A new wave of historical scholarship has started to make us rethink the way in which we understand India’s foreign policy, yet many important episodes of this history still remain under-studied. This is the case with the Government of India’s handling of the territory of Goa until it became an Indian territory, years after India’s independence in 1947. In 1961, Goa was integrated in the Indian Union with the Operation Vijay, after having been a Portuguese possession since the 16th century. Why did this operation take so long? How did the Indian government discuss the issue and strive to solve it over the preceding years? Thanks to new archival research, this paper analyses the ways in which the Government of India addressed the issue of contested sovereignty in Goa. It provides insights about how members of the Government and diplomats crafted India’s policy until the decision to ultimately use military means.
Beyond providing a better understanding of the functioning of policy-making under Jawaharlal Nehru’s prime ministership, such examination allows us to question and qualify several enduring ideas about India’s foreign policy at the time. It notably shows how complex India’s relationship to sovereignty was, even after independence. More generally, it helps to reconstruct the historical emergence of an understanding of sovereignty in India between the 1940s and the 1960s.