International Relations: National Interest: Introduction and Classification

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  • One of the key component in international relations.
  • Nations always act and react for satisfying their goals of national interests.
  • It forms the very basis of foreign policy formulation.
  • The conduct of foreign policy by a nation is governed by the considerations of national interests.
  • The Behaviours of the state is justified by its national interests.
  • In words of Morgenthau, “it is not only a political necessity but also a moral duty of a nation to follow in its dealing with the other nations but one guiding star, one standard for thought, one rule for action, i.e.. The National Interests” .
  • He accepts national interest as the basis of a rational foreign policy and defines it in terms of national power.
  • He conceptualizes it in an abstract and imprecise way and justifies it on the ground that, ‘since politics is not finite, precise and clearly observable , hence political concepts like national interests are bound to be vague and imprecise’ .


The six-fold classification by Thomas W. Robinson.

  1. Primary Interests- those interests which no nation can compromise. Examples-physical , political and cultural identity against possible encroachments by other states.
  2. Secondary Interests- vital for existence of states. it includes – protection of citizens abroad, diplomatic immunities.
  3. Permanent Interests – long term interests, subject to very slow change.
  4. Variable Interests- are largely determined by “the cross currents of personalities, public opinion, sectional interests, partisan politics and political and moral folkways” .
  5. General Interests – refers to those positive conditions which apply to large no of nations or in several specified fields such as economic , trade and diplomatic relations.
  6. Specific Interests – are the logical outgrowths of general interests and these are defined in terms of time and space.
  7. Besides these Robinson discusses three more , they are.
  8. Identical interest-common to large no of states.
  9. Complementary interests- though not identical but can form basis of agreement over specific issues.
  10. Conflicting interests – which are neither of them.

Methods for Promotion

Methods for Promotion
  • Diplomacy is the most favored and universally accepted means.
  • While propaganda is the art of salesmanship , economic aid and loans becomes the necessity of poor or underdeveloped states to rely on rich states.
  • Alliances and treaties for securing identical and complementary interests whereas coercive methods involves use of force and power for securing interest.
  • Nation uses these according to the suitability of time and need. However, in the interests of international peace, security and prosperity , it is desired by states to refrain from using coercive means.


1. ________interests are the logical outgrowths of general interests and these are defined in terms of time and space.

  1. Specific
  2. General
  3. Global
  4. Primary

Ans. A. Specific

Explanation: Specific interests are the logical outgrowths of general interests and these are defined in terms of time and space.

2. Robinson has classified ________ number of national interests.

  1. Four
  2. Two
  3. Six
  4. Nine

Ans. C. Six

  • Explanation: Robinson presents a six-fold classification of the national interest- Primary interest
  • Secondary interest
  • Permanent interest
  • Variable interest
  • General interest
  • Specific interest

3. Which among following is not the method of national interests?

  1. Diplomacy
  2. Art of war
  3. Alliances and treaty
  4. Propaganda

Ans. B. Art of War

Explanation: Art of war is the wrong answer. The five popular method of national interest re-

1. diplomacy

2. Propaganda

3. Economic aids and loans

4. Alliances and Treaties

5. Coercive Means

4. ________methods involves use of force and power for securing interest.

  1. Coercive
  2. Diplomacy
  3. Propaganda
  4. None

Ans. A. Coercive

Explanation: coercive methods involves use of force and power for securing interests. Intervention. Non-intercourse, embargoes, boycotts , reprisals, retort ion, retaliation, severance of relations and pacific blockades are the popular coercive means which are used by a nation to force others to accept a particular course of behavior or to refrain from a course which is considered harmful by the nation using force.

5. Interest that are long term and are subject to slow change ________.

  1. Permanent
  2. Secondary
  3. Primary
  4. conflicting

Ans. A. Permanent

Explanation: Permanent interests refer to the relatively constant long-term interest of the state. These are subject to slow changes.

For ex. – The American interest to preserve its sphere of influence and to maintain freedom of navigation in all the oceans is its Permanent interest.

#National Interest

#National Power

#Foreign Policy

# Means and Methods of National Interests



#Economic Aid #Alliances and Treaties