Mighty Mughal Empire: Foreign Policy Under Aurangzeb’s regime

Like any other Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb was also very proactive in the Foreign policy of his empire. He was very keen and visionary in creating a strong establishment of Foreign relationships with other nations. In this section, we will understand the nature of the foreign policy of Aurangzeb.

Foreign Relations

In 1659 and 1662, Aurangzeb dispatched diplomatic missions to Mecca, bringing money and gifts for the Sharif. He also sent alms to Mecca and Medina in 1666 and 1672. According to historian Naimur Rahman Farooqi, “By 1694, Aurangzeb’s enthusiasm for the Sharifs of Mecca had waned; their greed and rapacity had completely disillusioned the Emperor… Aurangzeb expressed his contempt for the Sharif’s unethical behavior in appropriating all funds sent to the Hijaz for his personal use, thereby depriving the needy and poor.”

Relations with the Uzbek

Subhan Quli, Balkh’s Uzbek ruler was the first to recognize him in 1658 and requested a general alliance, he worked alongside the new Mughal Emperor since 1647 when Aurangzeb was the Subedar of Balkh.

Relations with the Safavid Dynasty

Foreign policy with Safavid: In 1660, Aurangzeb received the embassy of Persia’s Abbas II and returned it with gifts. However, relations between the Mughal Empire and the Safavid dynasty were tense as a result of the Persians’ attack on the Mughal army near Kandahar. Aurangzeb mobilized his armies in the Indus River Basin in preparation for a counteroffensive, but Abbas II’s death in 1666 compelled Aurangzeb to call an end to hostilities. Sultan Muhammad Akbar, Aurangzeb’s rebellious son, sought refuge in Persia with Suleiman I, who rescued him from the Imam of Muscat and later refused to assist him in any military adventures against Aurangzeb.

Relations with the French

Foreign policy with French: In 1667, the French East India Company’s ambassadors Le Gouz and Bebert presented Louis XIV of France with a letter urging him to protect French merchants in the Deccan from various rebels. Aurangzeb responded to the letter by issuing a Firman authorizing the French to establish a factory in Surat. François Bernier was a French physician and explorer who served as Aurangzeb’s personal physician for 12 years. In Travels in the Mughal Empire, he detailed his experiences.

Relations with the Sultanate of Maldives

In the 1660s, Ibrahim Iskandar I, Sultan of the Maldives, requested assistance from Aurangzeb’s representative, the Faujdar of Balasore. The sultan was concerned about the impact of Dutch and English trading ships, but Aurangzeb’s authority did not extend to the seas, the Maldives did not fall under his jurisdiction, and the request was never granted.

Relations with the Ottoman Empire

Aurangzeb, like his father, was unwilling to recognize the Ottoman claim to the caliphate. He frequently sided with the Ottoman Empire’s adversaries, extending a cordial welcome to two Basra rebel governors and bestowing upon them and their families a position of prominence in the imperial service. Aurangzeb disregarded Sultan Suleiman II’s friendly postures. Aurangzeb was urged by the Sultan to wage holy war against Christians.

Relations with the British

child war

In 1686, the East India Company began the so-called Child’s War after failing to obtain a firman (imperial directive) granting England regular trading privileges throughout the Mughal Empire. This hostility toward the empire ended in disaster for the English, most notably in 1689, when Aurangzeb blockaded Bombay with a large fleet of grab ships dispatched from Janjira. Sidi Yaqub’s ships were manned by Mappila (allegiant to Ali Raja Ali II) and Abyssinian sailors. The company sent envoys to Aurangzeb’s camp in 1690 to plead for pardon. The company’s envoys were required to prostrate before the emperor, pay a substantial indemnity, and promise to behave better in the future.

In September 1695, English pirate Henry Every carried out one of the most lucrative pirate raids in history by seizing a Grand Mughal grabs convoy near Surat. The Indian ships were returning from their annual pilgrimage to Mecca when the pirates attacked, seizing the Ganj-i-Sawai, reportedly the largest ship in the Muslim fleet, and its escorts. When word of the piracy reached the mainland, an enraged Aurangzeb considered ordering an armed attack on the English-ruled city of Bombay, but eventually agreed to a compromise after the East India Company agreed to pay financial reparations estimated at £600,000 by the Mughal authorities.

Meanwhile, Aurangzeb closed four East India Company factories, imprisoned the workers and captains (who came dangerously close to being lynched by a mob), and threatened to halt all English trading in India until every person was apprehended. The Privy Council and the East India Company offered a large bounty for Everyone’s capture, resulting in the first global manhunt in recorded history.

Aurangzeb dispatched Daud Khan Panni, the Mughal Empire’s Subhedar for the Carnatic region, to besiege and blockade Fort St. George for more than three months in 1702. The East India Company directed the governor of Fort Thomas Pitt to sue for peace. 

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