One of the basic tenets of our foreign policy has been non-alignment. As an element of foreign policy non-alignment m e a n s i n d e p e n d e n t o f b l o c s , peaceful coexistence, global peace, disarmament, struggle against all manifestations of injustices like imperialism, colonialism, apartheid etc.
After India’s adoption of non-alignment as the core element of its foreign policy, it also became a model for other newly independent countries. Most of them adopted it as an instrument for independence in international relations. Soon non-alignment, in addition to a significant perspective of foreign policy, became a movement of solidarity and cooperation among the newly liberated countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) was thus founded as a solidarity movement for giving voice to Third World Countries.
Its essential purpose was to maintain equidistance in cold War rivalries and advocate principles for the promotion of world peace and cooperation. In due course of time, NAM became the largest membership movement as also the largest peace movement in the history of humanity. In both, in its founding and later consolidation and development, India played a significant role. In fact, in many ways India has been considered as a non-formal leader of the NAM.
ORIGIN OF NAM AND INDIA’S ROLE
Though as a formal organised movement NAM started with the holding of the Belgrade Summit of Non- Aligned countries in 1961, its seeds were sown by India, particularly by Jawaharlal Nehru even before attainment of India’s independence. It is quite clear that Nehru was articulating the ideas of decolonisation, national independence, non-bloc politics, peaceful coexistence, eradication of racialism and the need for the developing countries to play an active role in international affairs. It was at the initiative of Jawaharlal Nehru that India became the venue of the first forum of the liberated nations, when representatives of 28 countries met in New Delhi in March 1947 (before formal declaration of independence of India) at the Conference on Regional Cooperation among the Asian Countries known as Asian Relations Conference.
The Asian Relation Conference thus can truly be called the foundation stone for NAM.
Along with Nehru some other leaders in the world were also projecting these perceptions of newly independent countries. President Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia, President Gamel Abdul Nasser of Egypt (then called United Arab Republic), President Kwarne Nkrumah of Ghana and President Ahmed Soekarno of Indonesia were prominent among these. Together with Nehru they evolved a coherent outlook and position on Non-Alignment.
These leaders were largely instrumental in channelling the emerging changes towards the liberation of the people of the world and towards evolving a new vision of the world order. They rejected outright the notion that East- West relations alone constituted international affairs and asserted their own role in shaping these affairs. On the initiative of these leaders the conference of Afro-Asian Nations was held in Bandung (Indonesia) in April 1955.
The participants from 23 Asian and 6 African States represented mainly the people of young States which had been setup as a result of the new balance of forces of democracy and freedom on the one hand and of colonialism and oppression on the others. The states participating in the conference did not belong to any military or political blocs, arid they had taken clear and definite positions the problems facing mankind. Despite their different perspectives, the countries represented at the Bandung Conference arrived at a common position in the larger interest of world peace. One of the most important achievements of the Bandung Conference was the Declaration on World Peace and Cooperation. This declaration embodied the principles of Panchsheel which were first stated in the Preamble to the agreement between India and China in April 1954.
INDIA’S PIVOTAL ROLE AT NAM
It is quite clear that in the founding of NAM India not only played an active role as one of the founders but in many ways it was the initiator of the Movement. As we have already seen non-alignment as a concept of global politics, as a foreign policy premise and as a perspective of maximising national interest of the newly liberated countries was a vision Indian national leadership had developed during its freedom struggle itself.
The vision became the core element of India’s foreign policy after independence rand of other countries which attained independence from that period onwards.
The non-aligned movement, thus, emerged from India’s initiative for formulating an independent foreign policy. This independent foreign policy was based on a solid moral and sound political foundation. It was a non-partisan foreign policy. India’s moral approach to international politics was further projected through the Panchsheel in 1954.
Within three years, eighteen countries had endorsed the Panchsheel principles in joint communiqués with Indian leaders. These principles were practically incorporated in the Ten Principles declared at Bandung. In addition during its initial years of independence itself, India played a very active role in peaceful resolution of some complex international issues and persistently lobbied in United Nations for disarmament.
All these made the idea of non-alignment, the initial basic tenet in India’s foreign policy, a mechanism providing link between the coordinated actions of the anti- imperialist and anti-colonial forces, as an assertion of independence in foreign affairs, as a process of weakening of power blocs, as a symbol of defiance against big power domination and as a diplomatic innovation in the phase of politics of confrontation and cold war.
Over decades of its existence the NAM has been developing a comprehensive political philosophy, a programme of action, and a new and positive system of international economic and political relations. From its founding India has remained one of the most active members of NAM and has played a pivotal role in its various activities and developments.
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