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Non-Aligned Movement

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Background
NAM was founded in Belgrade in 1961 by Indian PM Jawaharlal Nehru, Indonesia President Sukarno, Egypt President Nasser, Ghana President Nkrumah and Yugoslavia President Tito.

NAM announced that it would push for an alternative economic order and would campaign against the arms race that had put the fear of nuclear annihilation across the globe. Those were peaceful days for NAM, asserting its moral authority against war and poverty.

For India, NAM was not merely an idealistic dream of neutrality, but was based on a realistic assessment of India's geopolitical situation. (Pakistan was the only threat)

India wanted to plan according to its own interests rather than allowing it to become confined within the limitations of a Cold War alliance.

Non alignment was India's influential principle of its foreign and security policy since its emergence from colonization.

It enabled India to avoid many of the limitations and entanglements of formal alliances but it resulted in shaping of India's foreign policy in a reactive manner.
India and its NAM policy: confusion or solution?
India, since the inception of its NAM policy, has been finding itself tough to stand in a place somewhere in the middle. Its famous policy was criticized then by the US and its allies as a "sham", and now it has invited laughter and mockery about its concept from the South Block.

After India and the Soviet Union signed the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation in August 1971, the then Indian foreign minister had to fly to US to sign an identical treaty with the US government.

But, the US government complained about how the treaty made India's policy of non-alignment look like a "sham"

Now, a remarkably similar incident can be seen in PM Modi's own task in recent months, however in reverse order.

I.e. PM Modi's recent visit to US, finalized the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) on defence and India declared the U.S.'s major defence partner.

Next, Mr. Modi must fly to Tashkent to finalise documents for India's accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a "political, economic and military alliance" spearheaded by Russia and China
The term 'Non-Alignment'
Background

Jawaharlal Nehru, as early as in 1946, mentioned that India's foreign policy would rest on eight pillars: non-alignment with "power groups" was the third.

India's greater push for the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), formed in Belgrade in 1961, came as a result of its disillusionment with the U.S., China, and colonial powers.

Present

Now, the term 'non-alignment' now invites raised eyebrows and laughter in South Block (as it alleges that India is moving more to the right than the left).

The term has yet to find a mention in the Prime Minister's speeches, it may still be a necessity in his actions, especially with India's desired Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) membership hanging in the balance.

History is indeed strange, former enemies became the best allies, and India today stands once again in a place somewhere in the middle (albeit more to the right than the left).
Shifting sands of alliances
1) India has close defence exchanges like Operation Malabar with the U.S. and Japan on one side, and on the other, joining a conference that has Russia and China at the helm.

2) The alliance with the U.S. and Japan is yet to be spelt out, but it is clear from the Indo-U.S. joint vision statement of 2015 that Mr. Modi now envisages closer military cooperation with the U.S., and as a corollary its allies, both in the seas and on its military bases, airspace and cyber centres as well.

3) Of particular importance will be the lines in the joint vision statement for Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean region, signed by Mr. Modi and President Obama last year, on "ensuring freedom of navigation and over flight throughout the region, especially in the South China Sea".
Clashing terms of engagement

What SCO membership for India entails?
The 2001 declaration on the establishment of the SCO clearly states that its aim is "jointly preserving and safeguarding regional peace, security and stability; and establishing a democratic, fair and rational new international political and economic order".

Analysts have always believed that the reference to the "new order" juxtaposes the Eurasian SCO as a counterpoint to the transatlantic North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. It was further spelt out vividly at the Astana SCO summit declaration in 2005, a summit in which India, Pakistan and Iran were admitted as observer countries.

At Astana the members formulated joint mechanisms for regional security, joint planning and conduct of anti-terror activities, and jointly contributing to security issues "on land, at sea, in air space and in outer space".

The SCO also has a formulation on 'Asia Pacific', with members making a declaration "against fault lines appearing both in the Asia Pacific region and in its separate constituent parts".
The issue: confusing concept called NAM
India's clear adherence to the terms spelt out above (in both the western and eastern alliances) would be absurd, as they could conceivably see the Indian Navy in joint patrol with the U.S. and its allies, challenging China in the South China Sea, even as it cooperates with China and Russia to counter U.S.-backed forces across the "fault lines".

Equally strange is the possible vision of the future this brings: one of India discussing nuclear safety and non-proliferation on an equal footing with known proliferator Pakistan at the NSG, and also sharing counter-terror operations with it as part of the SCO's Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS).
Conclusion
In this scenario, NAM, with its inherent confusion and often "lip service-only commitment" to neutrality, is not desirable.

The next host of the NAM summit, Venezuela, has not been able to declare a date for the summit. This gives the Modi government some time to consider their position. India boasts itself of being the leader of NAM and non-alignment as "India's heritage".

Given the stormy waters and multiple criss-crossing alignments India now envisions, NAM may be a safer shore for India's future as well. It is vital that the Modi government clearly defines the NAM policy and its position in the upcoming NAM summit.
Is NAM's importance is eroding?
The Third World debt crisis of the 1980s crushed the economic ambitions of NAM states.

Collapse of USSR, the U.S. bombed Panama and Iraq, and the century seemed to end with American dominance.

Many nations were interested in alliance with USA, settle accounts at the International Monetary Fund and consider options of joining NAM.

By the early 1990s, several important powers of NAM began to back away (Argentina left in 1991). Yugoslavia crumbled, India went to the IMF and indirectly showed that non-alignment was no more a priority.

NAM was sandwiched between suspicious US motives and attempts to regenerate the economic growth of its members.
Why NAM is failing?
1) The traditional foreign policy approach of non-alignment was a central component of Indian identity in global politics.

2) However, since independence, India has been in pursuit of strategic autonomy. It has led to semi-alliances shaped under the cover of non-alignment and regional dynamics.

3) NAM countries did not come to our help on any of the critical occasions when India needed solidarity, such as the Chinese aggression in 1962 or the Bangladesh war in 1971.

4) Even in the latest struggle against terror, NAM has not come to assist India in any way.

5) But the whole philosophy of NAM is that it remains united on larger global issues, even if does not side with a member on a specific issue.

6) India itself has followed this approach, whenever the members had problems with others either inside or outside the movement.

7) NAM positions have always been the reflection of the lowest common denominator in any given situation.
Benefits of NAM
The golden age in India's foreign policy was in the first 15 years after Independence, when NAM provided a constituency for India because of our non-violent victory over the British and the leadership it provided to the newly independent countries.

India led the NAM effort to resolve the Iran-Iraq dispute.

As expected, political issues continued to engage NAM and we benefitted from its activism occasionally.

In fact, it was through NAM that we operated to counter the efforts to expand the UN Security Council by including just Germany and Japan as permanent members. NAM submitted its own proposal and ensured that no quick fix was permitted.

NAM is particularly important in elections at the UN, including the possible identification of new permanent members of the Security Council.

No NAM country may agree to isolate Pakistan, but the NAM forum will be an effective instrument to project our anti-terrorist sentiments.
Does NAM has no ideal/ideology?
That NAM has no ideal or ideology as a glue is a wrong assumption. Though the criteria for NAM membership are general, anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism and anti-racism were essential attributes of NAM countries.

There was a consensus on nuclear disarmament also till India broke ranks by keeping out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The diversity reflected in both Singapore and Cuba being NAM members has been its strength. Therefore, Egypt signing the Camp David Accords with Israel in 1978 or India signing the Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation with the Soviet Union in 1971 did not result in any disruption of membership.
In news
In a significant move, PM will not be attending 17th Non Aligned Movement (NAM) summit to be held in Venezuela in September 2016.

Is India's core of traditional foreign policy fading away?
India's current foreign policy- a shift from past
This will be only the second time an Indian Prime minister will miss the NAM summit.

The traditional foreign policy approach of non-alignment was a central component of Indian identity in global politics.

However, since independence, India has been in pursuit of strategic autonomy. It has led to semi-alliances shaped under the cover of non-alignment and regional dynamics.
Why such shift?
India seeks to balance the benefits and risks of an increasingly assertive neighbour (China) and a network of alliances with like-minded countries.

China's rise and assertiveness as a regional and global power and the simultaneous rise of middle powers in the region mean that this balancing act is increasing in both complexity and importance, simultaneously.

China's growth presents great opportunities for positive engagement, but territorial disputes and a forward policy in the region raise concerns for India, particularly in the Indian Ocean and with Pakistan.

Forward policy= a foreign policy doctrine applicable to territorial disputes where emphasis is placed on securing control of disputed areas by invasion and annexation or creating a buffer state.

The region itself is riddled with rivalries; a desire to balance China may push states together, while other issues divide them. The same applies on the global level as noted by the unpredictability in Sino-US relations.
Challenges ahead
Indian policymakers continue to place emphasis on strategic autonomy as a means of mitigating the potential costs of a strategic partnership with the US.

This balancing act is evident in relations with China: despite interest in cooperation with the US, India stands to benefit from an economic partnership with China.

India wishes to avoid sending any signal to China that it is serving as the lynchpin of the US pivot to Asia, which China perceives as a measure of containment by USA.

There is also persistent concern over US reliability. Its relationship with Pakistan continues to be stable and also its vulnerability to China was seen during the financial crisis of 2008-09.

India has to balance its still strong defence relationship with Russia against its interests in cooperation with the US.

India was with Russia, China and Iran in avoiding interference in Syria's civil war. Despite voicing concern over the spread of the Islamic State network, India has continued to promote a Syrian-led process of institution-building.

Still, there is a general concern in India that its capabilities in the event of a conflict with Pakistan may be limited by over-reliance on the US, which continues to extend defence aid to Pakistan despite a drop after 2011.
Benefits
Despite these challenges, India is pursuing a constructive relationship with the US and America's Asian allies as it faces a major shift in power dynamics with the rise of China.

India stands to benefit from being more assertive. Already, cooperation with regional players is boosting its economy and defence capabilities, and as a pillar of the US pivot to Asia, India is finding support for an increased role as a regional power-negotiator.

However, these growing partnerships need not prevent positive engagement with China.

Assertiveness in regional and global relations may actually help India to pursue the strategic autonomy it values and pursues.
Conclusion
India's rising global profile is reshaping its approach to its major partnerships in the changing global order.

Though some still want to reinvent non-alignment under new appearances, India is now showing signs of pursuing strategic autonomy separately from non-alignment under new leadership.

It seems that this separation was overdue in India's foreign policy. India should try to benefit from leveraging partnerships rather than barring them. This will help India to develop leverage in its dealings with its adversaries and competitors.
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