Non-alignment Movement

As already observed in the previous article, if there is any outstanding contribution of newly independent states of Asia, Africa, and Latin America worth mentioning, it gives concrete shape to the concept of non-alignment. The concept of non-alignment gained currency in 1955 at Bandung Conference, albeit it was the uppermost in the mind of Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru as early as 1946. However, as a movement, it was formally established in 1961 at Belgrade Conference; it was such a post-war phenomenon when the cold war was at its height, and the world was divided into two power blocs.

Some of the newly independent countries visualized the dangers to their newly gained independence in aligning with either of the two blocs. Their involvement in the cold war was brought with gloomy prospects of their economic, social, and political development. They wanted to conserve their scarce natural and capital resources for the reconstruction of their backward economies. This could be possible only if they shunned alliances and power struggles and strived for a peaceful atmosphere.

The pioneers of non-alignment were Nehru of India, Tito of Yugoslavia, Nasser of Egypt, and Sukarno of Indonesia. Later, the idea gathered so much momentum and popularity that more than half of the world embraced this concept within a period of three decades.

It became 50 Significant, a movement that influenced the nature of international relations in diverse ways. Thus, non-alignment both as a foreign policy perspective of most new nations and as an international movement remained a critical factor in contemporary international relations for many years.

Meaning of Non-Alignment:

The term non-alignment hm a specific meaning. Many Western scholars mean by non-alignment neutrality or neutralism only, but it is not a correct interpretation. Before giving a precise meaning of the term non-alignment, it would be better to through the related terms as suggested by Schwarzenbergeri.1

These related or synonymous terms are isolationism, noncommitment neutrality neutralization, unilateralism, and non-involvement.

Isolationism stands for aloofness policies varying from the US’s known isolation before the First World War to postures of inoffensiveness in international affairs. Noncommitment refers to the politics of detachment for other powers in a triangular or multi-corner relationship.

Neutrality describes the political and legal status of a country at war concerning the belligerents. Neutralization means a permanent neutral status of a particular state that cannot give up under any circumstances, e.g., Switzerland is a neutralized state.

Unilateralism is identified with policies of calculated risks such as the destruction of own thermo-nuclear weapons at one’s own instance. Non-involvement means keeping away from the ideological struggle between the different superpowers, though permitting a certain degree of flexibility when absolutely unavoidable.

Nonalignment has a broader meaning than all the above-mentioned terms. It thus has a distinct character that has meant that a nation pursuing such a policy need not be neutral under all circumstances. It can participate actively in world affairs under exceptional circumstances. Unlike neutrality, nonalignment aims at keeping away, but it keeps away not from a particular conflict or issue but a persisting international tension like the cold war.

Since military alliances were an important aspect of the cold war, non-alignment naturally insisted on shunning these alliances. Any military alliance-either bilateral or multilateral formed during the cold war days was a violation of non-alignment. Therefore, it is a foreign policy perspective that advocates freedom from a commitment to any power bloc its stresses? On the independence of choice and action in external affairs.

The policy of not aligning with any of him, but at the same time being friendly to everyone, so that it might be feasible to have a moderating impact on international relations came to be popularly called non-alignment. It would enable a nation to judge each issue on merit and decide upon its course independently without being influenced by any previous commitment or bias.

Now-alignment is neither a passive nor a negative policy. As far as the negative appearance of the term non-alignment is concerned, it should be understood in the foreground of contemplating Indian people who have expressed many positive and constructive ideas through negative expressions, such as Ahinsa and Apramad.

As a positive concept, it has several dimensions; naturally, non-alignment should oppose certain values and at the same time promote some others which are in harmony with its basic orientation. The chief goals of the non-aligned movement in the fifties and sixties re decolonize and preserve international peace. Of late, it has been contributing positively to attaining a new international economic order and a new information order based on equity, justice, freedom, and the eradication of exploitation and domination.

As an activist and dynamic policy, it takes Specific sides on the merit of each case. This implies that issue-bound tilts in nonalignment are considered legitimate, and the concept does not imply equidistant from both the superpowers. But at the same time, it also rejects the idea of natural allies recently coined to justify certain alliances of the non-aligned states with certain powers. Thus, it is an active policy as it envisages an active role for the non-aligned countries in world affairs. It is positive as well since it also strives for certain values and goals.

Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda elaborated on the goodness of this concept in 1964. In these words, it is a determination to preserve independence and sovereignty to respect such independence and sovereignty in other States and decline to take sides in the major ideological struggles that rend the world. We will not hitch our carriage to any nation’s engine and be drawn along their railway line.2

The criteria of non-alignment determined as early as June 1961 at Cairo were:

  1.  A country should follow an independent policy based on peaceful coexistence and non-alignment or show a trend in favor of such a policy.
  2. It should consistently have supported movements for national independence.
  3. It should not be a member of multilateral military alliances concluded in the context of Great Power conflicts.
  4. If it has conceded military bases, these concessions should not have been made in the context of Great Power conflicts.
  5. If it is a member of a bilateral or regional defense arrangement, this should not be in the context of Great Power conflicts.

The disintegration of alliance systems in recent years is indeed a vindication of the non-aligned position. After disintegration, the nonaligned movement (NAM) is increasingly concentrating on economic issues and emancipation.

Characteristics of Non-Alignment:

The conceptual imperatives and major features of non-alignment can be enumerated as below:

1. Averse to Military Alliances:

Non-alignment opposed military alliances of all types like NATO, SEATO, CENTO, Warsaw Pact, etc. The non-alignment nations also oppose the rat race armaments as this, in their view, inevitably misappropriates world resources towards massive arms build-up at the superpower levels and their subsequent worldwide proliferation. Alliances and arms race charge the atmosphere with war hysteria.

2. Averse to Cold War:

The non-aligned Movement was definitely a reaction against the cold war that surely undermines newer national identities, and the nation considered satellites of either the American or Russian bloc. In any form, the Cold war set at naught the new states’ developmental mods and undermined the prospects for peace. Nonaligned countries preferred to keep out the power mule between the two power blues.

3. Averse to Ideological Polarization:

Non-alignment always remained averse to the ideological polarization between socialism and capitalism. On the other hand, it advocates that the ideological differences are exaggerations arising out of statistic digitizes to legitimize the superpowers’ state eccentric power device.

4. Own Path of Development:

As a corollary to the above feature, non-aligned countries refused to accept either bloc’s economic, political, and social systems. These countries are eager to develop their economy, polity, and society in conformity with their own outlook and way of life. They considered it more appropriate to keep themselves free to take plus points from any country or system to have a healthy and quick development.

5. Revolutionary Outlook:

Non-aligned countries attained independence after a revolutionary struggle with their colonial powers. Independence satisfied their aspiration for political freedom, but they were far behind the economic freedom. As these countries were interested in self-reliance in the economic sphere, they adopted revolutionary methods to achieve fast progress. Some succeeded in their mission, whereas many others faced difficulties. Some countries had to abandon democratic methods and resorted to dictatorial or authoritarian techniques to achieve quick results.

6. Friendship and Equality:

Non-alignment is also concerned with friendly relations among all nation-states on the principle of equality, justice, and reciprocity. It is committed to the theories of national self-determination and peaceful coexistence among states or achieves the cherished values of the international polity and brotherhood.

7. Support to U.N.O:

Non-aligned countries have always endeavored to strengthen and support the U.N.O. it aims at imparting new vigor and vitality to the UN to prevent it from becoming a battlefield of superpower rivalry and misapprehensions. Their active participation has made this world organization more democratic and influenced its deliberations to a great extent.

8. Able Leadership:

The outstanding and renowned leadership has been its characteristics from the very beginning. Able leaders like Nehru, Tito, Nasser, Sukarno, Nkrumah, Kaunda, etc., have been its torchbearers in the post World War II period. Like Nehru in India, other leaders enjoyed great status and respect in their respective countries and worldwide. Due to these personalities’ brilliant leadership, non-alignment became popular and assumed a worldwide movement.

9. Doubtful Genuineness:

There is no paucity of scholars, especially Indians, who claim that many so-called non-aligned countries are not genuinely non-alignment. They point out that many non-aligned countries have special military or diplomatic relations with one cold war bloc or the other. On most international issues that arise from time to time, the latter’s position is almost predictable. This predictability of behavior determined by such a close relationship is definitely not a characteristic of non-alignment.

A few countries like India and Yugoslavia that are genuinely non-aligned have been challenged by the US and some other Western countries. According to the latter, India is not truly non-aligned, it is biased in favor of the Soviet Union, and it takes an anti-West view on many issues “irrespective of their merits.”

But India refutes these charges by saying that in 1956, 1968, and 1979 it criticized the Russian actions and demanded the withdrawal of its troops from Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Afghanistan, respectively though this denunciation was less harsh than the one it used against the invaders (Britain, French, and Israel) of Egypt on 1956. Thus India’s attitude towards the rival powers blocs was not largely affected by pro-Soviet bias.

10. Alignments within Non-alignment :

Many groups formed based on regionalism, religion, ideology, security considerations, and economic cooperation have raised their heads within this movement. Many countries have been virtually reduced into the satraps of both the super-powers. Whenever a cold war issue is discussed in any non-aligned meeting or the United Nations, they tend to support their respective patrons. On the question of Palestine, almost all Arab countries have formed another faction.

Most of the other members of South  Asia Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sir-Lanka have recently grouped themselves in such a way as to take an identical view on several issues, different from the Indian Stand on those issues. These countries are apprehensive of India’s big brother attitude.

11. Not “Double Alignment”:

As most of the non-aligned countries are poor, they gladly accept aid from any quarter. If receiving such aid does not involve compromise with one’s independence, it is neither the violation of non-alignment nor the opportunism. Nonalignment does not mean that a country cannot have friendly relations with both the super-powers, which is not “double alignment” as alleged by certain critics. Such a policy has the following benefits.

Assistance can be expected from both the blocs, and neither side is likely to harm the concerned non-aligned countries. At the same time, the latter may continue to play their role in easing international tensions. Thus, having good relations with both the superpowers is not contradictory to the spirit of nonalignment.

12. Growing Institutionalization:

From the very beginning, Pandit Nehru insisted that the non-aligned countries had not to form a separate third bloc but to create a third area, which would be an area of peace. That is why, in the initial years, India resisted the efforts of some members of the non-aligned group to have a secretariat of its own. It apprehended that the setting up of a secretariat would be an endeavor to move put on a straight jacket institutionalization that would tantamount to forming a separate bloc, which is against the principles of non-alignment.

Moreover, NAM is not an organization but a movement that recognized the need for a backup system that could provide service and continuity.

But India’s efforts to check institutionalization proved futile. In the Algiers Summit (1973), it was decided to have a coordination bureau with each summit’s host nation as the Chairman for the period between that summit to the next summit. The original strength of the Bureau was 25, which was subsequently raised to 36. The Bureau meets at least once a year and deals with common interest matters from time to time. It also takes decisions regarding the next summit. It also seeks to strengthen cooperation and coordination among the member states inside the UN and help them make united efforts to realize the non-aligned movement’s goals.

As per the Lusaka (1970) decision to hold nonaligned summits at the interval of every three years, the same are held regularly since then.

The Foreign Ministers of Member states usually meet sometime before each summit to prepare the summit’s agenda. The above developments indicate that nonalignment’s gradual institutionalization is a reality and does not appear reversible. Some degree of permanence in structure and regularity in behavior pattern has been injected into it remarks Prof. Baral.3

Bases and Causes of  Non-Alignment:

Non-alignment has two types of bases upon which this policy is relied-positive and negative bases. It will be pertinent to discuss them below.

 Negative Basis:

1. Dissolution with Military Alliances:

The single negative basis of nonalignment is its Opposition to military alliances and cold war politics. These military pacts like NATO, SEATO, CENTO, Warsaw Pact, etc. The accelerated arms race enhanced rivalry and tensions and thus were considered harmful for world peace. This was the basic reason for adopting the policy of non-alignment by the newly independent countries of Asia and Africa.

Positive Bases:

Non-alignment has many positive bases also Which are explained as under:

2. Ideological Basis:

Instead of following any of the then prevailing and competing ideologies of capitalism and communism, the newly independent nations thought it better to evolve their own ideologies and system that may conform to their indigenous need and traditions and fulfill their people’s aspirations. Neither the American nor the Communist socioeconomic and political system could suit those new nations, which prompted them to pursue the path of non-alignment.

3. Independent Foreign Policy:

Many countries were convinced that they could enjoy real independence only if they pursue an independent foreign policy and examine each international issue on its merit. It is feasible only if they detach themselves from either bloc and declare themselves as non-aligned. The principle of freedom of opinion or independence of judgment in foreign affairs was the main basis for the edifice of non-alignment.

4. Economic Basis:

Another reason for the emergence of non-alignment is economic development. Most of the nonaligned countries were economically backward and were in dire need of capital and technical know-how for achieving the goal of economic development and self-reliance. This goal could be achieved better if they maintain cordial and friendly relations with both the power blocs and gain maximum economic benefits without any political string. Notwithstanding the critics’ charge that it was nothing short of double alignment, many non-aligned countries succeeded in getting help from both the superpowers.

5. Strengthening of U.N.O:

Lest it should meet the same fate as the League of Nations or fall victim to cold war rivalry or become an arena of superpower tug of war or a battlefield of superpower polarization, many Afro-Asian nations realized that they would be strengthening U.N.O and its principles remaining non-aligned.

Growth and role of NAM:

NAM Conferences:

The causes, bases, and background of the origin of the non-aligned movement have been discussed above. Owing to these reasons, the NAM originated in 1955 when 29 Asian and African nations met at Bandung (Indonesia) to thrash out the means of combating colonialism and dealing with the situation arising out of the Cold War bipolarism. Bandung conference was a grand assembly to stimulate cooperation among Asians and Africans.

The background to it comprised the treaty between the United States and Taiwan and the signing of military pacts like SEATO and the Baghdad Pact. Calvocoressi observed the principal achievements of the Bandung Conference were that they had met and got to know one another (most of them were new to international politics) that they had laid the foundations for joint action at the UN and, through solidarity, increased their security, their status and their diplomatic weight in the world that they had attracted I new men like Nasser to the group and made it bigger than they were making the giant powers take them seriously and treat their policies as respectable.

With an Asian-Nehru, an  African-Nasser, and a European-Tito leading them, the non-aligned countries became more and more ambitious in international relations. They hoped to be able to bring pressure to bear on the superpowers in the cold war matters. Bandung Conference is taken as the beginning of the non-aligned movement.

A string of conferences followed this conference, and the number of participating countries swelled in each conference, and the movement was invested with more and more popularity conference after conference. By Sept 1992, NAM’s membership rose to 108. In Lusaka Conference (1970), a decision was taken to hold NAM countries’ summit conferences every three years. The following table gives a birds-eye view of the evolution of NAM through different conferences.

Summit Conferences of NAM:

Date Host country Host cityNo Of Participating Nations
1–6 September 1961 Yugoslavia Belgrade25
5–10 October 1964
United Arab Republic Cairo47
8–10 September 1970 Zambia Lusaka54
5–9 September 1973 Algeria Algiers76
16–19 August 1976 Sri Lanka Colombo86
3–9 September 1979 Cuba Havana94
7–12 March 1983 India New Delhi99
1–6 September 1986 Zimbabwe Harare100
4–7 September 1989 Yugoslavia Belgrade103
1–6 September 1992 Indonesia Jakarta108
18–20 October 1995 Colombia Cartagena
2–3 September 1998 South Africa Durban
20–25 February 2003 Malaysia Kuala Lumpur
15–16 September 2006 Cuba Havana
11–16 July 2009 Egypt Sharm el-Sheikh
26–31 August 2012 Iran Tehran
13–18 September 2016 Venezuela Porlamar
2019 Azerbaijan TBA

Role in the 50s and 60s:

In the initial years, nationalism, on the one hand, and opposition to military alliances were the main planks of the non-aligned movement. In the fifties and sixties, non-aligned countries strive for an early end of colonialism and racialism. With time, as more and more colonies won their independence, there was a decline in their demand for decolonization and a rise in their expressed concern for international peace. By opposing world public opinion against the dangerous arms race, they urged upon the super-powers for disarmament.

They supported the UN’s efforts for the peaceful settlement of regional conflicts. Wherever feasible, they mediated between regional belligerents for sorting out a peaceful resolution of their disputes. By Opposing the cold war, calling for disarmament, and endeavoring to settle disputes through negotiations, NAM played its significant role in achieving international peace.

Role in the 70s:

In, though, the cold war had not completely disappeared, yet detente processing assumed great significance. Secondly, the danger of Neo-colonialism increasingly came to light. Now economic independence and development became the chief concern of NAM. Non-aligned countries boldly gave a call for a New International Economic Order (NIEO) whose attainment would mark the fall of Neo-colonialism.

By the end of the 70s, detente’s process suffered a serious setback, and the New Cold War appeared on the horizon. While there was an increase in the number of non-aligned countries, there was also a spurt in establishing military relations between them and the superpowers. The difference between the early cold war and the new cold war phase was that the fifties’ military relations were overt, whereas the same was covert in the late seventies and early eighties.

Some non-aligned countries with military linkage with one or the other superpower were not prepared to admit so. This new development caused the intensification of regional conflicts and the danger to the independence and development of the non-aligned countries.

Role in the 80s:

During the 80s, NAM’s approach towards peace and development witnessed a distinct change. Besides negotiating regional disputes like the Iran-Iraq war, the Afghanistan crisis, and the Kampuchean conflict, they also strongly pleaded for holding arms control talks. They also demanded an early end to racialism and apartheid in South Africa.

The fervor with which the demand for new economic order was made during the seventies slacked and these countries’ attitude became more soft and cordial towards rich countries. Instead of criticizing them, they were now politely demanding aid on the plea to help the developing countries and the donors themselves. Cooperation rather than confrontation became the keynote of their appeal for aid.

Another notable change in the attribute of the non-aligned countries is self-introspection. They have understood that for development, aid from rich countries is essential. But that does not exclude the self-help by the non-aligned countries themselves. Along with the North-South dialogue, they have felt the need for South-South cooperation. Towards this direction, the trend towards regional cooperation is discernible.

Role in the 90s:

In the early 19905, there is a great change in the world situation. Communism collapsed in the Soviet Union and East Europe, and with this, their bloc remained no more. Military alliances have been disintegrated, ideological factors in international relations receded in the background, and the cold war came to an end. In this changed situation, many felt that NAM had outlived its utility in a post-cold war era.

There are proposals to either change NAM’s name to the Third World movement or merge it with (3-77 to enlarge its economic cooperation and assistance options.

The meeting of NAM Foreign Ministers, held at Accra from September 5 to 8,1991 to prepare the agenda for the next summit conference to be held at Jakarta in 1992, rejected the above proposals. The Declaration issued after the meet stated that the end of the era of. East-West clash had opened up unprecedented vistas for world peace and cooperation.

The Action Plan adopted at the meet dealt with the UN’s reform, international security and disarmament, regional conflicts, South Africa Fund, decolonization, the external debt problem, science and technology, North-South and South-South cooperation. According to the plan document, the recent developments constitute a crisis for the N.A.M. Therefore, and its member countries must endeavor to play a key role in  Shaping the UN in the future and not submitting themselves to the move marginalization.

 Critical Evaluation of Non-Alignment:

Achievements of non-alignment and their impact on international relations are summarized as below:

1. World Peace:

Non-aligned countries had launched an active international struggle for world peace in the days of the cold war, bipolarism, and militarism. They have made a principled contribution to the maintenance of world peace and the prevention of global and regional conflicts.

2. End of Cold War:

The recent end of the cold war is in itself a great achievement of non-alignment. From the very beginning, NAM adhered to the principle of peaceful coexistence and denounced the cold war. In making big powers to realize the futility of engaging themselves in the cold war and warning the weaker nations of Asia, Africa, and Latin America not to fall prey to superpowers rivalry, NAM played its role in ending the cold war.

3. End of Bipolarism:

The rapid growth in the number of non-aligned countries had prevented the process of polarization in the world. Antagonistic power blocs would have had a dangerous effect on the preservation of international peace. The proliferation of non-aligned movements helped in the ending of bipolarism and the emergence of multipolar.

4. End of Colonialism:

By supporting the unconditional, immediate, and total abolition of colonialism, withdrawal of foreign troops from colonial territories, support for the peoples fighting for the right to national self-determination, and concerted efforts to end all varieties of Neo-colonialism and imperialist domination, the NAM helped in the rapid decolonization of the world.

5. End of Racialism:

Non-aligned countries also struggled to end racial discrimination, apartheid in South Africa, racialism, and hegemonism of all types. They thus played a significant role in eradicating these evils from the world.

6. End of Military Alliances:

Opposition to military alliances and discouraging newly independent states from joining these alliances were the chief objectives of non-alignment, which it has successfully achieved. The crumbling of SEATO, CENTO, NATO, Warsaw Pact, etc. justify the stand taken by non-aligned countries.

7. Minimized the arms race:

The nonaligned countries made the world aware of the arms race’s dangerous implications, both conventional and nuclear. They contributed a lot towards achieving disarmament.

8. Preservation of Independence:

Non-aligned countries had to wage a hard and long struggle to win their political independence. As they do not want to lose their hard-earned independence, they endeavor to keep out of world power struggle lest their independence should be endangered again. The non-alignment implies independence of judgment. The countries following this policy judged events and problems on merits rather than preconceived ideological notions and affinities.

9. Strengthened U.N.O:

Based on their numerical strength in the UN, the non-aligned countries have exerted a notable influence on the General Assembly’s decisions, even though they cannot do anything against the use of Veto in the Security Council. Therefore, no majority of decisions can be taken without their support. The non-alignment has helped the UN to carry on its peace-keeping function effectively. It also made the working of the UN more participative and democratic.

10. Universal International System:

For the first time, the NAM has given the weak nations the role of subjects rather than merely objects of international relations and thus laid the foundations of a universal international system based on equality and justice. It converted European eccentric international relations into worldwide relations and thus internationalized international relations in the true sense.

11. More Economic Aid:

By pursuing the policy of non-alignment, many countries were able to receive economic aid and assistance for their development from both the power blocs. For instance, India received maximum aid from the  Soviet Union as well as the USA. As a nonaligned country, India secured more aid from both the sources than Pakistan, which received aid from the Western bloc alone.

12. New Economic Order:

The initiatives taken by nonaligned countries at the non-aligned summits and various international forums have led to a general recognition of the need for a New International Economic Order (NIEO) based on political and economic equality. In this connection, they are endeavoring for North-South dialogue and South~South Cooperation.

13. New Communication Order:

NAM has successfully ended the monopoly of Western agencies over the news dissemination services. Western monopoly over mass media created a lot of distortion in projecting the image of the nonaligned countries. Realizing the crucial role of disseminating information and communications in enlarging mutual understanding, they have set up the non-aligned News pool. It is indeed, their great achievement.


Scholars, especially Western, have bitterly criticized non-alignment as a selfish policy, a baseless ideology, and an opportunistic attitude. The critical aspect has been dealt with in detail as follows:

1. Ambiguous Concept:

It has been criticized that there has been no full treatment of the term, no analysis and precise description, no exposition through which others might examine the importance and prospects of the policy of non-alignment. The term is in common use, but its exponents have not attempted to analyze it properly. Western scholars undertook this job. Consequently, there is no popular understanding of the concept among the majority of the people. Still, many scholars from non-aligned countries have endeavored to explain and analyze this term scientifically and vividly.

2. Not a Model of Behavior:

The propounders of nonalignment claim that the concept is of great value so far as it provides a model of international behavior that all countries should adopt in peaceful relations. But critics observe that it is a vacillating policy of unrealistic expediency, blackmail, irresponsibility, and opportunism. It is even dangerous for world peace, and nations should avoid it in their international dealings and behavior.

3. Selfish Policy:

Non-alignment is nothing but a policy of selfishness. No doubt, national interest is the main basis of all foreign policies, but the Western scholars have not admitted the general expression that non-aligned countries are not self-seekers. Like all other concepts-Bissau-afire, the balance of power, collective security, etc. this concept to have come out of expediency and self-interest.

4. Opportunistic and Immoral:

Many Western observers have alleged that non-alignment is immoral and opportunistic as it is based upon selfishness. To them, nonalignment is aligned with both cold war camps. But nonaligned countries refute this criticism as baseless. The desire of non-aligned countries to have friendship with both power blocs has been misinterpreted as a policy of double alignment.

5. Bloc Mentality:

Many nonaligned countries suffer from bloc mentality and bias. They are neither impartial nor judge issues on merit. From time to time, they have chosen to associate themselves with one or the other superpowers so closely that their status as non-aligned might be questioned. For example, India chose in 1971 to conclude a treaty of J ace and friendship with the Soviet Union.

Cuba, too, has cl. J relationship with the Soviet Uni n. For example, M .t nations of the West Hemisphere, members of the Organization of American States (OAS), have traditionally been closely assoc ted with the United States. Many other Third World count es has also been closely linked with the United State security and defense. They are Jordan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, Thailand, Philippines, Taiwan, and South Korea.

6. Harsh towards West:

Soft towards East. It has been charged that non-aligned countries, in general, have been harsh towards the capitalist powers and soft towards the communist powers. They have been criticized on the ground of following a policy of double standard. No doubt, by and large, the object of criticism of non-aligned countries is often the Western powers rather than the communist powers. But for this, the fault lies with the Western powers themselves as they always followed colonial or Neo-colonial policies.

7. Disunity:

Over time, the NAM has lost much of its unity, and its corresponding political clout as the diversity inherent among Third World nations badly affected its cohesiveness. In part, diversity finds expression in the various means nonaligned countries have adopted to realize their political objectives, even while they have remained committed in principle to non-aligned. NAM countries had many inter-state or regional conflicts among themselves, which they failed to resolve amicably.

Critics take a very pessimistic view of the role that these countries may play in resolving international issues keeping in view their disunity and differences of the 200 odd conflicts of the past two decades, all of them involving third world countries, and very few can be described as proxy wars prompted by the superpowers.

8. Serious Dilemma:

The NAM is passing through a serious dilemma of more members and less strength. It increased its strength by admitting more and more new members. But the big increase in the size of its membership has not been matched by a corresponding increase in its effectiveness and purity. The movement’s ideas have been diluted, and it has become increasingly difficult to establish unity of purpose and coordination of activities with the group.

9 Hypocrisy:

The critics allege that relatively prosperous and rich countries are not kind towards their poor and backward colleagues in the Third World. However, they severely attack the Western developed powers on that ground.

10. Labour Union Approach:

in mid-1970, the non-aligned countries adopted a militant posture and radical rhetoric towards the North while demanding a New International Economic Order. They adopted a path of confrontation and turned the movement for NIEO into a class war against the developed countries. But this labor union approach did not help them in achieving their goal. However, of late, the demand of non-aligned countries for NIEO seems to have been significantly moderated, and the call for class-war appears to have been replaced by the call for cooperation.

11 . Factionalism:

The diversity and factionalism within the non-aligned movement were evident at the 1979 Havana Summit attended by 94 nations. Non-aligned countries might be divided into three groups, radicals, conservatives, and independents.

Radicals are those generally leaning toward the Soviet Union, or China conservatives are those generally tilting toward the West, and independents are those still committed to the principles of non-alignment in the East-West conflict, explain Kegley and WittKope. Based on this division, roughly about half of these countries can be considered truly non-aligned. The rest can be divided into about three to two, respectively, between conservatives and radicals.

12. Like Alliance System:

While pretending that they were not a bloc, the non-aligned assembly decided to have a chairman, a bureau, a regular calendar of meetings at different levels, and a summit every three years. Thus, while not creating a military infrastructure, non-alignment by increasing institutionalization stepped into the two alliance systems’ diplomatic style.

13. Worthless Declarations and Conferences:

There is nothing in the last seven long declarations of the non-align summits. These are simply the repetition of resolutions of the  UN and its agencies. The conference involves heavy on large delegations from 100 poor participating nations.

For the host country, it may require a 500-1000 million dollar outlay on the conference infrastructure, five hotels, sometimes separate villas for heads of government, import of hundreds of limousines, large scale entertainment, etc., and all for momentary prestige and international publicity.

14. No Results:

Exclusively NAM has nothing concrete to its credit in solving international problems after atmospheric testing, leading to the Partial Test Ban Treaty (1963). The UN is working hard in Kampuchea, Afghanistan, Cyprus, Iraq, and elsewhere to sort out the things. Even though its tall claims movement could not solve any international or regional problem exclusively.

Notwithstanding the above criticism, non-alignment has played a positive role in international relations and has had several impacts on world affairs, which have already been discussed above. Various scholars have refuted the above criticism and explained that non-alignment had to seek compromises, adjustments, accommodations, and mutations to validate itself following the global scenario’s growing complexities. It is as economically relevant today as it was politically relevant in the days of the cold.

The relevance of Non-Alignment:

The relevance of non-alignment has become a subject of great debate in the post-cold war contemporary world. Broadly speaking, there are two schools of thought regarding the relevance of the non-alignment movement now. According to the first school, it is no more valid in the present changed conditions. Whereas the second one still believes in its relevance, notwithstanding the changing world environment. Both schools are explained below:

Irrelevant and Invalid :

Previously Western scholars used to not only criticize but also jeer at the non-alignment movement. They underrated it by calling it hypocrite, ineffective, and worthless. However, in the last few years, non-Western scholars and even leaders and representatives of a few non-aligned countries have also started realizing this movement’s redundancy and irrelevance. The circumstances that led to the creation of this movement have undergone a sea change. The following changes have rendered the utility of the NAM doubtful.

  • Decolonization has become a fiat accomplice.
  • The cold war has ended, and detente is again burgeoning with new vigor and vitality.
  • Military blocs have tumbled down.
  • Military bases have become a thing of the past owing to advance in science and technology and its use for
  • military purposes.
  • The bipolar world is non-existent.
  • The collapse of communism and the communist bloc and resultant de-idealization of world politics.
  • Irreversible trends towards peaceful coexistence and active economic cooperation.
  • The trend towards disarmament has been gaining momentum since 1991. The East and West’s alignment has taken steps towards a 20-30 percent reduction in defense forces.
  • Since the US has emerged as the sole world power following the collapse of the Soviet Union, many non-aligned countries want to leave the NAM. In September 1991, Argentina actually dropped out of the NAM. Where is the question of keeping aloof from rival blocs, some people ask, when there is only one effective power and the other is in ruins?

At the latest Accra session of NAM Foreign Ministers (September 1991) even, some of the theme member States keeping in view the above changes proposed to re-name it as Third World Movement Egypt suggest to merge NAM with the Group of 77 (which now numbers over 100 many countries being members of both).

Though time proposals were turned down, indicate that umber-States doubt the relevance and continuing utility of the Movements very reason for existence. Before the Accra meeting, the first since the collapse of the Eastern bloc) There was an impression that NAM was now in a vacuum and found a new role and a new identity.

After going over the history of non-alignment, Jagat S.  Mehta, India’s former foreign secretary, suggested that after the non-aligned nations came to command a safe majority in the United Nations (around 1970), the non-aligned movement had become redundant. He further said, “We should remind ourselves and the world that the non-aligned started with the independent right of nations to determine international cooperation functionally -and that is where the world has now arrived. Why not declare the mission accomplished and discontinue the ritual continuation of NAM.”8

Still Relevant and Valid:

On the other hand, many non-aligned countries claim that all the changes enumerated above are mainly due to their long struggle, so they take credit for it. All these changes indicate the vindication of their stand and principles. Even in the changed context, it has assumed a novel role. If its political relevance has become obsolete, its economic significance has increased manifold.

The 22-page, Declaration issued after the latest meeting of NAM Foreign Ministers, held at Accra is September 1991, entitled A World in Transition from Diminishing Confrontation Towards Increasing Cooperation emphasized that NAM’s new focus must be on eradicating poverty, hunger, malnutrition, and illiteracy and called on the international community to help. NAM supported the present efforts to strengthen the UN to render it more democratic, effective, and efficient.

There was a consensus among the Foreign Ministers for a bridging agreement between NAM and the Group of 77 and proposed that a study should be made immediately of the modalities for reaching an agreement between the two bodies for the introduction of a new system of the periodic meeting of the joint coordination committee.

NAM has not outlived its utility in a post-cold war world; in fact, the indications are that the movement is becoming more popular, and its importance is being widely recognized. If that had not been so, why should more countries seek NAM membership? Mongolia was granted admission. Germany requested to be allowed to attend the session as a guest along with the Netherlands.

Changing its name to the Third World movement will alienate a large section with a long-cherished NAM’S ideology. In the growing multicultural world order with the decline of the Superpowers’ prominent status, limiting NAM to a Third World movement would prevent it from getting a fair hearing from some emerging power centers. Finally, to confine it in terms of geographical boundaries will reverse its international role to a regional movement.

Though the bipolar world was dead, that does not mean that Washington should become the political Mecca of those who had avoided being identified with either of the two blocs. The impression conveyed by the slogan NAM is dead is nothing short of a canard being deliberately spread by some Western commentators. The current unipolar world is an increasingly featureless international political landscape, regrettably Euro-center in nature. A replacement of the unipolar world by a multipolar world, NAM is perhaps even more relevant now to international relations and development than at any time in its history.

Non-alignment is fundamentally a political concept. Nehru, Tito, Sukarno, and Nasser did not envisage full economic cooperation as part of NAM. But now the movement is shifting its emphasis from the political to the economic arena. Besides referring to political problems worldwide, the Accra meeting also references the question of external debt as an obstacle to many countries’ development. Obviously, if NAM prioritizes economic problems, it is perhaps because it has little role in the political arena.

Referring to the apprehensions that NAM has lost its relevance in the present situation, Madhavsingh Solanki, Indian External Affairs Minister, said the Accra meet of NAM Foreign Minister sought to give a clear direction to the movement. He asserted that the Accra meet had reaffirmed NAM’s relevance as a political forum that could emphasize North-South cooperation. Those who contend that the end of the cold war had rendered NAM obsolete are in effect asserting that the Third World should leave it to the West to determine humanity’s destiny as a whole.

The heterogeneity and consensus approach that characterized NAM, far from inhibiting its effectiveness, reflected the diverse world in which every state enjoyed equality and independence of action. Most of the NAM countries still believe that the movement is well poised to play an important role in the international community in its present shape. NAM is neither willing to be marginalized nor invalidated. How far it succeeds in this is in the womb of the future. To withstand the tide of change in the world is indeed a great challenge for the NAM.


1. See George Schwarzenberger, The scope of Neutralism. Year Book of World Affairs, 1961 (London). PP 233-44

2. Cited in K.J Holsti, National Role Conception in the Study of Foreign Policy, International Studies Quarterly, 14(September), pp 233-309.

3. J.K. Baral, International Politics-Dynamics, and Dimensions (New Delhi, 1987). p.298.

4. Peter Calvocoressi, World Politics since 1945 (New York. 1982) 4th in.p.100.

5. Charles WKegley, It. and Eugene R.Wittkopf. World Politics: Trends and Transformation (New York. 1981) p. 99.

6. Ibid.

7. Jagat S Mehta, Non-alignment The underlying rational Indian Express, September 2. 1991, p.8.

8. Non-alignment-Minim Accomplished in M. September 3. 1991. p6.

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