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Non-Aligned Movement: Detailed Overview

  • 13 December, 2021

  • 7 Min Read

Context: The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is an important topic for UPSC GS Paper 2.


The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) was created and founded during the collapse of the colonial system and the independence struggles of the peoples of Africa, Asia, Latin America, and other regions of the world, at the height of the Cold War.


During the early days of the Movement, its actions were a key factor in the decolonization process, which led later to the attainment of freedom and independence by many countries and peoples and to the founding of tens of new sovereign States. Throughout its history, the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries has played a fundamental role in the preservation of world peace and security.
While some meetings with a third-world perspective were held before 1955, historians consider that the Bandung Asian-African Conference is the most immediate antecedent to the creation of the Non-Aligned Movement.

This Conference was held in Bandung on April 18-24, 1955 and gathered 29 Heads of states belonging to the first post-colonial generation of leaders from the two continents with the aim of identifying and assessing world issues at the time and pursuing out joint policies in international relations.
The principles that would govern relations among large and small nations, known as the "Ten Principles of Bandung", were proclaimed at that Conference. Such principles were adopted later as the main goals and objectives of the policy of non-alignment. The fulfillment of those principles became the essential criterion for Non-Aligned Movement membership; it is what was known as the "quintessence of the Movement" until the early 1990s.
In 1960, in the light of the results achieved in Bandung, the creation of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries was given a decisive boost during the Fifteenth Ordinary Session of the United Nations General Assembly, during which 17 new African and Asian countries were admitted. A key role was played in this process by the then Heads of State and Government Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Shri Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Ahmed Sukarno of Indonesia and Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia, who later became the founding fathers of the movement and its emblematic leaders.
Six years after Bandung, the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries was founded on a wider geographical basis at the First Summit Conference of Belgrade, which was held on September 1-6, 1961. The Conference was attended by 25 countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, Yemen, Myanmar, Cambodia, Srilanka, Congo, Cuba, Cyprus, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Lebanon, Mali, Morocco, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Yugoslavia.
The Founders of NAM have preferred to declare it as a movement but not an organization in order to avoid bureaucratic implications of the latter.
The membership criteria formulated during the Preparatory Conference to the Belgrade Summit (Cairo, 1961) show that the Movement was not conceived to play a passive role in international politics but to formulate its own positions in an independent manner so as to reflect the interests of its members.


Thus, the primary objectives of the non-aligned countries focused on:

    • the support of self-determination

    • national independence and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States
    • opposition to apartheid; non-adherence to multilateral military pacts and the independence of non-aligned countries from great power or block influences and rivalries;
    • the struggle against imperialism in all its forms and manifestations;
    • the struggle against colonialism, neocolonialism, racism, foreign occupation and domination;
    • disarmament; non-interference into the internal affairs of States and peaceful coexistence among all nations;
    • rejection of the use or threat of use of force in international relations;
    • the strengthening of the United Nations
    • the democratization of international relations;
    • socioeconomic development and the restructuring of the international economic system
    • international cooperation on an equal footing.

During the 1970s and 1980s, the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries played a key role in the struggle for the establishment of a new international economic order that allowed all the peoples of the world to make use of their wealth and natural resources and provided a wide platform for a fundamental change in international economic relations and the economic emancipation of the countries of the South.
During its nearly 50 years of existence, the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries has gathered a growing number of States and liberation movements which, in spite of their ideological, political, economic, social and cultural diversity, have accepted its founding principles and primary objectives and shown their readiness to realize them.

The ten principles of Bandung-

  1. Respect of fundamental human rights and of the objectives an principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
  2. Respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations.
  3. Recognition of the equality among all races and of the equality among all nations, both large and small.
  4. Non-intervention or non-interference into the internal affairs of another -country.
  5. Respect of the right of every nation to defend itself, either individually or collectively, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations.
  6. A. Non-use of collective defense pacts to benefit the specific interests of any of the great powers.
  7. Non-use of pressures by any country against other countries.
  8. Refraining from carrying out or threatening to carry out aggression, or from using force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any country.
  9. Peaceful solution of all international conflicts in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations.
  10. Promotion of mutual interests and of cooperation.
  11. Respect of justice and of international obligations.

Inspired by the principles and purposes which were brought to the Non-Aligned Movement by the Bandung principles and during the First NAM Summit in Belgrade in 1961, the Heads of States and Governments of the member countries of the Non-Aligned Movement adopted in their 14th Summit in Havana the following purposes and principles of the movement in the present International juncture:


a. To promote and reinforce multilateralism and, in this regard, strengthen the central role that the United Nations must play.
b. To serve as a forum of political coordination of the developing countries to promote and defend their common interests in the system of international relations
c. To promote unity, solidarity and cooperation between developing countries based on shared values and priorities agreed upon by consensus.
d. To defend international peace and security and settle all international disputes by peaceful means in accordance with the principles and the purposes of the UN Charter and International Law.
e. To encourage relations of friendship and cooperation between all nations based on the principles of International Law, particularly those enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations.
f. To promote and encourage sustainable development through international cooperation and, to that end, jointly coordinate the implementation of political strategies which strengthen and ensure the full participation of all countries, rich and poor, in the international economic relations, under equal conditions and opportunities but with differentiated responsibilities.
g. To encourage the respect, enjoyment and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, on the basis of the principles of universality, objectivity, impartiality and non-selectivity, avoiding politicization of human rights issues, thus ensuring that all human rights of individuals and peoples, including the right to development, are promoted and protected in a balanced manner.
h. To promote peaceful coexistence between nations, regardless of their political, social or economic systems.

i. To condemn all manifestations of unilateralism and attempts to exercise hegemonic domination in international relations.
j. To coordinate actions and strategies in order to confront jointly the threats to international peace and security, including the threats of use of force and the acts of aggression, colonialism and foreign occupation, and other breaches of peace caused by any country or group of countries.
k. To promote the strengthening and democratization of the UN, giving the General Assembly the role granted to it in accordance with the functions and powers outlined in the Charter and to promote the comprehensive reform of the United Nations Security Council so that it may fulfill the role granted to it by the Charter, in a transparent and equitable manner, as the body primarily responsible for maintaining international peace and security.
l. To continue pursuing universal and non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament, as well as a general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control and in this context, to work towards the objective of arriving at an agreement on a phased program for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons within a specified framework of time to eliminate nuclear weapons, to prohibit their development, production, acquisition, testing, stockpiling, transfer, use or threat of use and to provide for their destruction.
m. . To oppose and condemn the categorization of countries as good or evil based on unilateral and unjustified criteria, and the adoption of a doctrine of pre-emptive attack, including attack by nuclear weapons, which is inconsistent with international law, in particular, the international legally-binding instruments concerning nuclear disarmament and to further condemn and oppose unilateral military actions, or use of force or threat of use of force against the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Non-Aligned countries.
n. To encourage States to conclude agreements freely arrived at, among the States of the regions concerned, to establish new Nuclear Weapons-Free Zones in regions where these do not exist, in accordance with the provisions of the Final Document of the First Special Session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament (SSOD.1) and the principles adopted by the 1999 UN Disarmament Commission, including the establishment of a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in the Middle East. The establishment of Nuclear Weapons-Free Zones is a positive step and important measure towards strengthening global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.
o. To promote international cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to facilitate access to nuclear technology, equipment and material for peaceful purposes required by developing countries.

p. To promote concrete initiatives of South-South cooperation and strengthen the role of NAM, in coordination with G.77, in the re-launching of North-South cooperation, ensuring the fulfillment of the right to development of our peoples, through the enhancement of international solidarity.
q. To respond to the challenges and to take advantage of the opportunities arising from globalization and interdependence with creativity and a sense of identity in order to ensure its benefits to all countries, particularly those most affected by underdevelopment and poverty, with a view to gradually reducing the abysmal gap between the developed and developing countries.
r. To enhance the role that civil society, including NGO´s, can play at the regional and international levels in order to promote the purposes, principles and objectives of the Movement

Current Challenges facing the NAM include :

  1. the necessity of protecting the principles of International law,
  2. eliminating weapons of mass destruction,
  3.  combating terrorism, defending human rights,
  4.  working toward making the United Nations more effective in meeting the needs of all its member states in order to preserve International Peace , Security and Stability, as well as realizing justice in the international economic system.

India’s Position

    1. India being a founder and largest member in NAM was an active participant in NAM meetings till 1970s but India’s inclination towards erstwhile USSR created confusions in smaller members. It led to the weakening of NAM and small nations drifted towards either US or USSR.
    2. Further disintegration of USSR led the unipolar world order dominated by US. India’s New Economic Policy and inclination towards US raised questions over India’s seriousness over non alignment.
    3. Prime Minister of India skipped the 17th Non Aligned Movement (NAM) summit held in Venezuela in 2016, it was only second such instance when Head of a state didn’t participate in NAM conference.
    4. Moreover, NAM continued losing relevance for India in a unipolar world, especially after the founding members failed to support India during crisis. For instance, during 1962 War with China, Ghana and Indonesia, adopted explicitly pro-China positions. During 1965 and 1971 wars, Indonesia and Egypt took an anti India stance and supported Pakistan.
    5. India in particular, but also most other NAM countries, have integrated themselves to varying degrees within the liberal economic order and have benefited from it.
    6. India is a member of the G20 and has declared itself as a nuclear weapons power and has for all practical purposes abandoned the call for global nuclear disarmament.
    7. India has also engaged itself with new and old global powers. India joining the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, a coalition seen by many as a counterforce to China’s rise in the Indo-Pacific and Shanghai cooperation organisation led by China shown India’s balancing approach in new world order.
    8. India is striving hard for a multipolar world order and asserting itself as one of the player. Multi polar world order is very much closed to NAM principles.

Relevance of NAM

NAM continues to hold relevance as a platform and due to its principles.

  • World peace - NAM has played an active role in preserving world peace.It still stands by its founding principles, idea and purpose i.e. to establish the peaceful and prosperous world. It prohibited invasion of any country, promoted disarmament and a sovereign world order.
  • Territorial integrity and sovereignty - NAM stands with this principle and proved its repeated relevance with the idea of preserving the independence of every nation.
  • Third World nations - Third world countries fighting against socio-economic problems since they have been exploited for a long time by other developed nations, NAM acted as a protector for these small countries against the western hegemony.
  • Support of UN - NAM’s total strength compromises of 118 developing countries and most of them being a member of UN General Assembly. It represents two third members of general assembly, hence NAM members act as important vote blocking group in UN.
  • Equitable world order - NAM promotes equitable world order. It can act as a bridge between the political and ideological differences existing in the international environment.
  • Interest of developing countries - If disputes arise between developed and developing nation at any point of a concerned topic for example WTO, then NAM act as a platform which negotiates and conclude disputes peacefully securing the favorable decisions for each member nation.
  • Cultural diversity and human rights - In the environment of gross human right violation, it can provide a platform to raise such issues and resolve the same through its principles.
  • Sustainable development - NAM supported the concept of sustainable development and can lead the world toward sustainability. Can be used as larger platform to make consensus on global burning issues like climate change, migration and global terrorism.
  • Economic growth - The countries of NAM has inherent assets, such as a favourable demography, demand and favourable location. The cooperation can lead them to higher and sustainable economic growth. Can be an alternative to regional groupings like TPP and RCEP.

Last NAM Summit- Virtual NAM Summit:

  • The virtual Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Contact Group Summit on “United against Covid-19” through video conferencing was held recently.
  • The meeting was convened at the initiative of President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan, in his capacity as chair of the Non Aligned Movement.
  • Moreover 30 Heads of State and other leaders had joined the Summit. The Summit was also addressed by the UN General Assembly president and World Health Organisation (WHO) chief.
  • It was the first time that Prime Minister Narendra Modi participated in NAM Summit since he assumed the office in 2014.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister to skip the NAM Summit in 2016 and in 2019.

Key Points-

Adoption of the Declaration:

  • The Summit adopted a Declaration underlining the importance of international solidarity in the fight against Covid-19.

Creation of Task Force:

  • It also announced the creation of a ‘Task Force’ to identify needs and requirements of member States.
  • A common database reflecting counties’ basic medical, social and humanitarian needs in the fight against Covid-19 will be created.

 EDITORIAL-NAM at 60 marks an age of Indian alignment

The ideological moorings of India’s non-alignment faded along with Jawaharlal Nehru’s idealism

  • The birth anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru this month and the 60th anniversary of the Non-Aligned Movement prompt reflection on Nehru’s major contribution to the field of international relations.
  • The concept of not aligning a country’s policy with others can be traced to the Congress of Vienna of (1814-15) when the neutrality of Switzerland, by which that country would keep out of others’ conflicts, was recognised.

One world and free India

  • Mahatma Gandhi, icon of Indian Independence, believed in non-violent solutions and spirituality, with India having a civilising mission for mankind which accorded well with Nehru’s desire to innovate in world politics and his conception of modernity.
  • In 1946, six days after Nehru formed the national government, he stated, “we propose... to keep away from the power politics of groups aligned against one another... it is for One World that free India will work.”
  • Nehru, the theoretician, saw world problems as interlinked; not a binary of right and wrong, but as a practical person, his instructions to delegates at international meetings were to consider India’s interests first, even before the merits of the case; this was the paradox of a moral orientation in foreign policy and the compulsions of the real world.
  • In essence, Indian non-alignment’s ideological moorings began, lived and died along with Nehru’s idealism, though some features that characterised his foreign policy were retained to sustain diplomatic flexibility and promote India while its economic situation improved sufficiently to be described as an ‘emerging’ power.
  • Nehru was opposed to the conformity required by both sides in the Cold War, and his opposition to alliances was justified by American weapons to Pakistan from 1954 and the creation of western-led military blocs in Asia.
  • Non-alignment was the least costly policy for promoting India’s diplomatic presence, a sensible approach when India was weak and looked at askance by both blocs, and the best means of securing economic assistance from abroad.
  • India played a lone hand against colonialism and racism until many African states achieved independence after 1960.
  • India played a surprisingly prominent role as facilitator at the 1954 Geneva Peace Conference on Indochina, whereafter non-alignment appeared to have come of age.
  • The difficulty was always to find a definition of this policy, which caused a credibility gap between theory and practice. In the early years, there was economic dependence on donor countries who were nearly all members of western military pacts.
  • Indian equidistance to both Koreas and both Vietnams was shown by India recognising neither; yet it recognised one party in the two Chinas and two Germanies, and the Treaty of peace, friendship and cooperation between India and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics of 1971, fashioned with the liberation war of Bangladesh in view, came dangerously close to a military alliance.

NAM’s failures

  • When Yugoslavia and Egypt became non-aligned by defying the great powers and convened the first Summit Conference of the Non-Aligned Movement in 1961, Nehru, who never endorsed confrontational methods, became a third but hesitant co-sponsor, because in theory, a coalition or movement of non-aligned nations was a contradiction in terms.
  • According to then Defence Minister Krishna Menon’s epigram, true non-alignment was to be non-aligned towards the non-aligned.
  • Nehru’s misgivings were confirmed when only two members, Cyprus and Ethiopia, of the conference supported India in the war with China.
  • Among the Non-Aligned Movement’s members was a plenitude of varying alignments, a weakness aggravated by not internalising their own precepts of human rights and peaceful settlement of disputes on the grounds of not violating the sacred principle of sovereign domestic jurisdiction.
  • Other failures were lack of collective action and collective self-reliance, and the non-establishment of an equitable international economic or information order. The Movement could not dent, let alone break, the prevailing world order.
  • The years following Nehru’s death saw the atrophy of his idealism, and non-alignment during his successors moved from pragmatism under Indira Gandhi and opportunism after the dissolution of the former Soviet Union, to the semi-alignment of today.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party, by ideology, inclination and threat perception, is inclined to greater alignment with the United States whether under the nebulous rubric of the Indo-Pacific or otherwise.

Longevity of organisations

  • The Centre for Policy Research produced a document in 2012 titled ‘Non-alignment Mark 2.0’ which left no trace; the same body’s paper, ‘A rethink of foreign policy, this year elides it all together.
  • Every international organization has a shelf life, though many survive for years in semi-neglect.
  • The League of Nations was given the coup de grâce after seven years of inactivity only in 1946, even after the United Nations had come into being.
  • The Commonwealth will last only as long as the British find it useful. It is hard to see any future for Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) or its various institutional offspring, given the state of India-China relations.
  • The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) has faded into oblivion.
  • Few among even our serving diplomats could tell what transpired at the last Non-aligned Conference or where the next will be held, while the symbolic anniversary, unanimously agreed upon in 1981 of ‘The First September, Day of Non-alignment’, has come and gone unnoticed.

Way Forward

In conclusion, The Non-Aligned Movement, faced with the goals yet to be reached and the many new challenges that are arising are called upon to maintain a prominent and leading role in the current International relations in defense of the interests and priorities of its member states and for the achievement of peace and security for mankind.



Source: The Hindu


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