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. 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. They wanted to pursue an independent foreign policy of their own rather than falling in line with 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.

Meaning

Non-alignment 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 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.

Background of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM )

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 U.N. 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.

The Bandung Conference

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Most of the Afro-Asian countries which participated in the Bandung Conference of 1955 had been victims of colonial exploitation in one form or another. However, in respect of political ideologies, forms of government and economic systems, these countries differed widely from each other. For example, India had parliamentary democracy; China was a communist state while President Sukarno of Indonesia was virtually a dictator. Some of them, like China, were also aligned with one or the other of the two power blocs. The leaders of the participating countries, therefore, avoided going into the embarrassing questions of democracy, human rights etc. in each other’s territories. Instead, they asserted their collective identity by adopting a programme which emphasized peace and mutual co-operation. With these aims they passed a resolution adopting five principles of peaceful co-existence as the guidelines for their mutual relations. These came to be known as Panch Sheel or the five rules of conduct. These were:

  • (a) Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity;
  • (b) Non-aggression;
  • (c) Non-interference in each other’s affairs;
  • (d) Equality and mutual benefit; and
  • (e) Peaceful co-existence.

These five principles known as Panch Sheel were enumerated for the first time in 1954 by India and China in their agreement in respect to Tibet. These ideals became an agenda for informal discussion between Nehru, Tito of Yugoslavia and Nasser of Egypt at a meeting in Yugoslavia in 1956. These leaders decided to hold a meeting of the representatives of all countries which were willing to subscribe to these principles. The first summit of such countries was held at Belgrade in September 1961. It was attended by the executive heads of 25 countries. It was at this conference that, these countries first described themselves as ‘non-aligned’ instead of ‘neutral’. (Since then, its membership has increased to 113.) While explaining the basic principles of non-alignment, Nehru said, “We propose as far as possible to keep away from power blocs or groups aligned against each other… We propose to keep on the closest terms of friendship with all countries. We shall be friends of America and intend co-operating with them. We intend also to cooperate fully with Soviet Union”.

Major Objectives of the Non-Aligned Movement

The Non-Aligned Movement has become the biggest peace movement in the world. It has come a long way since Belgrade Summit in 1961. Almost all the developing countries of the world are members of this movement. The Non-Aligned Movement, in the course of its eventful journey, held its Summits at Belgrade (1961- 25 members), Cairo (1964- 47 members); Lusaka (1970- 53 members), Algiers (1973- 75 members), Colombo (1976- 85 members), Havana (1979- 94 members), New Delhi (1983- 100 members), Harare (1986- 100 members), Belgrade (1989- 103 members), Jakarta (1992- 108 members), Cartagena (1995- 113 members) and Durban (1998- 113 members).The membership of the NAM has been steadily increasing and therefore its voice has also been gaining force steadily in world affairs. As stressed by the then President Tito of Yugoslavia in the first summit at Belgrade, “this group of non-aligned countries is not a bloc, but a group of like-minded nations. Though sometimes it is referred to as Third bloc’, the Non-Aligned Movement is exactly what its name implies, a “movement rather than an organisation. Some of the major objectives for which Non-Aligned Movement stands are:

  1. Giving freedom to people under colonial and alien domination.
  2. Establishment of a just international economic order.
  3. Elimination of the causes and horrors of war and, in particular, elimination of nuclear weapons.
  4. Promotion of human rights.
  5. Condemnation of all forms of racial discrimination.
  6. Protection of environment.
  7. Abolition of imperialism, colonialism and neo-colonialism.
  8. Peaceful co-existence and amicable settlement of international disputes.
  9. Strengthening the role and effectiveness of the United Nations.

Nehru’s Role

Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, was the first and the greatest apostle of the Non-Aligned Movement; In March 1947 Nehru said “for too long, we of Asia have been petitioners in western courts and chancellories. That story must now belong to the past. We propose to stand on our own feet… We do not intend to be a plaything of others. “Maintenance of territorial integrity, maintenance of freedom, promotion of international peace, the emancipation of the colonial people and the promotion of racial equality were the guiding principles of India’s foreign policy under Nehru. These very objectives were the foundation of Panch-Sheel and later gained a concrete shape as objectives of the Non-Aligned Movement. Nehru made a conspicuous contribution to the evolution and growth of the Non-Aligned Movement. In the context of India, Nehru explained the meaning of ‘Non-Alignment’ thus, “By aligning ourselves with any one Power, you surrender your opinion; give up the policy you would normally pursue because somebody else wants you to pursue another policy. I do not think it would be a right policy for us to adopt”. Not only did Nehru declare India to be non-aligned, but he also advised all the Afro-Asian nations, which had recently attained independence, to keep themselves away from the two warring camps. Nehru ridiculed the suggestion that non-alignment was a sign of weakness. He was of the firm conviction that the non-aligned countries could play a positive role as mediators and keep the two power blocs away from a clash.

Role of NAM

The 1950′s were a period of tension because of many problems such as the Berlin Blockade, the Indo-China (Vietnam) War, the Congo Civil War and the build up of nuclear arms stock-piles in many regions. The next decade saw the possibility of a real nuclear war, as cold war intensified. Besides, many countries still remained under European subjugation. It was against this background that the Belgrade Summit (1961) and the Cairo Summit (1964) were held to discuss world affairs and bring moral pressure upon the concerned nations to see light. The non-aligned nations appealed to all powers, big and small, to give up the policy of confrontation. Since then the voice of the non-aligned nations has been heard with due respect by countries of the world. At the Algiers Summit in 1973 greater concern was expressed about economic problems than other problems. The next two Summits at Colombo (1976) and Havana (1979) witnessed the same concern about the widening gulf between the rich and the poor nations. The nuclear powers in the meanwhile had built up formidable nuclear weaponry, besides chemical weapons. The presence of Western and American force in West Germany and those of the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe was causing concern everywhere. At the Delhi Summit (1983) therefore, the focus of discussion was ‘Disarmament’. Other topics which figured in the discussions included apartheid in South Africa, the Iran-Iraq conflict and the Palestinian problem. Apartheid and racial discrimination were condemned in unequivocal terms at the eighth summit held at Harare in 1986. The anti-apartheid views of the members were not without effect. Mr. Nelson Mandela, imprisoned for over 25 years, was freed in October 1989. He has been actively working against apartheid in South Africa and has had the full support of NAM nations. The increasing pressure put by the non-aligned nations in the United Nations bodies and on the world community in general, ultimately bore fruit. Apartheid was completely abolished in South Africa with the election of Nelson Mandela as the President on 10th May, 1594. Important decisions were taken at the ninth summit held at Belgrade in Sept. 1989. Over one hundred nations pledged once again to co-operate whole-heartedly with one another in order to find a just solution to world problems and to build up a just economic order. This is to be done through dialogues and discussions on the key economic issues so as to ensure mutual co-operation among the NAM nations on the one side and among these nations and the developed countries on the other. The summit also pledged to continue its fight against apartheid and colonialism still persisting in many countries as well as to work for upholding human rights everywhere. Faith was expressed in the U.N. and full support was promised to it in its endeavour to prevent and eliminate war and bring about economic progress. NAM has been playing an important role in diffusing crises around the world. NAM made all possible efforts in making the US and Iraq understand the futility of the Gulf war-I that began in January, 1991. A 22 page Accra declaration issued after the 103 NAM Foreign Ministers session in September, 1991. The next summit, held at Jakarta in September 1992 was attended by 95 out of 108 members. The 1995 summit; held at Cartagena, in Columbia more or less, endorsed the Jakarta resolutions. The twelfth summit of NAM, held at Durban, South Africa in 1998, mostly endorsed the resolutions of the Jakarta Declaration, but with greater emphasis on the demand for a proper place for the developing countries in the world politics and economy. It expressed its deep concern over nuclear proliferation, especially in view of the nuclear tests carried out by India and Pakistan, and called for an International conference on disarmament in 1999 with the aim of complete elimination of nuclear weapons.

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