During the cold war (see my article on the cold war), amidst the high tensions between the two power blocs of N.A.T.O. (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and Warsaw pact, emerged a third side to the war. The Non-alignment movement or popularly called N.A.M. was set up with the purpose of being completely neutral and not siding with any of the two superpowers and their alliances.
The N.A.M. was set up in Belgrade, Yugoslavia (Now in Serbia) by the five founding members, Jawaharlal Nehru (India), Josip Broz Tito (Yugoslavia), Sukarno (Indonesia), Gamal Abdel Nasser (Egypt) and Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana) in the year 1961.
Main objective of the N.A.M. was to give newly independent countries a third option, a neutral side other than the two alliances. Fidel Castro of Cuba described it as “the national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of non-aligned countries” in their “struggle against imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, racism, and all forms of foreign aggression, occupation, domination, interference or hegemony as well as against great power and bloc politics”. N.A.M. was a platform, through which the newly independent countries could maintain good relations with both the Capitalists and the Socialists.
Being Non-aligned did not mean isolationism, in fact it was the complete opposite of it. N.A.M. countries provided neutral ground for negotiations during the conflicts between the two super powers to maintain the peace and not let the situation get out of hand and prevent full scale war between them, which would lead to the total anhilation of the human race. It can be said that they were somewhat successful in doing so, but indirect conflicts between the two powers still prevailed and zero loss of life couldn’t be achieved.
It was a very useful platform for the non-aligned countries to unite and fight the oppressive policies of the superpowers but it wasn’t very effective against their might. For example- The N.I.E.O (New International Economic Order) was set up witht the objective in mind to help developing countries reach economic and infrastructural prosperity. This was suppressed by the superpowers, like that of U.S.A. as it would’ve harmed their interests. Even though united, the N.A.M. members couldn’t fight against the superpowers and this particular movement of N.I.E.O. failed miserably.
India, used the Non-aligned movement to its advantage. In certain cases if it felt that it was being pressurized by one of the superpowers, it would simply tilt towards the other side. Even after this, relations with both U.S.A. and Russia have been very friendly and hasn’t been affected gravely, even during the cold war. This showed the superpowers that India couldn’t be bullied into doing something and that it was resolute. It faced quite a lot of criticism for this stance as India wouldn’t raise voice against the side it was tilted towards and was labeled as hypocritical in its policies, to which India has justified this particular stance by stating that if it comes under threat or political pressure then it has every right to look for allies and help from other countries as her national interest and safety come first.
Since the cold war ended, the Non-Alignment Movement has struggled for relevance, it took a major hit when one of its founding members, Yugoslavia, left its membership after it disintegrated and the successor states did not show much interest in the movement. The initiative which was taken by India for the N.A.M. proclaimed very well with the other foreign nations and showed that she was ready to participate in global politics and activities, it indeed strengthened her position and has left a positive image in the minds of almost all the countries that were affected by it. The next N.A.M. summit is in Venezuela, this year.