History remembers India as a vocal and consistent supporter of the anti-apartheid movement. The existing literature on relations between India and apartheid South Africa describes an antagonistic relationship defined by decades of sanctions. However, such literature only scratches the surface of India and South Africa's true relations. Archival research demonstrates that India's stance towards South Africa was much more ambiguous than expressed on the international stage. Evidence has surfaced that India considered re-establishing diplomatic relations with apartheid South Africa and exchanged military technology. Moreover, the reasons for publicly opposing the apartheid regime were not purely ethical but also strategic. These include establishing newly-independent India as a player on the world stage, seeking to play a role in the Commonwealth and maintaining manoeuvrability in a bi-polar world. Thus, this article analyses archival evidence within India's domestic and international context, including the Indian foreign policy establishment, economic and security crises and caste issues. This article also serves a wider purpose by demonstrating the complexity of foreign policy making and the inability of a single theory to explain these complex processes.