identical and complementary interests. It should be noted, however, that today’s conflicting interest can be transformed tomorrow through diplomacy, occurrence of events or passage of time into common or complementary interest. The same thing might be said about the possibility of transforming identical or complementary interests into conflicting interest.

Survival as National Interest: Hans Morganthu’s Conception of the National Interest

  • According to Morgenthau, “the concept of national interest is similar in two respects to the ‘great generalities’ of the constitution, such as the general welfare and due process. In Morgenthau’s opinion, the minimum requirement of nation states is to protect their physical, political and cultural identity against encroachments by other nation-states.
  • National interest is the basis on which foreign policies are formulated. These foreign policy actions are taken with a purpose. Hans Morgenthau elaborates that the international actions of the state are supposed to serve the purpose and those purposes are usually summed up in the concept of the national interest.
  • The national interests of nations keep changing and therefore their foreign policies also undergo changes in order to adjust to the international environment. The countries may have common interests or different interests. The degree to which common interests exist between two nations depends upon the nature of international relations and the foreign policies of states.
  • Also, one state may not have a similar policy towards all countries. Practical concerns of the national interest must finally be established in terms of preferred goals and also according to one’s own power. At the same time, the power as well as the intentions of other nations must be properly evaluated.
  • To achieve the goals of national interest, it is very important to have some objective in mind. These objectives are understood to be consistent with their national interests. The capabilities of countries also affect their objectives which they want to fulfil. The more capable the country is the better placed it be to pursue its objectives Foreign policy has to be formulated with such objectives in mind. National interests do guide our objectives.
  • However, it is difficult to define national interest either as more or less as survival. Not being a
    clear defined quantity, national interest is rather a psychological phenomenon which is subject
    to drastic changes that may result from internal shifts in power or from a change in a nation’s

Instruments and methods for the promotion of national interest

  • Palmer and Perkins : It will be pertinent to rely on their views while dealing with these instruments and methods. These can be briefly explained as follows:
    • Diplomacy
    • Alliance
    • Propaganda
    • Psychological and political warfare
    • Economic methods
    • Imperialism and colonialism
  • Diplomacy: It consists of the techniques and procedures for conducting relations among states. Diplomacy is practiced through diplomats. He is the eyes and ears of his government in other countries. Diplomatic negotiations are employed to reconcile the different interests of the states through the process of mutual give and take.
  • Alliances: There are usually concluded by two or more states for the promotion and protection of their common interests. Thus the character and the tenure of the alliance will depend on the relative strength of those interests, Robinson observes: “the advantage of pursuing the national interests through alliances, of course, lies in the translation of inchoate, common or complementary interests into common policy and in bringing the nation’s power directly to bear on questions of national interests.”
  • Popaganda: In the twentieth century propaganda has become a major instrument for the promotion of national interest. In the most general terms “any attempt to persuade persons to accept certain points of view or to take a certain action” is propaganda. Lasswell says; “Propaganda is the manipulation of symbols to control controversial attitudes; education is the manipulation of symbols to transmit accepted attitudes”.
  • Psychological and Political Warfare: Eisenhower associated psychological warfare with “the struggle for minds of men”. Linebarger defined psychological warfare in the broad sense as “the application of parts of the science of psychology to further the efforts of political, economic, or military action,” and in narrow sense as “the use of propaganda against an enemy, together with such other operational measures of military, economic, or political nature as may be required to supplement propaganda”.
  • Economic Methods: Economic methods states deliberately follow certain policies in pursuit of their national interests. Economic methods are regularly employed to fulfill national interests both in peace and war.
  • Imperialism and Coloniasm: From sixteenth century till the middle of twentieth century European nations used imperialism and colonialism as a tool to further their national interests.

National Interest and Ideology

  • Nations have used ideology to strengthen their foreign policies. In the name of ideology, leaders try to justify and also impose their policies.

Security Dilemma

  • One of the core concept of realism, which is based on the Westphalian world order. The concept of security dilemma has been developed by following scholars.
    1. John Herz has used the Hobbesian theory of state of nature to develop security dilemma, a vicious cycle of insecurity which makes power politics a permanent feature.
    2. Robert Jervis has developed ‘offence defence theory’ to explain severity of security dilemma.
    3. Social constructivists believe that security dilemma is because anarchy is interpreted in a specific way. They suggest that communications can address security dilemma.
    4. George Sorenson has given the concept of insecurity dilemma. Insecurity dilemma suggests that in 21st century, nations suffer from internal security threats. Reasons – rise of ethnic movements, non state actors, failed states, civil wars.
    5. Mohammad Ayub and Prof. Amitabh Acharya have given the concept of Insecurity dilemma. It represents the internal security threats faced by the third world countries. They say that the third world developing countries face insecurity dilemma more than the security dilemma. 
      • Gradually, it has also been seen that the concept of insecurity dilemma has not limited itself to just the third world nations, rather some countries in the north like Ireland, have also started to face this threat. The Game theorist scholars like Thomas Schelling and Robert Aumann have developed the concept of “Prisoners dilemma” on the basis of concept of security dilemma.
      • Finally, the social constructivists suggest that the security dilemma is interpreted in a particular way by the realist thinkers that have led to the arms race, and thus communication or negotiation can be a way to reduce this security dilemma. 

Hegemonic Stability Theory

  • Hegemonic Stability Theory as a theory has been developed by many political scientists like, George Modelski, Robert Gilpin and Stephen Krasner.


  • A hegemon is considered to be a state that has the capacity and the will power to lead and overpower other states in the international system arena. Krasner has defined two states to be the hegemons, especially when looked from an international political economic perspective- the former British Empire until the beginning of the 20th century, and the United States of America from that point onwards.

Conditions to be a hegemon 

  • To be a Hegemon state, a state must have three simultaneous attributes-
    • The capacity and the Capability to enforce the rules of the international system
    • The Will power to do so
    • A strong Commitment to such a system which is perceived as mutually beneficial to the all the major states.

Importance of Hagemons

  • The system is considered a collective good which means that it is plagued by a “free rider” syndrome on its inside.
  • Thus, a hegemonic country must induce or coerce other states to support the prevalent system. The USA tries to produce democracy and capitalism in the world, and so, it champions human rights and free trade among them.
  • Other nations shall try to enjoy the benefits of these institutions created by USA, but they will try to avoid paying the costs of producing these themselves.
  • Thus, it is important that the USA must remain committed to the idea of free trade even if its major trading partners like China and Russia erect barriers to trade someday. The same condition is being seen today in the world trade order, where the problems of Trade war has started to emerge between China and USA. Similarly, the breakout of Russia-Ukraine war has also started to challenge the US’ hegemony. In retaliation, the US can also erect its own barriers, but then the system will collapse for the worst.


  • Although Hegemonic Stability Theory is regarded to be one of the most useful theories to identify and analyze cooperation between different states in the international systems, this theory also has some shortcomings.
  • Beyond Krasner’s evaluation of his theory lacking through a dependent variable, several other issues also appear to be prevalent throughout his work.
  • One of the major issues is to try to stabilize the world order amidst international issues which often times leads to violence among the hegemons.


  • It has been seen that, over the years, there has been an uneven growth of power within the system as new technologies and methods have developed. John Lewis Gaddis on the eve of “the end of cold war” has held that we have killed the python but have given rise to numerous poisonous snakes. An unstable system will result into chaos, if economic, technological, and other changes erode the international hierarchy and undermine the position of the dominant state, I.e., US presently. Even some pretenders to hegemonic control will emerge if the benefits of the system are viewed as unacceptably unfair by some states.
  • Hegemonic stability theory is a realist theory which accepts the liberal international order. The realist theory of hegemony is different from the Gramscian theory. Gramscian theory looks ideology and culture as the basis of hegemony. Realist theory include military and economic power.

Transnational Actors

  • At the International scene, there are many actors engaged in the game of international Politics. One of the oldest, most important and universally acknowledged actors on the international world stage is the state.
  • The two main types of actors involved in international relations include State and non-state actors. State actors represent a legitimate government while a non-state actor does not. However, they have huge influence on the working of state actors.
  • Of significant importance in international relations are transnational actors that put a considerable influence on geo-politics in IR across borders, such as non-governmental organizations (NGOs), various multinational corporations (MNCs), religious actors, terrorist rebels, even criminal actors, and country’s diasporas and various ethnic actors.
  • There has been a shift in the thinking when the definition of the world politics involving only states as the principal actors have been challenged since the late 1960s, since gradually many other actors have also become way more involved in the process of international political relations in the present context. Due to this, IR these days, promotes the concept of international pluralism, which fosters national interactions among various actors.

Role of Transnational Organisation

  • Transnational relations can be defined as the regular cross-border interactions in which non-state actors involve with state actors and play a very significant role. This opens up the need of a wide research area in the context of globalization where various actors participate in growing global exchanges off late.
  • Out of these, particular importance in international relations is given to transnational actors that put considerable influence on politics across international borders, such as non-governmental organizations (NGOs), multinational corporations (MNCs).

View of various schools

  • According to Realist scholars, Trans-national actors have no role in International politics. They believe that realism is a state-centric concept and even the bodies like MNCs and Terrorist organizations are sponsored by some or other states.
  • On the other hand, liberals have a positive view with respect to the role of these transnational actors. On one side, they act as the agents of development and modernization, and on the other hand they also contribute to peace and stability.
  • Similarly, Feminists believe that women have been adversely impacted by the policies of MNCs. John Burton in his cob-web model, Keohane and Joseph Nye in their complex inter-dependence model have acknowledged the role of non-state actors.
  • During the 25 years after the end of World War II, it is seen that the transnational organizations have-
    1. increased in number far beyond anything that remotely existed in the past
    2. they have individually grown in size far beyond anything that existed in the past times
    3. they also performed functions which they had never performed in the past
    4. they started operating on a truly global scale that was never possible in the past.
  • Transnational organizations have been designed in such a way, as to facilitate the pursuit of a single interest within any national units. One thing that the transnational organization requires is the access to the nations. The restraints that are on a transnational organization are largely external, which stems from its need to gain operating authority in different sovereign and independent states. So, in this sense the rise and growth of transnational organizations on the international arena involves a pattern of cross-cutting cleavages and associations which are overlaying those associated with the nation-state theory.

Multinational Corporations(MNCs)

  • Arguable, the most prominent contemporary NGOs today, are the multinational corporations (MNCs). They are basically huge firms that own and control organizations and offices in at least more than one country and sells and exports their goods and services across the world.
  • Some of them are even larger corporations that have branches and subsidiaries operating on an international basis in many countries simultaneously.
  • MNCs are considered to be the “one of the major drivers of global economic integration plans” and “they have established unprecedented linkages among economies whole worldwide”.
  • The primary objective of MNCs is their profit maximization. They are also considered very effective in directing and helping out with the foreign policy of states, including that of the most powerful ones, and they even set agenda for international politics.
  • They have largely become a major factor in national economic decision-making process in the present times.
    • Example, the view and reports of MNCs like Pratham and Vanavil Trust are used by government in taking decisions in education sector, similarly the reports of NETRA foundation have been used by the govt to add the concept of age reliability low-vision problems under the ambit of Ayushmaan bharat.
  • MNCs have been recognized as the instruments of economic development, especially for less developed economies.
  • However, while analyzing the functions they perform in host countries, it is seen that they develop a very strong bond with the home government which sometimes becomes a source of concern for host countries.
  • And it happens that the MNCs start challenging the state sovereignty of host countries. This might result in host countries losing control over their economies.
  • Thus, these MNC’s create some kinds of political and social division and even prevent the development of domestic industries in the respective countries.
    • For example, the bodies like Riddhi Siddhi Welfare and Charitable Trust work continuously to uphold the social welfare among the society. They have their focus on helping the poor and vulnerable sections of the society and have helped in getting the rights of many of these population recognized over time.

Terrorist Organisations

  • There are some Trans national organizations that lack political legitimacy or economic power, still they are able to exploit the benefits of markets, economies, and people. 
  • Scholars and political scientists have recognized the augmented importance of even the dark side of TNAs— that is transnational criminals, which can be- money launderers, sea pirates, human traffickers, international weapons smugglers, drug smugglers, terrorist networks, etc. 
  • However, they have emerged only in the past decade and half. Along with that, failed states also provide fertile ground for these illegal activities which is based on the lack of basic security and order. 
  • Some factors like- Private mercenaries exploiting nation’s resources, questionable practices by multinationals companies, and also the disruptive civil protest movements add complexity in the absence of governmental control in these regions. 
  • Noam Chomsky has blamed USA for promoting the role of terrorist organizations in the international politics. He has called USA as the 1st terrorist-state in the world. 
  • John Lewis Gaddis on the eve of “the end of cold war” has held that we have killed the python but have given rise to numerous poisonous snakes. 

Non-Governmental organisation

  • NGOs are voluntary organizations working in various sectors. These are popularly known as NGOs because they are generally free from governmental control in their functioning and daily works.
  • They are largely democratic and are open to all those wishing to become member of the organization voluntarily and have aim of serving the society.
  • Therefore, off late, they have assumed a significant space in civil society, which is fast emerging in today’s era due to the weakening of the state.
  • NGO is a very popular term, which has gained importance at global level and commands respect in society due to its welfare services in the society and nation.

Role of NGOs in Development

  • NGOs have played an immense role in bringing about the social change and development and it is also being experienced from different parts of the country in different sectors.
  • Development, is largely a multi- faceted process, which essentially involves the involvement and aggressive participation of the citizens that would not be possible unless they are at least educated, awakened and motivated.
  • In this field, the NGOs are taking up this job sportingly and successfully.
    1. The NGOs are very much active to promote sectors like education, particularly among those section of population, which has remained un-benefited or less benefited by the various measures adopted by the government. Here also, the education of girls, and other deprived section of people, particularly the SCs and STs, OBCs, have been their target objective.
    2. Women are the one of the largest vulnerable section of society. Gender discrimination is a ubiquitous cultural reality in societies of India. Here, girls are discriminated in the upbringing pattern in the family itself. It has been seen that larger numbers of the undernourished are from amongst the girls.
      • a. Similarly, retention of girls in schools is much less as compared to boys in the area.
      • b. Women are also forced to work as housewife and are denied participation in gainful economic activities outside their homes. 
      • c. About three-fourths of the work done by women is un-monetized even in 21st century. These NGOs work hard in each of these sectors. 
    3. It has been seen that, since the second half of the preceding century started the change in the status of women with their active participation in areas like- political, social and economic activities, which has gained acceleration since the last quarter of the preceding century.
      • More and more women have started moving out of the four walls of their houses and involving themselves actively in the social sphere outside their homes. This all has been largely possible because of the role of NGOs in doing so.

Example- The role of various women voluntary organizations towards this cause has been marvelous. Like- Sewa, Sathin, Eklavya, Disha, Environmental Action Group and Agrani Foundation etc. are some of the examples of NGOs known for their role in development by creating large awareness among people and interventions, if required and working to uplift their status in the society.

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