Sunday, 22 April 2012

India's Transition from Non-Alignment to Multi- Alignment...

The Non- Alignment policy was perhaps the earliest and most important part of newly independent India’s Foreign Policy. Unfortunately, for students today this is merely policy that makes a guest appearance in their ninth standard textbooks and doesn’t move beyond a Short Note in their examination papers which makes it even more essential that each one today must know that India has been the Face of Change since its inception as a Democracy.

The mise-en-scène of the Non- Alignment Policy:

When you look at the origins of the NAM, you will read about the World War II and its aftermath. The World War left behind as Henry Kissinger writes in Diplomacy, a "geopolitical vacuum." The world had degenerated into two distinct ideological camps: The United States leading one faction while Russia led the other. At a time like this India had finally driven the British out of her soil. It became imperative that a newly independent country like ours with its foundation on what I’d call a ‘Heterogeneous Unity' make a conscious decision to make the right choice. The Ecstasy of Independence brought with it the agony of Partition. Under these circumstances, uncertainty rife and its own domestic issues to deal with India faced a political dilemma. 

India had already made history by becoming the first country to achieve its unity on the foundations of Non- Violence. India was the face of a different kind of change. Countries suppressed under colonization had been weaned on the stories of the bloody French Revolution and the American War of Independence. Here was a country that taught them principles contrary to their leaning.

India set precedent once again by adopting a new policy called: Non- Alignment or the NAM. This policy adopted adapted and developed under the aegis of Pt. Nehru sought to keep aloof from both Power Blocs. His policy was based on the Panchsheel Principles. 

The Five important principles were :
Mutual respect for each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty
Mutual non-aggression
Mutual non-interference in domestic affairs
Equality and mutual benefit
Peaceful co-existence

Positive Neutrality started to raise its head as newly independent states joined hands. The organization was founded in Belgrade in 1961, the brainchild of India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, Yugoslavia's President, Josip Broz Tito, Egypt's second President, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Ghana's first president Kwame Nkrumah, and Indonesia's first President, Sukarno. Five young nations and five enterprising leaders was all it took. The message rung loud and clear for both the capitalists and the communists that they were not to have their way!

Interestingly, it was the dictator Fidel Castro who stated the principles of this policy in the Havana Declaration, 1979 as “the promotion and protection of national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of non-aligned countries" The NAM is committed to the principles laid down in the U.N Charter and seeks to uphold the basic principles of Human Rights and International Peace. 

Times have changed since the Cold War era. Radical changes in International Politics and law coupled with the advancement of science and technology and the quest to be a world leader has now brought the world to a vantage point where we have to ask ourselves: “Can Non- Alignment work in this multi- polar world?”

Non- Alignment in a Multi- aligned world:

The era of the Cold War has long ended are still to make significant changes to India’s foreign policy. It is no more a century of Disillusionment or Political despair. Globalisation changed all of that. Countries today can look at policies, treaties that can be implemented without hurting the other’s political inclinations. This is largely due to Economic ties between countries. The inception of the United Nations brought with it an alternative to world peace where not only political but social and economic comity is propagated and promoted. 

We cannot forget that in our war with China in 1962, not a single Non Aligned country came to our aid. The aim behind this Nehruvian policy was to create a new just and equitable world order. However in this era with the international diplomacy evolving and progressing, we have to ask ourselves if NAM is the solution to all our problems.

India today can now safely re-design its basic principle of Non- Alignment to Multi- Alignment which leads to inclusive and exclusive growth. We now need to think of alternatives wherein our political and economic ties can grow and develop. It is no more a bi-polarized world. We are no more under the threat of a war or dealing with the aftermath of it. Times have changed, people have changed, and countries have evolved in this passage of time. 

To put it simply Non- Alignment in its basic structure is ineffective in an multi-aligned world as much as it would be in an unaligned world. This is because each country is suffering under the burden of economic pressures and internal political snags. In fact this is the perfect time to be the face of a Multi- Aligned world. After all, doesn’t India still continue trade relations with countries like China and Pakistan, both of whom have been averse to India’s political interests? Wasn’t the Indo-Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline a reality? Doesn’t the United States enjoy a healthy bilateral relation with both India and Pakistan.

Under these circumstances, it is essential for India to look at promoting relations with fellow member states and at the same time ensure that we maintain the individuality we possess. 

We now need to build a world on similarities rather than differences. The overlapping interests of States can be effectively promoted to ensure International Agreement. The Covenant of Similarities will work to the benefit of the world as a whole. 

The NAM 2.0 was directed towards a change but it has lost its spirit because it stresses on NAM as a strategy to be used for the strategic interests. The highlights of this policy include the reassessment and readjustment of the Tibet issue. The critics believe that directing country- specific unilateral policies could prove detrimental to Indian interests in the long run. Perhaps the only welcomed addition is that of the ‘Nuclear doctrine’ that has found partial favour. The difference of opinions on the NAM 2.0 still need to be discussed extensively.
The era of insecurity and hostility is now history. The underlying principle of NAM is positive neutrality and this neutrality can be best achieved today by effectuating mutual interests. India can be the catalyst for Change even today! The essence lies in endorsing the idea of an economic togetherness built on respect for each country’s need to establish and evolve in its own individual space. 

    Few Fast facts on the NAM:

This term was first used by the Indian diplomat V.K Krishna Menon at the  United Nations in 1953.
The Bandung Conference of 1955 led to the establishment of NAM .
As of 2011, NAM has 120 members and 17 observer countries.

Katherine. Abraham
@katie_abraham on Twitter

The Writer is a Law student and aspiring  U.N diplomat 



  1. Excellent!.
    Great thoughts on foreign policy...
    We should learn from our past. The Nehruvian policies (the one man show) and their impacts on our national interests should be studied.
    Congrats Katherine for the great thought..All the best.:)

  2. scholastic article..good one Katie...