Need for Non-Aligned Movement

October 11, 2018
9 months

What is the issue?

The recent developments in the international order reflect the need for a renewed non-aligned movement as a soft balancing mechanism against powerful states.

What was the soft balancing strategy?

  • The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and its precursor, the Bandung Afro-Asian conference in 1955 were examples of this.
  • It was adopted by the weaker states towards great powers engaged in intense rivalry and conflict after the Second World War.
  • The newly emerging states had little material ability to constrain superpower conflict and arms build-ups.
  • They hence, under the leadership of India’s Jawaharlal Nehru, Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser and Indonesia’s Sukarno adopted a soft balancing strategy, the NAM.
  • It was later joined by Yugoslavia’s Josip Broz Tito.
  • It aimed at challenging the superpower excesses and was a mechanism for preventing the global order from sliding into war.

Was NAM successful?

  • In the long run, some of the goals of NAM were achieved.
  • Despite its shortcomings, the NAM and the Afro-Asian grouping acted as a limited soft balancing mechanism.
  • It attempted to delegitimise the threatening behaviour of the superpowers.
  • It was particularly through their activism at the UN and other such forums including that on Disarmament.
  • The non-aligned declarations on nuclear testing and nuclear non-proliferation helped concretise the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty.
  • They also helped create several nuclear weapon free zones as well as formulate the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.
  • The tradition of ‘non-use of nuclear weapons’ was strengthened partially due to non-aligned countries’ activism at the UN.
  • Also, the UNGA declared decolonisation as a key objective in 1960.
  • It was practised, especially in the 1950s and 1960s, in Africa, parts of Asia and the Caribbean.
  • NAM definitely deserves partial credit for ending colonialism through their activism at the UN General Assembly.

Did NAM lose its relevance?

  • In the 1970s, some of the key players, including India, began to lose interest in the movement.
  • They started forming coalitions with one or the other superpower to handle their conflicts with their neighbours.
  • The Western countries often portrayed non-alignment as pro-Soviet or ineffective.
  • The general intellectual opposition was the result of the Western scholarly bias against a coalitional move by the weaker states.
  • In the hierarchical international system, the weaker states are expected to simply abide by the dictates of the stronger ones.

How is the international order at present?

  • The great powers are once again launching a new round of nuclear arms race, territorial expansion and militarisation of the oceans.
  • The freedom of navigation activities of the U.S. is generating hostile responses from China.
  • In turn, China is building artificial islets and military bases in the South China Sea and expanding its naval interests into the Indian Ocean.
  • The U.S. as the reigning hegemon will find the Chinese takeover threatening and try different methods to dislodge it.
  • If the present trends continue, a military conflict in the South China Sea is likely and the naval competition will take another decade or so to become intense.
  • Smaller states would be the first to suffer if there is a war in the Asia-Pacific or an intense Cold War develops between the U.S. and China.

Why is NAM needed now?

  • A renewed activism by leading global south countries may be necessary to delegitimise the new imperial ventures.
  • These states must play a balancing role to avoid the international order from deteriorating and to prevent any new forms of cold and hot wars.
  • China, the U.S. and Russia need to be balanced and restrained.
  • Some countries are already showing some elements of strategic autonomy favoured by the NAM.
  • Developing countries can engage more with China and India and restrain the U.S. and Russia from aggravating military conflict in Asia-Pacific.
  • More concrete initiatives are needed by the emerging states in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) grouping.
  • The soft balancing by non-superpower states has a key role to play in this.


Source: The Hindu

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