The Indian Non Alignment Movement

After the second world war, the world was divided into two blocks who fought for the ideological supremacy. The two blocks were –

Capitalist- the United States and its allies

Socialist- Soviet Union and its allies

With more and more countries gaining independence from colonial rule led to the formation of the third block consisting of the third world countries like – Egypt, Yugoslavia, India etc.

Post-Independence India refrained its alignment with either of the blocks after its national experience of colonialism. According to Krishna Menon’s speech in the UN conference, he said Non-alignment is not synonymous to neutrality but denial to align with any of the superpowers.

Giving equal weightage to all its members the core idea of Non-Aligned Movement highlighted multilateralism, non-violence and international cooperation.To avoid bureaucratic implication, founders of Non-Alignment Movement declared it as a movement, not an organisation.

Non-alignment being a new concept acted as a catalyst to the third world countries struggling for independence from colonialism and showed great solidarity towards them. It gradually snowballed into a widespread movement comprising of as many as 120 member countries as of today.

Timeline of Non Alignment Movement

In the Bandung conference held on April 18-24, 1955 Head of states of 29 newly formed nations of Africa and Asia met. It is largely regarded as a prelude to the formation of Non Alignment Movement.

The creation of the Movement of Non-aligned countries took place in 1960 boosted the influence and reputation of the third world countries in the united nations general assembly , admitting 17 new African and Asian countries.

First Summit conference of Belgrade held on September 1-6 , 1961 was attended by 25 countries – Afghanistan, Algeria, Yemen, Myanmar, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Congo, Cuba, Cyprus, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Lebanon, Mali, Morocco, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Yugoslavia and this gave birth to The Non-Alignment Movement.

The Non-Alignment movement allowed member nations to be self-reliant by reconstructing their wealth and natural resources.

Role of India in the formation of Non Alignment Movement

Nehru stood unchallenged in the Indian political arena regarding non-Alignment Movement . He was one of the founding members of the movement along with Josip Broz Tito of Socialist Yugoslavia, Sukarno of Indonesia, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana. Their actions were known as ‘The Initiative of Five’.

Nehru strived for friendship with all nations and showed a great deal of support to the emerging countries of Asia and Africa.

Speaking at Columbia University in 1949 , Nehru explained the basic objective of non-alignment as follows:

“The main objectives of the policy are : the pursuit of peace, not through alignment with any major group of powers but through an independent approach to each controversial and disputed issue ;the liberation of subjected peoples; the maintenance of freedom , both national and individual; the elimination of racial discrimination; and the elimination of want ,disease and ignorance, which afflict the greater part of the world’s population.”

Nehru’s efforts in the non-alignment movement were dwelled out of his experience as a newly independent state leader which motivated other third world countries to gain independence.

Impact of NAM on nascent Indian economy

Non-Alignment had given a great boost to the reputation of the third world countries including India in the World and United Nations .

The objectives of NAM were defined in the course of its steady evolution. Though the idea of NAM was laid down at the time of its inception itself . The main objective of NAM has been towards maintaining global peace and stability, which served the national interests of the member countries. A series of summits were held to establish closer economic ties among the member countries, to encourage the spirit of self-reliance and to make judicious use of natural resources for the welfare of their people. The Lima declaration aimed to strengthen and fire up the industries of developing countries.

A big milestone for the members of NAM came with 6th Special UN general assembly (1974) on problems of resources and economic development, which strived for a new economic world order , free from discrimination in trade , exploitation of resources etc.

Most speakers criticised the unfair and discriminatory economic and trade relations and demanded equality and cooperation.

The demands of developing countries were summed up by the group of 77 in the form of a draft declaration on Establishment of a New International Economic Order and a draft programme of action. It aimed to counter the trade practices that widened the gap between developed and developing countries. The socialist nations readily accepted the demands of the developing countries and made suggestions about improving their content.

The developing countries had 70% world population but accounted for only 7% of the World Gross Industrial product in 1970s. As per Peruvian Newspaper Express( March 9 1975), the industrialised capitalist states had shifted the burden of economic crisis to these countries.

On a whole NAM spearheaded the process of modernisation , industrial development and social revolution in developing economies including India.

India and NAM -70s and 80s

Nehru’s idea of NAM was soon challenged by both the political leaders and the attentive public as they demanded for a shift in government interest to India’s foreign and security policies .

With the attack by China, India realised the need to modernise the military . During the cold war India realised that Soviet Union was more open for help than USA. Though the USA came to help after the PRC crisis it was obvious that this was only for the preservation of power in Asia.

Taking advantage of the economic crisis in India post-PRC crisis ,Pakistan attacked india in 1965. India was unable to reap dividends of 1965 war .

Indian foreign policy was directed towards the Soviet Union for strategic and security concerns . India was engaged in yet another war during 1971 with Pakistan. This war was sparked by the growing liberation struggle in East Pakistan and India sympathising with East Pakistan by opening their gate for their refugees. Soviet Union actively supported the Indian Army and Mukti Bahini against Pakistan. It assured India that if USA or China intervenes then it will ally with India and will enter the state of war.

This lead to the Indo-Soviet Treaty of friendship and cooperation.

Indira Gandhi’s views on non-alignment. The following lines have been extracted from the speech at 1983 seventh summit of NAM

“ We are deeply interested in the world and it’s affairs. Our hand of friendship is stretched out to all. One friendship does not come in the way of another.Non alignment movement is not a mere casual collection of individual states, it is a vital historical process .It stands for peace and avoidance of confrontation,it aims at keeping away from military alliance , it means equality among nation and democratization of international relation, economic and political. It wants global cooperation for development based on mutual benefit . It is a strategy for the reservation and preservation of the world diversity. Development, independence and disarmament and peace are closely related. We are here because we do believe that mind and attitude can and must be changed, that injustice and suffering can and must be diminished. Our world is small but it has room for all of us to live together and to improve the qualities of men and women of all races and creed in peace and beauty.”

India and NAM -post-Cold War

Towards the end of cold war Soviet Union’s oil and gas revenue dropped dramatically and USSR began to lose its control over Eastern Europe which eventually led to the collapse of Soviet Union.

As the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union collapsed , India’s most strategic and vital partner seemed to be in a weak state as well.As a result India faced two major challenges, one was the economic crisis of 1991 with fast depleting foreign reserves and only two weeks of imports left ,the other was revamping India’s foreign policy. Russia’s importance to India has waned, never reaching the romantically high levels of the past. PV Narsimha Rao came into power and India established diplomatic relations with Israel. Amiability in Sino-Indian relations was inaugurated. ‘Look East’ policy was initiated following the major about-turn in India’s domestic economic policy . This government boldly inaugurated major economic reforms including the economic reforms of 1991. After that the BJP led government came into power and India initiated unilateral goodwill gestures towards smaller regional neighbours under the famous Gujral Doctrine.

The attacks of 9/11 had a global impact and India was bound to get affected too . Within hours of the act India expressed its willingness to cooperate with the US and India soon went public with its offer of full operational military support to US. The Indian offer seemed entirely out of character with its foreign policy. It was in sharp contrast to an India that built its international profile in the name of Non-alignment, whose central principle was the refusal to get drawn into military entanglement with the major powers.

The Indian offer of military bases and facilities to the United States on 11 September seemed of a piece with its earlier decision to support the Bush administration’s controversial initiative on National Missile Defence (NMD) announced on 1 May 2001

As, C. Raja Mohan argues in his book, ‘Crossing the Rubicon’,

“The decision to support missile defence and the American war on terrorism was neither impulsive nor individually rooted, it was the product of incremental changes in Indian Foreign Policy through the last decade and a half of the twentieth century” (Raja Mohan 2004:45).

These shifts, theoretically speaking underwent a major reorientation rather restructuring, though this has not been easy.

NAM’s role in India’s current foreign policy

The Non-Aligned Movement, which is considered as a powerful group of independent developing nations, is dying and nobody is paying heed to it. The previous summit, held in Iran in 2012, was attended by 35 heads of state from the 120-nations but the current summit held in Venezuela Margarita Island with only eight heads of states attending the same. Beyond Venezuela, the growing irrelevance of an ideology that had emerged during the height of the Cold War is a broader issue. The Non-Aligned Movement was an attempt by newly independent nations to preserve their strategic autonomy by not getting involved in the East-West rivalry which shaped the global political scenario.The idea of such a movement was a great start but soon the group developed strong anti-West orientation and statist economic policies. The reason for major failure was that the member nations could not form an action-oriented agenda. Due to this the nations continued to take positions based on individual self-interests instead of supporting other members to resolve their issues.

In the 17th summit of NAM, absence of Narendra Modi was a major shock for everyone. One of the major reasons for skipping the summit was that since one of the founding principles of NAM was to stay away from cold war machinations but in the summit there was a adoption of US-centric foreign policy.

NAM is a great ideology relevant to the bipolar world but in the current scenario the world as a whole is changing and NAM’s concept as a whole is turning to be quite irrelevant now.

The current interest of India is to become a key part of global politics but China’s attempt to acquire political rule over parts of Indian Ocean is a major hurdle in the process. Therefore India needs to focus mainly on concentrating a lot of its foreign policy on managing China. The major problem with NAM has been that the member nations have made the decisions in foreign policy in favour of their national interests rather than considering all the nations as a single bloc.

According to Harsh Pant-

“NAM can still act as a club, developing countries can come together. They can take the agenda forward, in that it remains useful, NAM continues to represent space for action in pursuance of the collective interests of the developing world… especially on subjects such as the reform of the global economic system and disarmament. At the United Nations, NAM is an influential grouping on a range of issues such as UN peacekeeping and disarmament.“

The ongoing arrival of a report, ‘Non Alignment 2.0: A Foreign and Vital Policy for India in the Twenty First Century’, has reignited discusses encompassing the revival of the Non-Alignment Movement. Non Alignment 2.0 looks to give an ideological option in contrast to the eventual fate of Indian global relations that fixates itself on the principal idea of vital self-sufficiency.

The report plans to fill the vital shortfall in Indian foreign policy and looks to encourage a consistent ‘vital’ agreement to accomplish India’s formative objectives.

A future policy of India must be centred on three “core objectives”:

India defines its own unique ideologies and goals on national interest and approach to world politics.

Maximum retention of strategic autonomy to attain development goals.

Building a national power for creating an equitable and just world power.

Non-Aligned Movement is reinventing itself to be relevant in present times .It also has the strong spirit and necessary elements to guide the current foreign policy of India as well as it had guided in the past.

Written By;-

Ananya Singh (2017A1PS0632P)

Anshuman Mishra (2017A8PS0622P)

Mudra Surana (2017B2A10722P)

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