Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NAM

Mains level: Read the attached story

India and Egypt reiterated their support for the Non-Aligned Movement.

Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)

  • NAM is a forum of 120 developing world states that are not formally aligned with or against any major power bloc.
  • After the United Nations, it is the largest grouping of states worldwide.
  • Drawing on the principles agreed at the Bandung Conference in 1955, the NAM was established in 1961 in Belgrade, SR Serbia, and Yugoslavia.
  • It was an initiative of then PM Jawaharlal Nehru, Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah, Indonesian President Sukarno, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser and Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito.
  • The countries of the NAM represent nearly two-thirds of the United Nations’ members and contain 55% of the world population.

Reasons behind NAM creation

  • Balancing the US and USSR: Non-alignment, a policy fashioned for the Cold War, aimed to retain the autonomy of policy (not equidistance) between two politico-military blocs i.e. the US and the Soviet Union.
  • Platform beyond UN: The NAM provided a platform for newly independent developing nations to join together to protect this autonomy.

Relevance TODAY

  • Changing with emerging scenarios: Since the end of the Cold War, the NAM has been forced to redefine itself and reinvent its purpose in the current world system.
  • Focus towards development: It has focused on developing multilateral ties and connections as well as unity among the developing nations of the world, especially those within the Global South.

Fading significance of the NAM

  • Loosing relevance: The policy of non-alignment lost its relevance after the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the emergence of unipolar world order under the leadership of the US since 1991.
  • De-colonization was largely complete by then, the apartheid regime in South Africa was being dismantled and the campaign for universal nuclear disarmament was going nowhere.
  • Freed from the shackles of the Cold War, the NAM countries were able to diversify their network of relationships across the erstwhile east-west divide.

India and the NAM

  • Important role played by India: India played an important role in the multilateral movements of colonies and newly independent countries that wanted into the NAM.
  • India as a leader: Country´s place in national diplomacy, its significant size and its economic miracle turned India into one of the leaders of the NAM and upholder of the Third World solidarity.
  • The principle of ‘acting and making its own choices’ also reflected India’s goal to remain independent in foreign policy choices, although posing dilemmas and challenges between national interests on international arena and poverty alleviation.
  • Preserving the state’s security required alternative measures: Namely, the economic situation with the aim to raise the population’s living standards challenged the country’s defense capacity and vice versa.
  • Fewer choices: Wars with China and Pakistan had led India to an economically difficult situation and brought along food crisis in the mid-1960s, which made the country dependent on US food.

What dictates India’s alignment now?

  • National security: China’s rise and assertiveness as a regional and global power and the simultaneous rise of middle powers in the region mean that this balancing act is increasing in both complexity and importance, simultaneously.
  • Global decision-making: Another distinctive feature of India’s foreign policy has been the aim to adjust international institutions consistent with changes in international system.
  • Prosperity and influence: India’s 21st century’s strategic partnerships aims for India becoming the voice of global South.
  • Multi-polarism: Another means to execute India’s foreign policy strategy of autonomy has been forming extensive partnerships with other emerging powers.

Why NAM still matters?

  • Global perception of India: India’s image abroad has suffered as a result of allegations that creep into our secular polity and a need arises to actively network and break out of isolation.
  • For the Impulsive US: For India complete dependence on the U.S. to counter China would be an error.
  • Ukrainian invasion has revitalized Cold War: Critics of NAM who term it as an outcome of the Cold War must also acknowledge that a new Cold War is beginning to unfold, this time between the US and China.
  • NAM provides a much bigger platform:NAM becomes relevant to mobilize international public opinion against terrorism, weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), nuclear proliferation, ecological imbalance, safeguarding interests of developing countries in WTO etc.
  • NAM as a tool for autonomy:NAM’s total strength comprises 120 developing countries and most of them are members of the UN General Assembly. Thus, NAM members act as an important group in support of India’s candidature as a permanent member in UNSC.
  • NAM for multilateralism:Though globalization is facing an existential crisis, it is not possible to return to isolation. In the world of complex interdependence, countries are linked to each other one way or another.
  • NAM as a source for soft power:India can use its historic ties to bring together the NAM countries. India’s strength lies in soft power rather than hard power.

Way forward

  • Strategic autonomy: India is showing signs of pursuing strategic autonomy separately from non-alignment.
  • Bilateralism: Indo-US ties are complementary, and a formal alliance will only help realize the full potential of these relations.
  • Non-alliance: India interacts with other states in expectations to change the international system, but without expectations to ‘ally or oppose.’
  • Deep engagement: India needs deeper engagement with its friends and partners if it is to develop leverage in its dealings with its adversaries and competitors.


  • A wide and diverse range of strategic partners, including the U.S. as a major partner is the only viable diplomatic way forward in the current emerging multipolar world order.


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