NAM Movement and Non-alignment 2.0

NonAlignment 2.0: A foreign and strategic policy for India in the 21st century” is a publication by Centre for Policy Research that was released in March 2012. This document identifies the basic principles and drivers that would make India a leading player on the world stage while preserving its strategic autonomy and value system.

The document Nonalignment 2.0 was written over 14 months of deliberations by Sunil Khilnani, Rajiv Kumar, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, Lt. Gen. (retd.) Prakash Menon, Nandan Nilekani, Srinath Raghavan, Shyam Saran and Siddharth Varadarajan. It also ha d some inpits National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and Deputy National Security Advisers Alok Prasad and Latha Reddy.

This document is an idea to identify the basic principles that should guide India’s foreign and strategic policy over next decade.

  • The core philosophy of the document is that – success of India’s own internal development will depend decisively on how effectively we manage our global opportunities in order to maximize our choices—thereby enlarging our domestic options to the benefit of all Indians.
  • The report points out that in a situation where the world is no longer bifurcated between two dominant powers, nonalignment today will require managing complicated coalitions and opportunities in an environment that is not structurally settled.
  • Report deals with India’s approach towards the ‘Asian theatre,’ the international order, hard-power, internal security, non-conventional security issues like energy and nuclear options, the knowledge and information foundations of power as well as the state and democracy.
  • The report has generated controversy too. The authors of the report have been accused of resurrecting the buried ghost of non-alignment, which allegedly served to limit rather than advance India’s interests.

What is Non Alignment?

India after independence, was presented as an ancient but resurgent India, full of enthusiasm and idealism talking in the larger perspective of history and looking forward to the future of mankind. India propagated her passion for peace and cooperation rather than war or confrontation and Policy of Non Alignment and anticolonism.

  • The phrase “non-aligned” was first used by V K Krishna Menon at the United Nations General Assembly in 1953 and by Jawahar Lal Nehru in 1956.
  • But as early as in late 1940s, Nehru had spelt out the strategy behind the phrase, first in Constituent Assembly debates and later in Parliament.
  • In a radio broadcast in 1946, Nehru said, “We shall take full part in international conferences as a free nation with our own policy and not merely as a satellite of another nation.”

The core idea was that, the very sense of India, with its history and civilisation attributes, demands the pursuit of an independent foreign policy. Decisions relating to India’s vital interests should not be externally determined. Maintaining and, if possible, expanding the country’s strategic autonomy is a continuing objective.

Via Nonalignment, Nehru proposed that India should avoid entering into “other people’s quarrels“, unless, and this is important and “our interest is involved”. Nehru once said that “We should either be strong enough to produce some effect or we should not interfere at all“, which demonstrates a realistic awareness of the limits of India’s ability to influence events. Nehru also did not rule out entering into an alliance if that proved necessary: “We are not going to join a war if we can help it: we are going to join the side which is to our interest when the time comes to make the choice.”

The way Jawaharlal Nehru conceived Nonalignment was a strategy and not a doctrine. For Nehru, the non-alignment was a strategy designed to maximise newly independent India’s gains from the world system. Nonalignment did not mean to choose to become a hermit kingdom. Nehru kept the West open for trade and aid, while on the other, it avoided alienating the two communist powers in India’s immediate neighbourhood, China and the Soviet Union. By adopting a policy to be friendly to all, Nehru hoped to receive critical necessary foreign aid at that time.

The Nonalignment 1.0 was just a way of making it clear that India would act in her interests first rather than the interests of Washington, Moscow, or Beijing (Peking).

Background of Non-alignment – India and US during Nehru Era:

The end of World War II led to the circumstances which were accompanied by a possibility of India’s independence. 1947 to 1964 is called Nehru Era and Nehru Era was the most important and a formative era for India’s foreign policy. When India became independent, the foreign portfolio was held by Nehru himself.

It is not that Nehru never wished to get closer to United States. As a Vice President (The current PM is equivalent to VP of interim Government) of the Interim Government in 1946, Nehru stressed the strong “Cultural” links between India and United States. In October 1949 that Nehru visited USA for the first time as India’s Prime Minister. But the chilliness of USA towards India was more or less seen in suspicion by India during those times. United States lacked any concerns for India. The core subjects of US foreign policy at that time were -Potential Danger from USSR and China, Freedom and Peace through NATO and military alliances, offering USAID to toe their line, a pure commercial approach with a want of business in other countries. Nehru, who represented a self respecting country, was disgusted by this ideology. But still, it was the critical aid, which actually forced India to approach United States. India was viewed by United States as a weak and backward country which was in dire need of Financial Resources. USA also over expected from India that she would accept the American Line of policy, but Nehru’s policy of Nonalignment and strategic-independence was a different approach. India perhaps over expected from US taking it as a champion of democracy that would support the largest democracy.

India & USSR

  • It is always alleged that despite its policy of Non-alignment, India could not keep herself non-aligned practically as it moved closer to USSR and became its ally.
  • This is factually incorrect. Nehru had first approached the West and it was only after the West refused that India asked the USSR for its projects such as Steel Units. On the Defense front also, US and UK were often reluctant to sell or extend lines of credit to India.
  • Nonetheless, the United States remained India’s largest provider of aid (to less propagandistic effect than Soviet aid) throughout the Cold War. In the decade of fifties, India initiated its friendly relationships with USSR. Indian Prime minister’s visit to Russia and return visit of Soviet leaders irked USA. In Late 50s USA came in open support to Pakistan on Kashmir Issue. The chances of bright India US relations were almost lost and the chances of bright India USSR relations appeared. By the end of 50’s decade, US had started regarding India as a Pro-soviet country.

Implications of Non-alignment:

Despite of initial rumblings from US congress, India was fairly successful in its policy of non-alignment. India received aid from both blocks and neither took India as a threat. In Nehru Era, India was able to maintain satisfactory relations with US as well as USSR. However, India found herself moving closer and closer to the Soviet Union. The reasons were:

  • United States kept supplying arms to Pakistan despite repeated admonition from India
  • From New Delhi’s perspective, US was an unreliable partner, it was proved in 1960s during financial crisis and food crisis.
  • USSR reassured India regarding the security measures against a potential Chinese attack
  • India and US remained in contravention over the nuclear question
  • India was subject to a nuclear blackmail by US (allegedly) when it deployed its aircraft carrier USS Enterprise during the India – Pakistan War of 1971
  • India did not like the US presence at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean

We can say that India and US relations remained acerbated for the first few decades of India’s impendence and that is why India tilted towards Moscow and signed the Indo-Soviet Friendship Treaty in August 1971.

End of Non-alignment 1.0:

Throughout the Cold War, non-alignment was used to serve India’s interests foremost. It was a strategy not a doctrine and with the end of the cold war, non-alignment died, leaving a ghost known as the unusable dogma of Non-alignment.

Failures of Non-alignment:

The critics of Non-alignment say that the biggest failure of the policy was the India’s failure to deal with China in 1962. It was said that India could move closer to US to counter the abject poverty, grim state of economy and problems in foreign trade.

However, these were problems of India as a state and not India as a country with independent foreign policy. The failure was not of non-alignment, but of an economy spiralling out of control (the concurrence with the China war/ pushing of India’s Five Year Plans off schedule) and held policies held to because they had become articles of faith than strategies.

The need for Non-alignment 2.0:

The Centre for Policy Research seems to have replicated fairly well Nehru’s strategy of retaining strategic autonomy. Yet it seems to be a half hearted guide for India’s foreign policy in 21st century.

  • India’s enhanced economic and security capabilities enable it to influence external events and outcomes in a widening orbit compared to the Cold War years. India enjoys greater leverage but bears greater responsibility in dealing with regional issues such as South Asian and East Asian economic integration and global issues such as climate change and energy security.
  • Furthermore, in a globalises world, external issues impact our economic and social development prospects while domestic choices we make as a country, in turn, have an impact on the external environment. Promotion of India’s interests demands far greater engagement with the world than ever before.
  • Depending on the issue at hand, India will find itself working with shifting and variable coalitions rather than through settled alliances or groupings.
  • The country has inherent assets, such as a favourable demography, a strategic location and a culture of creativity and innovation, which create a window of opportunity to drive India’s emergence as a front-ranking power, a master of its own destiny but generating a range of public goods that make the world a better and safer place to live in.

Report Link:

This report is available on

Video from our Channel

Random Articles