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Foreign policy

A country's foreign policy, also called foreign relations or foreign affairs policy, consists of self-interest strategies chosen by the state to safeguard its national interests and to achieve goals within its international relations milieu. The approaches are strategically employed to interact with other countries. The study of such strategies is called foreign policy analysis. In recent times, due to the deepening level of globalization and transnational activities, the states will also have to interact with non-state actors. The aforementioned interaction is evaluated and monitored in attempts to maximize the benefits of multilateral international cooperation.

Since the national interests are paramount, governments design their foreign policies through high-level decision-making processes. National interests may be accomplished as a result of peaceful cooperation with other nations, or through exploitation. Usually, creating foreign policy is the job of the head of government and the foreign minister (or equivalent). In some countries, the legislature also has considerable effects. Foreign policies of countries have varying rates of change and scopes of intent, which can be affected by factors that change the perceived national interests or even affect the stability of the country itself. The foreign policy of a country can have a profound and lasting impact on many other countries and on the course of international relations as a whole, such as the Monroe Doctrine conflicting with the mercantilism policies of 19th-century European countries and the goals of independence of newly formed Central American and South American countries.

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle described humans as social animals. Therefore, friendships and relations have existed between humans since the beginning of human interaction. As the organization developed in human affairs, relations between people also organized. The foreign policy thus goes back to primitive times. The inception in human affairs of foreign relations and the need for foreign policy to deal with them is as old as the organization of human life in groups. Before writing, most of these relations were carried out by word of mouth and left little direct archaeological evidence.

The literature from ancient times, the Bible, the Homeric poems, the histories of Herodotus and Thucydides, and many others, show an accumulation of experience in dealing with foreigners. Ancient Chinese and Indian writings give much evidence of thought concerned with the management of relations between peoples in the form of diplomatic correspondence between rulers and officials of different states and within systems of multi-tiered political relations such as the Han dynasty and its subordinate kings, the more powerful of which conducted their own limited foreign relations as long as those did not interfere with their primary obligations to the central government, treatises by Chanakya and other scholars, and the preserved text of ancient treaties, as well as frequent references by known ancient writers to other, even older sources which have since been lost or remain in fragmentary form only.

Shapiro, in his comparative study of the foreign policy of different countries, felt that the lack of a basic theory of foreign policy was particularly disabling and pointed out the harmful effect of the absence of a general theory of foreign policy on foreign policy literature.

A theoretical framework of foreign policy is needed to analyze the day-to-day interactions in international relations and to compare individual foreign policies. The focus is primarily on the policies of state actors with defined territories and jurisdictional boundaries, and less so on non-state actors, except in the context of how they impact national government decisions and policies. The formal field of study of international relations is itself fairly recent and a specific subset of international relations such as foreign policy analysis does not receive wide attention as a field of scientific study, as opposed to the widespread use of terms like "foreign policy" and "foreign policy expert" in news media and general discussions about government when such experts may have more extensive backgrounds in fields other than foreign policy analysis. The organization Foreign Policy Interrupted recognized the gender disparity in foreign policy expert representation and is amplifying the number of female voices in foreign policy media coverage. Government officials involved in making foreign policy often perceive risk in giving away information about their policy-making processes and do not discuss the subject since control of information is itself often a part of foreign policy.