NAM- Non Alignment movement and its relevance today.
India’s independence meant a lot to us on the personal scale as it meant an end to an era of oppression from the British and the blossoming of a new world which was left to our own choice as to how to define and how to direct the path for the country. On the international scale of events there was another challenge that arose in the name of cold war.
The Second World War divided the world into two factions- one the powerful US block and the other- an equally competitive USSR block. India was faced with a new challenge now as to whom to join. The US block consisted of the British and it would hardly make any sense for us to join someone who oppressed us for years. The other choice was the USSR. However even that seemed to make very less sense even though USSR was highly respected because of its socialistic values which later took form in the name of Marxism with the view of developing an egalitarian society where growth and development was not merely a commodity but an imperative. For India, it realized that the cold war clearly demarcated the world into two military blocks and for a country just out of a prolonged war, joining either of the blocks made least sense. India under Nehru decided that it had a greater job to do and the focus has to be on peace and developmental activity than bowing down to the pressures and joining a particular sect.
It seemed a simple decision but the concept made sense in every direction. It was clear that we needed to maintain our independence in decision making and sovereignty in our foreign policy. We were sure that we wanted to decide who we have a foreign policy with and how and not to be pulled down by the ideologies of a faction which defined a whole lot of restrictions. This gave birth to the concept of NAM. Contrary to what most of us thought, NAM was not a concept originated by Nehru. It finds its origin in Belgrade and was largely the brainchild of the Yugoslavian president. However I can say without much reservation that though we were not the fathers of the NAM philosophy, we sure are the guardian angels of the philosophy.
And regarding what advantages we had in tying ourselves to a challenging philosophy called NAM? We were able to maintain complete independence over foreign policy. There was no US or UK to say that we were not supposed to maintain any relation with USSR. In fact USSR turned out as one of the best partners in the international fora India had. USSR was the largest supplier of military equipments, the restrictions on the use and providing of the technology were way less compared to the rest of the world, it helped in developing public sector industries- the iron and steel industries which the US were reluctant to help with. All the same, US and UK came to our rescue in the China war of 1962. We pursued a friendly relation with china and even supported their inclusion to the UNSC. All in all there were a whole set of events and not many were in a position to command us as to who we should have a relation with and who we should not. Were we wrong in standing by a new and probably a less tested philosophy? I would hardly think so.
NAM has been severely criticised as a selfish philosophy, an act of cowardice and so on. But beyond all these criticism I think it was this one truth which paved way for all the philosophy in our foreign policy.
Regarding the relevance of NAM today, there is no more two military blocks. The world is fairly globalised but that does not mean that dissent is completely absent. It still maintains its own glory, may it be in the ethnic conflicts, religious intolerances or mere misunderstandings. The dissent always finds a way to establish itself. What does NAM mean in the current day scenario? It still means the same, just like we said we maintain our independence in foreign policy, we maintain the same for other countries also. We respect the other countries for their sovereignty in the internal affairs. We don’t dictate policies and impose our ideas. We still say NAM stays as a philosophy for a while to come. We didn’t side a philosophy of arming of the Libyan rebels when there was a UN resolution. We abstained maintaining the stance that a military offensive is not a solution for a political problem. We maintain our ideology and say we are not to be pulled down by the pressures. May it be the Iran issue where we are being pressurised to react to the sanction policy on Iran, we refrain from doing so. And so to tell in the affairs to come.
The recent coinage of the term NAM 2.0 gains a little significance in this debate. Though the perspectives have changes some features of NAM do still remain the foundation stone for the way the foreign policy is enacted. However the NAM 2.0 brings in something with the essence of “Strategic autonomy” which implies that, in matters relating to international affairs and geopolitics, India will not be cajoled, enticed or coerced into actions that would jeopardise its standing as a responsible and restrained regional power with the potential to emerge as a major power to reckon with in the years to come. How does the NAM 2.0 document propose to do this? Is it as tangible as the NAM? I have the same questions too. For now, I am a little short on data. But I promise to come back on the issue tomorrow with a little fact and a little analysis on NAM 2.0 J