The phrase ‘Non Aligned Movement’ was first coined by the Indian diplomat V K Krishna Menon, but the strategic importance of this phrase traces its origin to Pt. Nehru’s diplomatic ideology. The World War 2 led to the formation of a bipolar world, with the US and the USSR as its Western and Eastern blocs respectively. The end of the World War 2 created favourable conditions for India’s independence as well. Post independence, Pt. Nehru envisaged an independent foreign policy for India, and thus, decided to keep India at equidistance from any kind of power politics between major power blocs.
The NAM was started by a group of states which decided not to align with any of the major power bloc during cold war era. The founding nations of this organization were- India, Burma, Indonesia, Egypt, Yugoslavia and Ghana. The heads of these six nations were ardent supporters of the autonomy of states in the developing world.
The pedestal of the NAM was laid during Bandung conference of Asian and African states in 1955. The conference adopted a ‘declaration on Promotion of world peace and cooperation’ which also included Pt. Nehru’s five pillars of peaceful coexistence, popularly known as Panchsheel. These five principles were- Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, Mutual non-aggression, Mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, Equality and cooperation for mutual benefit, Peaceful co-existence.
The first conference of the non aligned countries was held in Belgrade in 1961. The NAM was never established as a formal organization. The non aligned countries participating in this conference became the part of the organization. In the words of Fidel Castro, “The purpose of the organization was to ensure national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of non-aligned countries” in their “struggle against imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, racism as well as against great power and bloc politics.”
The movement aired the opinions of the developing countries regarding various ideological and political matters, for example, it denounced the apartheid governments. But gradually, internal contradictions started creeping into the movement, as most of the member countries were aligned with one or the other power bloc due to financial and ideological reasons. The USSR invasion of Afghanistan demonstrated these internal contradictions, those members of the movement who were allies of the USSR supported the invasion while the rest of them denounced it. Similarly, India could not garner the support of the member nations against Chinese attack on India in 1962; ironically, it was the same country which signed the Panchsheel treaty with India in 1954.
The 16th NAM summit was held in Iran in 2012. Chairmanship rotates every three years among member countries of the movement. The 17th summit is scheduled to be held in Caracas , Venezuela in 2015.
The NAM is often cited by western media as an irrelevant ‘relic of the cold war.’ Western countries have proposed to change the objectives of the movement and join its war of democracy against non democracies. As per them, the developing countries should indulge into multi alignment i.e. participate in multilateral groupings like G20, BRICS etc.
“NonAlignment 2.0: A foreign and strategic policy for India in the 21st century” was published by Centre for Policy Research in 2012. Though the document had been castigated by its critics for resurrecting the useless ghost of the non alignment, still, it did provide some insight into the possible positive outcomes of the NAM in present context. It argued that the objective of non alignment is to preserve India’s ‘strategic space’ and enhance her ‘strategic autonomy.’ The report emphasized that for its strategic and foreign policy to be successful, India must sustain domestic economic growth, social inclusion and democracy.
India’s foreign policy has seen a drastic change in post cold war era. Today, the objective of the foreign policy is to make India a powerful nation. For that, the alliances with rich and powerful countries are considered as the obvious necessity. Apparently, the benefits are more if India align with rich countries, but it will be unwise to compromise the solidarity with developing countries, for our common interests will help keep the required balance in the international fora which is largely dominated by rich and developed countries.