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Shifting Paradigms In The Non Aligned Movement Politics Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Politics
Wordcount: 5044 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The concept of “Non Aligned Movement” or NAM is not a doctrine or a dogma. It is a process. It is a way of looking at issues in a particular way. It is against hegemony, against arm-twisting by the rich and the powerful.

Non-alignment [1] does not mean “isolation” or “neutrality”. It is an independent movement stressing that nations should follow their own policies without joining any of the power blocs (in the period when they had existed) and falling under their influence. A non-aligned nation judges each issue on its merits. In other words, non-alignment upholds the rights of all states to freedom and choice of action in the international field. One of the fundamental aspects of non-alignment is its antipathy to military alliances and opposition to any form of imperialism.

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The post Second World War period witnessed an era of awakening and rise of political and nationalist aspirations of subjugated people over the world. The centuries old phenomenon of colonialism started crumbling and finally gave way. Many new independent states came into existence in Asia and Africa after having thrown off the yoke of foreign domination. It was also a time when the cold war between the Soviet and the US blocs was getting intensified. The super powers tried to win over these newly independent countries to their respective blocs. But some of them abhorred the idea of submission to any of the super powers or for political inclination towards any of them. They wanted to pursue an independent foreign policy of their own rather than toeing the line of any power bloc. It was this strategy of not joining either of the two power blocs and following an independent foreign policy that came to be known as Non-alignment.

The newly independent countries mostly in Asia and Africa had almost identical problems of economy, government, development, etc. and therefore they had many views in common on world affairs. These African and Asian countries thus sought to tackle their problems at a conference held at Bandung in Indonesia in 1955. Thirty Asian and African nations attended it. India, China and Indonesia played a leading role at this conference. Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, the then prime minister of India, the then Chinese Prime Minister Chou-En-Lat and the then President Sukarno of Indonesia expressed complete identity of views. The impact of this conference was felt in the United Nations also. This was also the beginning of the Non-Aligned Movement. These Afro-Asian countries declared themselves neutralists. The epithet “non-aligned” was adopted at a subsequent conference held at Belgrade in 1961.


During the course of preparing the final submission, the student researcher has essentially tried in analyse the following primary research questions, namely:

The extent to which the Non Aligned Movement has affected the world politics?

India’s role concerning the Non Aligned Movement considering that it is one of the founding members and has recently emerged as a global economic superpower?

The extent to which the current debate on the contemporaneous significance of Non Aligned Movement relevant?

Measures can be taken to ensure that Non Aligned Movement emerges as a stronger force in current world politics?


While trying to provide concrete answer to the research questions formulated above, the student researcher has intended to prepare this final research submission which is both explanatory and exploratory in scope. Also, the student researcher has intended to critically analyze the research question framed for the purpose of final research submission.

In relation to the above, the student researcher has tried to present an overview of the Non Aligned Movement, historical evolution, its major contribution to global politics, pros and cons associated with the same, etc. through this final research submission.

Also, the student researcher has tried to essentially compare India’s initiatives with that of the other countries of the world and examine the various measures adopted by them in strengthening the Non Aligned Movement.


The student researcher submits that not much literature has been available on the same in the NUJS university library and other prominent libraries in Kolkata. Hence, the student researcher has relied on the electronic resources for completion of his final research submission.

Also, this submission is, in no way, to be considered exhaustive and there shall be plenty of scope for further research. Having said this, the student researcher has tried, within his limited capabilities, to critically analyze the research questions framed for the purpose and present a value neutral submission.


Since the present submission offered no scope for empirical research, the research methodology adopted by the student researcher was entirely doctrinal.

The student researcher has analysed the research questions by making a value neutral study of the same. In doing the same, the student researcher has not let his own opinion influence the research questions or the research as a whole, to the maximum extent possible.


“Those who were not with us were against us.”

– Stalin

“A country must lean to be on one side or the other and a third path does not exist.”

– Chinese Communist Supremo Mao

The term non-alignment has a specific meaning. Many Western scholars mean by non-alignment, neutrality or neutralism only; but that might not be a correct interpretation. Schwarzenberger [2] has suggested some related terms- isolationism, non-commitment, neutrality, neutralization, unilateralism and non involvement. Isolationism stands for policies of aloofness varying from the known isolation of the US before the First World War to postures of inoffensiveness in international affairs. Non commitment refers to politics of detachment for other powers in a triangular or multicorner relationship. Neutrality describes the political and legal status of a country at war, with respect to belligerents. Neutralization means a permanent neutral status of a particular state which it cannot give up under any circumstances, eg. Switzerland is a neutralized state. Unilateralism is identified with policies of calculated risks such as the destruction of own nuclear weapons at ones’ own instance. Non involvement means keeping away from the ideological struggle between the different super powers, though permitting a certain degree of flexibility when absolutely unavoidable.

Non-alignment has a broader meaning than all the above mentioned terms and thus has a distinct character. It means a nation pursuing such a policy need not be neutral under all circumstances. Unlike neutrality, non alignment aims at keeping away but it keeps away not from a particular conflict or issue but from a persisting international tension like cold war. Since military alliances were an important aspect of cold war, non alignment naturally insisted on shunning from these alliances. It is, therefore, a foreign policy perspective that advocates freedom from commitment to any power bloc; it stresses on the independence of choice and action in external affairs. The policy of not aligning with any bloc, but at the same time being friendly to everyone, so that it might be feasible to have a moderating impact on international relations, came to be popularly known as non-alignment. It would enable a nation to judge each issue on merit and decide upon its course independently without being influenced by any commitment or bias.

Non-alignment is neither a passive nor a negative policy. In so far as the negative appearance of the term non-alignment is concerned, it should be understood in the foreground of the ways of contemplating of Indian people who have expressed many positive and constructive ideas through negative expressions, such as Ahimsa and Apramad.

As a positive concept it has several dimensions. It is natural that non-alignment should oppose certain values and at the same time promote some others which are in harmony with its basic orientation. The chief goals of the non-aligned movement in the fifties and the sixties were decolonization and the preservation of international peace. Of late, it has been contributing positively for attaining of a new international economic order and a new information order based on equity, justice, freedom and eradication of exploitation and dominance. It is positive since it strives for certain goals and values.

As an activist and dynamic policy, it takes specific sides on the merits of each case. This implies issue bound tilts in non alignment are considered legitimate and the concept, therefore, does not imply equidistance from any of the existing superpowers. But at the same time, it also rejects the idea of natural allies recently coined to justify certain alliances of the non aligned states with certain powers. It is thus an active policy as it envisages an active role for the non aligned countries in the world affairs.

For the sake of a more efficient and global lobbying power, 29 independent African and Asian countries met in the Indonesian city of Bandung between 18 and 24 April, 1955 with the aim of elaborating upon the principles of peaceful co-existence and creating the Dasa Sila Bandung (Bandung’s Ten Principles). [3] None of them wanted to join any of the blocs, therefore, they chose non-alignment, which later on, first in Cairo, June 1961, then, in Belgrade, September 1961, was extended and formalised in the form of NAM. To quote Calvocoressi: “The principal achievements of the Bandung Conference were that they had met and got to know one another (most of them were new to international politics); that they had laid the foundations for joint action at the United Nation and, through solidarity, increased their security, their status and their diplomatic weight in the world that they had attracted new men like Nasser to the group and made it bigger; that they were making the giant powers take them seriously and treat their policies as respectable.” [4] 

Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda elaborated on the goodness of this concept in 1964 in these words: “It is a determination to preserve independence, sovereignty, to respect such independence and sovereignty in such states and to decline to take sides in the major ideological struggles which rend the world…. We will not hitch our carriage to any nation’s engine and be drawn along their railway line.” [5] The criteria of non alignment determined as early as June 1961 at Cairo were:

A country should follow an independent policy based on peaceful coexistence and non alignment, or should be showing a trend in favour of such a policy.

It should consistently have supported movements for national independence.

It should not be a member of multilateral military alliances concluded in the context of great power conflicts.

If it has conceded military bases, these concessions should not have been made in the context of great power conflicts.

If it is a member of a bilateral of regional deference agreement, this should not have been made in the context of great power conflicts.

Another vital feature of Non-alignment is that it has been opposed not only to the two power blocs of power but also to the creation of a third bloc- the bloc of the Non aligned nations. The policy is not based on the desire to build up “a third force” or “a third bloc”. There is nothing like India’s Monroe Doctrine and there was nothing like “Nehru Doctrine”, behind Indian non alignment. The aim of non alignment is to build a third area of peace, an area which rejects war, cold war, alliances and supports peace in a a positive way and believes in cooperation. Non Aligned states have always opposed, and very successfully, the attempts to transform the group into a non aligned bloc. Non alignment is a movement but is not backed by any formal organisational structure or constitution.

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However, India’s effort to check institutionalization proved futile as in the Algiers Summit (1973) [6] it was decided to have a co ordination bureau within the host nation of each summit as the Chairman for the period between that summit to the next summit. The original strength of the Summit was 25 which was subsequently raised to 36. The Bureau meets at least once a year and deals with matters of common interest from time to time. It also takes decision regarding the next summit. It also seeks to strengthen cooperation and coordination among the member states inside the UN and help them in making united efforts for the realization of the goals of the non aligned movement. As per the Lusaka Conference (1970) [7] decision to hold non aligned summits at the interval of every three years, the same are held regularly since then. The Foreign Ministers of member states usually meet sometime before each summit mainly to prepare the agenda for the summit. These developments indicate “the growing institutionalization of non alignment is a reality and does not appear to be reversible. Some degree of permanence in structure and regularity in behaviour pattern have been injected into it.


In Volume 7 of Encyclopedia Britannica (Micropaedia Section) on page 380, there is an entry which is most revealing of the mind set of the West. The word Non-Alignment is no doubt mentioned. However, the reader is directed to – “see neutralism”. And that is that. [8] 

India has been one of the founding members and one of the most voracious proponents of the theory of non- alignment. In fact, it is sometimes attributed solely to the initiatives of our first Prime Minister Mr. Jawahar Lal Nehru. Nehru was not only the architect of India’s non-aligned foreign policy but also played a major role in espousing the cause of the third-world countries. In the prevailing turbulent state of global affairs, charting a non-aligned foreign policy posed a big challenge and it was only due to the wisdom and skill of Nehru that he succeeded in doing so.

The principles guiding the foreign policy of India’s interim government that was formed just prior to gaining independence was enunciated by Nehru on September 7, 1946. In a radio address, Nehru, who then headed the interim government, stated that India would not join groups of states that were aligned against each other but would strive to establish friendly relations with all countries. Nehru had already conceived of a closer association of the Asian countries for evolving a common foreign policy. During his visit to South-East Asian countries in March 1946, Nehru not only secured the support for his idea but also got the needed consent from leaders of Burma, Indonesia and so on for holding a conference for that purpose.


At the 14th NAM Conference held in Havana in September 2006, the purposes and principles of NAM was reiterated in the “Declaration on the Purposes and Principles and the Role of the Non-Aligned Movement in the Present International Juncture”, which was adopted on September 16, 2006. [9] 


The Heads of State and Government of the member-nations of NAM also reaffirmed their political will to strengthen the Non-Aligned Movement. The Havana Summit [10] also declared that one of the major Purposes of NAM in the present international situation was:


“To continue pursuing universal and non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament, as well as a general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control and in this context, to work towards the objective of arriving at an agreement on a phased program for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons within a specified framework of time to eliminate nuclear weapons, to prohibit their development, production, acquisition, testing, stockpiling, transfer, use or threat of use and to provide for their destruction.”


The Havana Summit’s reiteration that: “it is imperative that the Movement continues to be in the front-line in the struggle to change and transform the present unjust international order”, certainly did not go down well with the US administration, which perceives the revival and reactivation of NAM as an inherent threat to its interests.


Addressing the 32nd Annual US-India Business Council meeting which was found to be an appropriate occasion to publicly convey to India that it should jettison NAM in Washington D C, on June 27, 2007, the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, posed a seemingly innocent question: “What is the meaning of non-alignment?” Immediately after posing the question, the Secretary of State herself went on to declare: “It has lost its meaning” [11] 


Rice had prefaced her question with the following remarks: “…in order to create a partnership for our future and to fully realise it, we are going to have to move past old ways of thinking and old ways of acting…. And I know that there are some who still talk about non-alignment in foreign policy. But maybe that made sense during the Cold War when the world really was divided into rival camps.”


The fact is, neither Rice’s dismissal of the relevance of ‘Non-Alignment’ nor the memory lapse of many of those at the helm of affairs in the Indian government at present, can make the concept of ‘Non-Alignment’ irrelevant. On the contrary, it is high time that the US administration moved “past old ways of thinking and old ways of acting”; the sooner the US abandoned militarism and eschewed belligerency, the better it would be for all humanity! However, the fact remains it is the signals the Indian government has been transmitting over the last few years by acting contrary to the aims and objectives of NAM that have emboldened the US administration to give a call to India to abandon NAM. In a damage control exercise, the government of India was forced to quickly reiterate its commitment to NAM. [12] 

However, the said Press Briefing by the spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs in response to Rice’s statement was so brief that it provides further proof that the government of India did not intend to pay literally nothing more than mere lip service to the cause of NAM. It would be a complete betrayal of the cause of NAM if the government of India, as one of the founding members, fails to take on the mantle of responsibility and play a leadership role in propagating the cause of NAM by acting in accordance with its principles and proceeding to fulfill its purposes.


The government of India’s present disposition towards NAM does not appear to be too favourably placed. Contrary to the explicit declaration of Nehru in 1947 that “We do not intend to be the play things of others”, there are apparently quite a few at the helm of affairs in India today, who are not averse to India playing second fiddle to the United States. Some groundwork was undertaken for realizing Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of a “One World” in the form of the “Action Plan for a Nuclear Weapon Free and Non-violent World”, which Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had placed before the UN General Assembly in 1988. However, after Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination in 1991, the government of India chose to tread in a different direction. Thus, Mahatma Gandhi’s counsel in 1947, that “It is up to you to deliver the whole world, not merely Asia but deliver the whole world from that wickedness, from that sin” [of war and destruction], remains unheeded. Only a vigilant and well-informed public and a strong and active mass movement can force the government of India to pay heed to the eloquent advise of Gandhi and Nehru and compel it to uphold the tenets of NAM and act accordingly.


The 58-Year old NAM has remained an object of immense applause as well as ruthless criticism throughout its existence. The US dubbed it as ‘immoral’ ‘and non sense’. The Western Scholars despised the NAM ever since the latter was reckoned as an important factor in international politics. Notwithstanding this criticism, NAM remained a potent and powerful force in the cold war era. It took bold stands on issues affecting the newly independent and developing countries and was decidedly, a force that neither of the two super powers could afford to ignore.

The NAM as a movement of the small, newly-independent and developing countries has been determined to carve out an independent path of development and not to remain an appendage of any colonizing power or superpower. This objective helped NAM in making a significant headway throughout the cold war era. The crusade against imperialism and racism met with greater success with large number of colonies the list of the UN and NAM as sovereign and Independent nation states. The economic concerns were related to the North- South great economic divide, dubious role of the international financial institutions, poverty and above all the vitality for a strong South-South cooperation. The search was for a New International Economic Order (NIEO) envisaging the restructuring of the global financial and monetary structure on just and equitable grounds. NAM played the role of cooling effect in ensuring global peace in the midst of cold war rivalry.

NAM has been subjected to more ruthless criticism in the post-cold war period than in its long career. In the changed international scenario-the collapse of the former Soviet Union and the end of the cold war, the question has been posed as to whether NAM remains valid or not, it is often argued that since Non-alignment was born and brought up in the cold war context why should it not be renounced in the post-cold war world ? But there can be a counter question. The cold war is over. The War saw Pact has been dismantled, the Soviet Union has disappeared. Is the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) relevant? The non-aligned countries represent the will and voices of three-fourth humankind. In order to visualize its cherished goal the NAM needs to be especially innovative. The 21st century is for NAM’s rebirth under new democratic philosophy.

The 22 page, Declaration issued after the meeting of NAM Foreign Ministers, held at Accrais September 1991, entitled “A World in Transition from Diminishing Confrontation Towards Increasing Cooperation” emphasized that NAM’s new focus must be on eradicating poverty, hunger, malnutrition and illiteracy and called on the international community to help. NAM supported the present efforts at strengthening the UN so as to render it, “more democratic, effective and efficient”. There was consensus among the Foreign Ministers for a bridging Agreement between NAM and the Group of 77 and proposed that a study should be made immediately of the modalities for reaching agreement between the two bodies for the introduction of a new system of periodic meetings of the joint coordination committee.

The tectonic shifts in international relations over the last decade have challenged NAM to adopt itself to effectively tackle the new contemporary challenges. NAM should have a clear consensus on key issues of common concern to all of us. Multilateralism, reform of the UN system, global disarmament and combating global terrorism should be the political elements of this agenda. The collapse of Bipolarity and the rise of Unilateralism have given a unique cause to this developing body to strive for multilateralism in International relations. The issue of reforming the UN structure for a just world order has been going for long. The NAM should strive to restore the central role of the UN in the global economic issues, development and maintenance of peace and security in the world. Non-discriminatory, time-bound nuclear and general disarmament should be the objective towards which the movement should endeavour. The entire world today is facing a unique crisis in transnational terrorism, which is striking country’s political, economic and social edifice with immunity. The members within the NAM framework need to work out a realistic strategy to counter this danger in collaboration with the international community in a war footing.

Perhaps the most important role for NAM today lies in framing a concrete economic agenda for a just and fair international economic order. The globalisation and liberalization trends worldwide have generated complex economic problems. The rich-poor divide has widened. The WTO rules and procedures have failed to provide adequate economic gains to the third world. WTO summits have failed to reach a consensus on many issues. [13] Its role in WTO negotiations to advance and protect the trading rights and opportunities of developing countries and in muscling up their negotiating position and skills would be the chief concern. It should strive to reform and reorient the globalization process through a strong developmental agenda. NAM has an effective role to play in this regard provided member countries try to see the benefits from a unified angle without any partisan considerations. South-South cooperation should become a major economic plank of the movement. Its role in the present century would be strengthened by more South-South cooperation, which would mean, by and large, collaboration between and among the NAM countries and defending their interests from fast expanding economic and technological power of the North.

NAM should develop a progressive agenda on the fundamental values of democracy, Human rights and multiculturism. The preservation and consolidation of democracy throughout its membership is a major challenge. NAM’s spectrum could be further enlarged with the increasing concern worldwide over environmental issues over green house gas emissions, health concerns especially AIDS, drug trafficking, rising instances of poverty and unemployment mostly within the NAM members and LDC countries, the rising digital divide between the rich and poor and fight against all shades of extreme, xenophobia, ethnic nationalism, regional wars.

Non-alignment is a dynamic policy and retains its continuing relevance in world affairs by adapting itself to the changing international context and the needs of non-aligned community of nations. Peter Wiletts, another advocate of Non-alignment, holds the view that “whether if will be a bipolar, multipolar or unipolar world, Non-alignment will have a place in it as an independent foreign policy.” former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao commented: “The pursuit of nonaligned foreign policy is ever more relevant (today) than ever before. Nonalignment basically consists of the espousal of the right to nations to independence and development, regardless of the bloc phenomenon. Whether there is one bloc or more at a given moment, the urge for a nonaligned country would continue to be to maintain its independence, to take decisions according to its light, not tagging along itself, in advance to others . . . . “. He went on to add “Chimera of hegemony must not be pursued”.

On the other hand, introspection also needs to be done on account of the recent lackadaisical approach of the heads of many countries who have failed to appear for the Summits of NAM. A more dynamic agenda needs to be adopted and adhered to because there still exist a number of basic issues in the developing countries which need to be addressed at the earliest. Though there has been a formal end to the factors had originally led to the origins of the movement, yet the second and the third world nations find themselves grappling with a number of other issues which cannot be said to be any less significant.


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