The term national interest gained currency with the emergence of nation state system following the end of WWII, National interest become a tool to increase political control and the expansion of economic relations (Thompson, 1966).

National interest is the long term and continuing ends established by states for which they manoeuvre and acts. All and sundry states are bound to procure these goals. Some countries of west Europe in order to gain their interest pursued the white Man’s burden policy. They regarded it their duty to uplift the deteriorated conditions of their brethren in yellow mans Asia or in the black man’s Africa.

The political and strategic philosophers had classified national interest into diverse categories. The primary interests of a nation are the preservation of physical boundary, political system and cultural identity of the state against possible encroachments from outside powerful state. These interests are permanent and the state must guard them at all costs.


No state would compromise on it rather employ all possible means to defend it. Any state compromise on this point will immerse in the pages of history. The state would boost its defence so that no inimical state, whatsoever powerful, may cast a dirty eye. The state which could not solidify their defence disintegrated like the mighty power of United Kingdom, Union of Soviet Socialist Republic and Pakistan.

The secondary interest of state is the protection of their citizens in foreign countries. The state ensures the diplomatic immunities for the diplomatic staff (Krasner, 1978). The government of United State protected the Raymond Davis and secured his release from Pakistan manifested the way of protection of National Interest. Permanent interest of states refers to comparatively constant and long-term interests of the state.

The US considers it vital to protect the free flow of oil from strait of Hurmuz to Europe and its allies. Japan always ensure that trade through Malacca strait must be free and unhindered so that it may not affect its economy.  The changeable interest refers to those interests of nation, which a nation consider vital for national good in a given set of strategic and economic circumstances.

The states frequently changes national interest when state deems it necessary to protect its vital interest. India supported Iran against US but caste vote against Iran in order to secure nuclear deal from USA. The China and Russia are supporting Iran to secure their strategic and economic interest.


The general interests of nation refer to those positive conditions, which apply to a large number of nations in several fields such as economics, trade, and diplomatic intercourse. The identical interest refers to interest which are held in common by a number of states. The NATO pact, SEATO pact and Cento pacts are manifestation of identical approach to protect their national interest against an enemy state or group of nations (Frank & Weisband, 1971). The conflicting interests are not fixed and undergo changes due to force of events and diplomacy.

The question agitate the mind that how states achieve or secure their interests in complex world. The states adopt three methods for achieving and promoting national interests. The state adopts coercive measures to achieve national interest from other states or group of states. These measures are that measure which is taken within the state, which do not infringe directly upon the state against whom they are taken. These measures are of negative character even though they may produce positive result. These are acts of non-intercourse, embargoes, boycotts, retaliation and reprisal, severance of diplomatic relations.

These are non-violent in character and do not produce any international crisis. The US had taken coercive measure to woo the countries of South America. The USA is taken coercive measures through the UN to desist the Iran from pursuing nuclear technology.

Alliances are concluded by two or more nations for the protection and promotion of common interest. Because of the alliances, the protection of these common interests becomes a legal obligation, which the member states are bound to discharge. The USA and countries of Western Europe formed a defensive alliance NATO against the threat of communism.


The USSR and eastern European countries formed an alliance Warsaw pact against capitalist countries (Ardent, 1958). The Muslim countries formed an alliance Organisation of Islamic Conference against the Israel. Currently countries are forming alliances to protect their economic interest rather than ideological interest.

The states pursue diplomatic negotiations for the protection of national interest. Diplomatic intercourse is used to reconcile the divergent interest of the state through process of mutual give and take (Urs, 1970). The UN has been encouraging diplomatic negotiation to defuse the tension between states. The regional organisations also adopt diplomacy to bring the warring states to table as SAARC did in post 98 nuclear explosion carried out by India and Pakistan.

The United Nation has successfully maintained peace in the world through the process of diplomacy. In addition to national interest, states are trying to protect common interest in the larger interest of international community. For example, they are exerting pressure on nuclear states to avoid the use of nuclear weapon and divert their attention to combat environmental degradation and eliminating poverty.

The countries of wold have collectively waged a war against global warming. It is a crystal fact that national interest is the predominant factor in the formulation of a country’s foreign policy. In formulating, adopting and executing foreign policy, political leaders are confronted with a veritable spider’s web of conflicting claims and values. The national interest must finally be established in terms of preferred goals and in relation to the power of other nations.


There is domestic and international limitation on the national interest. International organisation, International law, world community and reaction of other nations compel the states to formulate rational and accommodating foreign policy, which leads to world peace. Any foreign policy, which claims to operate in the national interest, must have some reference to the physical, political and cultural entity called the nation.

The international environment also exercises a profound influence on the decision makers in the formulation of a country’s foreign policy basically an important tool to achieve national interest. As a unit of the international community, the state is bound by certain regulations (conventional, customary, ethical, legal or institutional) and the framers of the foreign policy have to operate within these limitations (Zolberg, 1968). The framers of foreign policy not only keep the national interests in mind but also consider the interests of world community who are equally determined to fight for their national interests.

The national interest is compromised with the interest of world community in order to avoid conflict and reaction of other states. Above all, in formulating the foreign policy the political leaders must not lose sight of the factors like geography, natural resources, industrial capacity, demography, impact of various groups and interest in the society, strategic position of the countries.


  • Ardent, H. (1958). The origin of totalitarianism. London: Allen & Allen, p. 211.
  • Frank, M. & Weisband E. (1971). World politics: Verbal strategy among the super powers. London: Oxford university press. p. 109.
  • Krasner, Stephen. (1978). Defending the national interest: Raw materials investment and us foreign policy. New Jersey: Princeton university Press. p. 303.
  • Thompson, Robert. (1966). Defeating communist insurgency. London: Chatto & windus. p. 217.
  • Urs, Schwarz. (1970). Confrontation and intervention in the modern world. New York: Oceana publication. p. 7.
  • Zolberg. (1968). The structure of political conflict in the states of tropical Africa, American political review, Vol. LXII,  p.69.



  • Ardent, H. (1958). The origin of totalitarianism. London: Allen & allen.
  • Frank, M. & Weisband E. (1971). World politics: Verbal strategy among the super powers. London: Oxford university press.
  • Krasner, Stephen. (1978). Defending the national interest: Raw materials investment and us foreign policy. New Jersey: Princeton university Press.
  • Thompson, Robert. (1966). Defeating communist insurgency. London: Chatto & windus.
  • Urs, Schwarz. (1970). Confrontation and intervention in the modern world. New York: Oceana publication.


Prof Qayum Mangi