The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) was founded in Belgrade in 1961 as a group of states which are not aligned formally with or against any major power bloc. Then envisioned by Yugoslavia’s president, Josip Broz Tito; Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno; Egypt’s second president, Gamal Abdel Nasser; Ghana’s first president Kwame Nkrumah; and India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, NAM has 120 members and 17 observer countries now.
NAM recently had a summit in Iran.
Continued relevance of NAM
NAM has routinely been derided by the western media and policymakers as an irrelevant “relic of the Cold War.” The end of the Cold War and collapse of the Soviet Union, seen by many as the very reason why the NAM came into existence, led many to question the continued relevance of the NAM. However, the collapse of one of the antagonistic blocks has not led to the end of all global problems. Emerging geo-political realities and blind pursuit of power in the name of strategic interests present persistent threats for the developing countries.
Non-alignment continued to be relevant in a unipolar world and is becoming even more so as the world increasingly becomes multipolar. The basic principles of NAM, such as non-interference in internal affairs of a country, a new and equitable economic and political world order, global disarmament and strengthening the United Nations, continue to be important objectives that can improve overall well-being globally.
Further, it is too narrow to examine NAM in the perspective of the two Cold War blocs alone. Even from its pre-origins in the Bandung Conference of former colonial nations in 1955, NAM has meant much more than not being aligned with the two Cold War blocs. It was also conceived as the voice of the former colonies and poor nations in a world overwhelmingly dominated by the rich western nations. The G 77 which takes up the cause of the developing countries in international fora on economic and development issues was complementary to NAM. Solidarity within NAM provides strength to its member nations. Hence, NAM has that flavour of anti-imperialism associated.
What should NAM’s role be in Indian foreign policy?
The Prime Minister in his address to the NAM Summit recently reaffirmed the continuing relevance of NAM and emphasised that NAM was important to preserve our strategic space.
A recent policy perspective document developed by a panel of independent thinkers, titled Non-Alignment 2.0: A Foreign and Strategic Policy for India in the Twenty First Century, argues that the objective of non-alignment is to preserve and enhance the nation’s strategic autonomy.
In this light, analysts point out that in the recent decades, India’s solidarity with the developing countries and the aim of mobilising them on the basis of common interests and agenda have been waning. Lately, the Indian government seems to have more faith in the U.N. as a forum to protect its independence and interests. But after the collapse of the Soviet Union and its communist allies, the UN has almost completely been dominated by the powerful nations like the US and its allies. The U.N.’s ability to provide a check on these powerful nations is doubtful now.
As India wants to also maintain its strategic autonomy and to preserve its strategic space, the continuing relevance of NAM stands.
Even if building better relations with the rich and powerful nations has benefited India in recent decades, abandoning the solidarity with other developing nations within NAM may well end up adversely affecting the nation’s economic, political and strategic interests.
During the 14th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Havana, Cuba in September 2006, the Heads of States and Governments of the member countries reaffirmed their commitment to the ideals, principles and purposes upon which the movement was founded and with the principles and purposes enshrined in the United Nations Charter.
They visualized the continued relevance of NAM as a forum to facilitate coordination and cooperation among developing countries, on issues of interest to them. In order to strengthen the NAM, the Havana Summit agreed to strengthen the NAM and to ensure greater coordination of efforts among member states in tackling global threats. It adopted a set of Purposes and Principles, identifying the continued relevance of NAM in the existing world order.
How well did you understand the issue? Assess yourself.
Question 1 | (250 Words): Is NAM still relevant in the post-Cold War world, in an era where the U.S. and its allies are politically, economically and strategically more dominant than ever? Give reasons to justify your view.