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Discuss the concept of non-alignment of India.
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The concept of Non-Alignment
The concept of non-alignment is India’s contribution to international relations. The policy that was announced by Jawaharlal Nehru, soon after taking over as interim Prime Minister, developed into the concept of non-alignment, 1t is said to be directly related to the Cold War which had commenced as soon as the Second World War ended. The term Cold War was used for acute tension that developed between two erstwhile allies, the United State of America and the Soviet Union. The Second World War ended in 1945. Immediately thereafter a conflict, that was simmering within the Allied camp, came out in the open. The Allies (Britain, France, the United States, the Soviet Union, and others) won a decisive war against Germany, Italy, and Japan. But, the victors could not permanently forget their ideological differences, and the Cold War was the outcome. It was a strange war, a war fought without weapons and armed forces, a war of nerves, a war diplomatically fought between two hostile camps. The two camps, or blocs, were known as
(i) capitalist or western or democratic bloc, led by the United States; and
(ii) the socialist or eastern or Soviet bloc, led by the Soviet Union.
The policy of non-alignment was to keep away from bloc politics, maintain a friendship with both, and military alliance with none, and evolve an independent foreign policy. Nehru had made it clear on September 7, 1946, that, “We shall make the history of our choice.” He had added: “We propose, as far as possible to keep away from the power politics of groups, aligned against one another, which have led in the past to world wars and which may again lead to disasters on an even vaster scale.” Later, in 1947, he said that India did not belong to any of the power blocs. India’s policy of non-alignment is a positive, or dynamic, neutralism, in which a country acts independently, and decides its positions on each international issue on the merit of the case.
Non-alignment, according to Professor Mahendra Kumar, is one of those phenomena of international politics which appeared on the international scene after the Second World War and which represents an important force in shaping the nature of international relations.
Explaining the Indian view, Professor M.S. Rajan writes: “non-alignment essentially consists in the retention of a substantial measure of freedom of policy and action in international affairs….especially in relation to the policies and postures of the two Super Powers…” He says that, “additionally non-alignment stands for abstention from power politics, for peaceful co-existence and force active international cooperation among all states- aligned and non-alignment.” The emphasis here is on the enjoyment of freedom of policy and action by a non-alignment country. It promotes international peace, security, and cooperation.
It has been stated above that non-alignment was directly related to the Cold War. It was a reaction to the Cold War which was known for “aggressive bloc building by the two Super Powers.” Thus says K.P Misra, “dissociation from bloc politics or military alliances became the focal point of non-alignment.” Now that the Cold War had ended, it is felt the there is no rationale or relevance of non-alignment. We will discuss this question in a subsequent section.
Non-alignment was adopted by India and later by other countries as an instrument, or means, of foreign policy in order to ensure fuller meaning and content to our newly achieved political independence. Freedom from the colonial role was important, but not enough achievement. The promotion of India’s national interest depended largely on the “accelerated socio-economic development.” of the country. As K.P. Misra says: “They looked upon international peace as a prerequisite to the achievement of this objective, and upon the cold war, bloc politics, and power politics an injurious and hence as requiring to be opposed.” Thus, non-alignment was not a result of ad hoc decisions. It was well thought out and well-planned policy. Its ultimate objective was the promotion of national interest, which included not only protection of India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, but also socio-economic development of the Third World in general and India in particular, and international peace and security.
According to Professor V.P. Dutt, “Non-alignment became the logical framework of India’s foreign policy. An independent foreign policy responded to the conscious and subconscious urges of the people, imported a sense of pride and belonging, and helped cement the unity of the .country…” Such was the value of non-alignment that a large number of countries who became independent and desired, like India, to maintain their political freedom and accelerate their economic development readily adopted the policy of non-alignment. Commenting on the concept of non-alignment, as a principle of foreign policy, K. Subrahmanyam says that “this doctrine of non-alignment was the response of a major nation just about to be decolonized to the preserves of the cold war. It was a pledge to work for decolonization, international peace and security and for a world order which was free of domination and racialism and which would assure equal opportunities to all peoples yet to be liberated.” He adds: “Non-alignment was an ascertain of autonomy in this international system dominated by the bipolar concept.”
Non-Alignment is Not Neutrality: Many people in the West use terms like neutrality or ‘neutralism’ for non-alignment. But these terms do not correctly explain the concept of non-alignment. Neutrality as a concept refers to the status of a country during the war. While the parties to war are belligerents and are engaged in fighting, neutral countries are those who are not parties to that particular war. For example, in the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, India was neutral. It maintained friendly relations with both. Neutrality is the concept of aloofness in a war. The conduct of neutral countries is regulated by international law. The term neutrality is explained in the Oxford Dictionary thus: “one not assisting cither side and especially lending no active support to either of the belligerents remaining inactive in relation to either party in the case of war, and neutrality is a state of being inclined neither way during hostilities” M.S. Rajan says, “Non-alignment is not the neutrality of a non-belligerent nation during a general war, nor is it the neutrality of the Swiss and the Austrian brand, guaranteed by other nations.” However, in addition to the situation of war, Peter Lyon maintains that in modern international relations, neutrality may also have a general diplomatic or political connotation. This, according to Peter Lyon, means that in a conflict between two parties (in peace times), a third party decides to support none. The implication is fairly close to India’s concept of non-alignment.
Non-Alignment is Not Neutralization or Isolationism: Neutralization is different both from neutrality and non-alignment. A neutral state is not a party to a war one day but may become belligerent the next day. That state then ceases to be neutral. Neutralization, on the other hand, is a permanent status both in times of peace and war. Such a state is assured by other states that it will not be involved in any war and the neutralized state itself refrains from taking positions in international disputes: Switzerland has been a neutralized state for a long time. It does not have any standing army and its status was not disturbed during both the world wars. Austria’s neutralized status was recognized in 1955. The non-aligned country is not committed to a neutralized status. Non-alignment is a cold war-related concept. A non-aligned country is not permanently aligned with any of the power blocs in the context of the Cold War. India adopted non-alignment as a policy as soon it became independent in 1947. A non-aligned country retains the freedom to take independent foreign policy decisions. Such decisions may, in one situation, go in favor of one big or superpower.
In another situation, the same non-aligned country may take a decision favorable to the other power. A non-aligned country is not neutralized. It is free to be friendly with both the power blocs and take its decisions without consideration of the wishes of superpowers. Non-alignment gives freedom to vote in the United Nations and other international for the way a country wants to its decision are not dictated by any of the outside powers. The national interest of a no-aligned country alone determines its decisions.
Non-alignment is different from isolation also. Isolation means total aloofness from problems of other countries. It is neither neutrality nor neutralization, nor non-commitment, nor-alignment. The United States was known for its isolation before the First World War. In accordance with Monroe Doctrine (1823), the United States had declared itself unconcerned with the European problems. Once again, for some time after the Paris Peace Conference (1919), the United States tried to keep away from international relations with Europe. Non-aligned countries do not remain unconcerned with international relations. They actively participate in the politics among nations. The only thing they do not do is that they are not permanently tied down with any of the superpowers. They do not give up their freedom of decision-making, while those who were aligned with one superpower or the other, during the Cold War, were virtually dictated by the bloc leader concerned. According to M.S. Rajan, non-alignment “is anything but isolationism. It means and demands an active, dynamic and positive role in world affairs.”
Non-alignment was defined by George Schwarzenberger as “a policy of keeping out of alliances.” Elaborating this Prof. Mahendra Kumar ways that non-alignment is “dissociation from the cold war.” Scharzenberger mentioned six concepts which are often for non-alignment. They are neutrality, neutralization, isolationism, non-commitment, unilateralism, and non-involvement. Peter Calvocoressi uses neutralism for non-alignment and says that “Neutralism and non-alignment were the expressions of an attitude towards a particular and present conflict.” According to him, they entailed “equivalent relations with both sides.” This last-mentioned statement gives the impression of what may be called the policy of “equidistance.” This again is not non-alignment. As explained above, non-alignment is the freedom to make decisions in foreign policy which may not be equivalent relations with both sides, and may not keep a non-aligned country exactly at equidistance from both the Super Powers. K.P. Misra also insists that “non-blocs docs, not imply equidistance from blocs.” “If in order to preserve independence, a closer relationship with one bloc… is called for, such a relationship should be permissible provided the relationship is not allowed to be transformed into a commitment which circumscribes the exercise of sovereignty by the country concerned.”
Even when we do not agree with the idea of equivalent relations. Calvocoressi’s negative and positive phases of non-alignment must be clearly understood. He says that the positive phase meant that the new (non-aligned) states wanted to evade the Cold War, but did not want to be left out of world politics. He refers to this phase as “positive neutralism” and says this was “an attempt to mediate and abate the dangerous quarrels of the great.” In its negative phase, “non-alignment involved a reprobation of the cold war, an assertion that there were more important matters in the world, an acknowledgment of the powerlessness of the new states and a refusal to judge between the two giant powers.” We do not agree with the concept of “powerlessness” of non-aligned states. Actually, in its positive sense, non-alignment means freedom to decide the course of action that a country wishes to adopt in relation away from permanent alliances with the main actors participating in the Cold War. In the positive sense, it means refusing to allow military bases to any superpower on one’s territory and keep away from military bases to any superpower on one’s territory and keep away from military entanglement of all types. Thus, non-alignment is a concept of independence of action.
Emphasizing that non-alignment is a unique policy of India to protect its national interest as well as world peace and that it is not an attitude that shirks from international responsibilities, Prof. M.S. Rajan says that it is not a policy of “sitting on the fence”. A non-aligned country cannot be a mere spectator in the game of world politics or be indifferent to the burning issues of the day. It seeks active cooperation and mutual friendship of nations of both the blocs. “For India, non-alignment is not and has never been, a means of promoting own stature in world affairs in order to become a Great Power.” Rajan rejects the view that it is an idealistic policy. He calls it a “down-to-earth” policy, which originated in the realities of post-war international society.
India’s Policy of Non-Alignment
India, under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru, was the first country to have adopted the policy of non-alignment. India’s policy is positive or dynamic neutralism in which a country acts independently and decides its policy on each issue on its merit. Non-alignment is based on positive reasoning. It is not a negative, middle-of-the-road reluctance to distinguish between right and wrong. It does not mean that a country just retires into a shell. Nehru had declared in the U.S. Congress in 1948, “Where freedom is menaced, or justice is threatened, or where aggression takes place, we cannot be and shall not be neutral… our policy is not neutralist but one of active endeavor to preserve and, if possible, establish peace on firm foundations.” Commenting on India’s foreign policy, K. M. Panikkar had said, “She has been able to build up a position of independence and, in association with other states similarly placed, has been able to exercise considerable influence in the cause of international goodwill.” In a way, this policy promotes Gandhiji’s belief in non-violence. The critics in early days had said that India’s policy was to remain “neutral on the side of democracy.”
Speaking in the Constituent Assembly (Legislative) on December 4, 1947, Nehru had sought to remove the impression that India’s non-alignment also meant neutrality. He had said: We have proclaimed during this past year that we will not attach ourselves to any particular group. This has nothing to do with neutrality or passivity or anything else. If there is a big war, there is no particular reason why we should jump into it… We are not going to join a war if we can help it, and we are going to join the side which is in our interest when the time comes to make the choice.
India wanted to prevent the third world war. Nehru said: “If and when disaster comes it will affect the world as a whole our first effort should be to prevent that disaster from happening.” Reiterating India’s resolve to keep away from power blocs, he said in 1949, “If by any chance we align ourselves definitely with one power group, we may perhaps from one point of view do some good, but I have not the shadow of a doubt that from a larger point of view, not only of India but of world peace, it will do harm. Because then we lose that tremendous vantage ground that we have of using such influence as we possess… in the cause of world peace.” India’s foreign policy has always had certain priorities, viz., economic development of the country, maintenance of the independence of action in foreign affairs, safeguarding countries sovereignty and territorial integrity, and world peace, India has firmly believed that these objectives can be achieved only by keeping away from power blocs, and exercising freedom of taking foreign policy decisions.
Nehru was committed to the western concept of liberalism and democracy. But, he did not approve of the military alliances like NATO and SEATO initiated by the United States to contain communism. He opposed western alliance’s on the ground that they encouraged a new form of colonialism and also because these were likely to promote countermoves and race for armaments between the two camps. Nehru was impressed by socialism and strongly advocated the idea of democratic socialism. But, he totally rejected the communist state as “monolithic” and described Marxism as an outmoded theory. Nehru was a combination of a socialist and a liberal democrat. He was opposed to the very idea of power blocs in international relations. India’s policy of non-alignment, therefore, was not to promote the third bloc but to ensure freedom of decision-making of the recently decolonized states. Non-alignment was promoted by India as a policy of peace, as against the policy of confrontation.
India’s policy of non-alignment was against the status quo situation in international relations. That meant opposition of colonialism, imperialism, racial discrimination, and now neo-colonialism. India wants a world free from these evils. Secondly, non-alignment rejects the concept of superiority of Super Powers. It advocates sovereign equality of all states. Thirdly, non-alignment encourages friendly relations among countries. It is opposed to the alliances that divide the world into groups of states, or power blocs. Non-alignment advocates peaceful settlement of international disputes and rejects the use of force. It favors complete destruction of nuclear weapons and pleads for comprehensive disarmament. It supports all efforts to strengthen the United Nations. India’s policy of non-alignment emphasizes the social and economic problems of mankind. India has been fully supporting the demand for a new international economic order so that the unjust and unbalanced existing economic order may be changed into a new and just economic order.
Reasons for Non-Alignment
India has adopted the policy of non-alignment as it did not want to lose its freedom of decision-making, and because India’s primary concern soon after independence was economic development. The policy has been sustained for five decades. Professor M.S. Rajan had mentioned seven reasons for adopting this policy initially. Firstly, it was felt that India’s alignment with either the US or the USSR bloc would aggravate international tension, rather than that in view of size, geopolitical importance, and contribution to civilization, India had “a positive role to play in reducing international tension, promoting peace and serving as a bridge between the two camps.”
Secondly, India was neither a great power nor could she allow herself to be treated as a nation of no consequence. India was, however, potentially great power. Non-alignment suited India’s “present needs to keep our national identity” and on the other hand not to compromise “our future role of an acknowledged Great Power.”
Thirdly, India could not join either of the power blocs because of emotional and ideological reasons. We could not join the Western (American) Bloc because many of its member countries were colonial powers or ex-colonial powers, and some still practiced racial discrimination. We could not join the Eastern (Soviet) Bloc because communism, as an ideology, was completely alien to Indian thinking and way of life.
Fourthly, like any sovereign country, India, who had just become sovereign wanted to retain and exercise independence of judgment and not to “be tied to the apron-strings of another country.” It meant that India wanted the freedom to decide every issue on its merit.
Fifthly, according to Professor Rajan, once India launched economic development plans, we need foreign economic aid “it was both desirable politically not to depend upon aid from one bloc only, and profitable to be able to get it from more than one source.”
Sixthly, non-alignment is in accordance with India’s traditional belief that “truth, right, and goodness” are not the monopoly of any one religion or philosophy. India believes in intolerance. Therefore, the world situation called for tolerance and peaceful co-existence of both the systems, with India not aligning with any of the blocs, nor being hostile to them.
Lastly, the domestic political situation was also responsible for the adoption of the policy of non-alignment. According to Professor Rajan “By aligning India with either of the Blocs, the Indian Government would have sown seeds of political controversy and instability in the country….”
Whatever the actual reasons that may have promoted Nehru and his Government to adopt the policy of non-alignment, it is obvious that the people of India by and a large supported the policy. Many other countries found it in their national interest to adopt this policy which led to the establishment of the Non-Aligned Movement.
India was largely responsible for launching the Non-aligned Movement (NAM) in 1961. It was initiated by Nehru, Yugoslav President Tito, and Egyptian President Nassr. Twenty-five countries attended the first NAM Conference held at Belgrade and presided over by Tito. Invitations were sent out by Nehru, Nasser, and Tito after careful scrutiny of the foreign policies of proposed participants of the first NAM Summit. The five criteria for joining NAM were:
(i) the country followed an independent foreign policy based on non-alignment and peaceful co-existence
(ii) the country was opposed to colonialism and imperialism;
(iii) it should not have been a member of a Cold War-related military bloc;
(iv) it should not have had a bilateral treaty with any of the Super Powers, and
(v) NAM should not have allowed any foreign military base on its territory. It has grown both quantitatively and qualitatively. There were as many as 113 members of NAM in 1996. Its summits are periodically held in which issues concerning international politics are discussed, and attempts are made to evolve a common approach to various issues. Since the number of members has grown very large, it often becomes difficult to adopt an approach that all countries can follow. Eleven summits were held between 1961 and 1995. The last two, Jakarta (1992) and Cartagena (1995) Summits were held after the end of the Cold War, the disintegration of the former USSR, the completion of decolonization with the independence of Namibia, and the end of apartheid in South Africa. The NAM lost some of its fervor after the end of the Cold War, though its relevance is claimed by various leaders.