Non-Aligned Movement

Non-Aligned Movement

This article deals with ‘ Non-Aligned Movement – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘International Relations’, which is an important pillar of the GS-2 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.


  • The term ‘non-alignment’ is the foreign policy adopted by some countries during the cold war, which refused to align with either the capitalist bloc led by the USA or the communist block led by USSR.
  • Some Western scholars have confused non-alignment “with isolationism, neutrality and non-involvement. Non-alignment is not neutrality. It simply means taking an independent stand based on the merit of each issue.

Formation of NAM

  • The Congress of Vienna (1814–15), where the neutrality of Switzerland was acknowledged, is where the idea of not aligning a nation’s policy with others first emerged.
  • The origin of the Non-Aligned Movement can be traced back to the late 1940s, when former colonies were gaining independence and the world was divided into two blocks, i.e. Capitalist Block led by the USA and Communist Block led by the USSR. The newly independent countries faced the dilemma of joining either of the blocks. But NAM gave the third path of remaining non-aligned. 
  • Three leaders played the main role. 
    • Jawaharlal Nehru: India
    • Gamal Abdal Nassar: Egypt 
    • Josip Tito: Yugoslavia  
  • Among the first architects, Nehru would be especially remembered. Nehru believed that countries of Asia & Africa should build up an alliance of solidarity to fight neo-imperialism. 

Non-Aligned Movement
1947 Nehru called Asian Relations Conference (ARC) in New Delhi.  
1955 Bandung Conference in Indonesia was held as African nations started to gain independence.  
1956 In July 1956, Egypt’s Nasser, India’s Nehru and Yugoslavia’s Tito met on the island of Brijuni on the Adriatic Sea and came up with an unspoken alliance that bound them together.   
1961 The first NAM meeting was held in Belgrade and pushed for alternative economic order.   
2021 Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) has completed 60 years.

Impetus for Non-Aligned Movement

  • The most crucial reason was the economic. Almost all the members were newly independent ones who needed trade and financial support from all the nations. Joining one of the groups would have limited that ability.
  • Need for peace, without which development wasn’t possible. 
  • Need to be secure from global threat perceptions emanating from Cold war politics.
  • Ending the possibility of neo-colonisation of old imperial powers.

Conditions to become a member

Five conditions were necessary to become a member of NAM

  1. Independent foreign policy 
  2. Oppose colonialism in all forms  
  3. Shouldn’t be a member of any of the military blocs
  4. Shouldn’t have concluded any bilateral treaty with any of the two superpowers
  5. Shouldn’t have allowed military bases on its territory to a superpower.

Erosion of NAM

The authority and relevance of NAM have reduced over time, especially after the end of the Cold War and the emergence of the USA as the world’s sole superpower.

  1. The first challenge to the economic ambition of NAM states was posed by the Third World debt crisis of the 1980s, which forced the NAM states to approach Bretton Woods institutions. 
  2. The collapse of the Soviet Union led to the Unipolar world led by the USA. In such a situation, the rationale of NAM was challenged.  
  3. Several significant NAM powers started to distance themselves by the early 1990s. Argentina left the grouping in 1991. War tore apart Yugoslavia. India was forced to go to the IMF due to the Balance of Payment crisis.

Goals & achievement of NAM

  • One primary goal of NAM was to end colonialism. Hence, NAM supported the freedom movements in colonies and gave the status of full members to those who led these movements.
  • It also condemned racial discrimination and lent full support to the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa & Namibia. 
  • NAM made a significant contribution to the preservation of peace and disarmament. It lowered Cold War tensions as fewer states joined military blocs. 
  • NAM states succeeded in altering the composition of the UN. In the later forties and fifties, deliberations in the UN organs were dominated by Big 2. But with the emergence of NAM, they had a majority in General Assembly which they used to espouse its cause. 
  • NAM raised a voice for economic equality & called for establishing a New International Economic Order (NIEO). Even after the end of colonialism, the old colonies were still treated as raw material supplying appendages, and Neo Colonisation was in place. 

Is NAM relevant today?

No, NAM is irrelevant

  • NAM was the product of the Cold War and bipolarism. With the end of the Cold War & fall of the USSR, NAM has lost its relevance. 
  • NAM has accomplished all its charted goals i.e. 
    • Colonies have gained independence.
    • Apartheid has been dismantled.
    • Foreign bases have lost their significance.
    • More particularly, when alliances have been disintegrating, where is the importance of non-alignment? 
  • Lack of Leadership: The statesmen who started NAM had a vision, today NAM has none.

Yes, NAM is relevant

  • Although the world has become unipolar, the US and G-7 powers are virtually waging an aggressive war of neo-colonialism in the world by forcing developing nations to open their markets. Hence, the developing countries of the south need to assert their independence and act together. NAM can be a good platform for that
  • The world is still divided into nuclear haves and have-nots. Western nations are attacking the sovereignty of third-world states on frivolous reasons of human rights violations. Countries of NAM must continue to stay and act together. 
  • Catalyst to foster South-South co-operation: NAM can be an important deliberation stage of the ‘economic south’ to reach a common stand on new issues like the environment, climate change, terrorism etc.

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