The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)

  Jun 15, 2020

The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)

Who are the non-aligned countries?

The Non-Aligned Movement (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.

What is meant by `non-alignment`?

To understand the term, we need to go back to the post-WW-II international relations. There were two super powers (the countries that had global interests and could defend them): United State of America and the erstwhile Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) who had mutually exclusive ideologies fighting for global power-economically, politically (more allies) and militarily. The competition did not involve actually going to war but embraced all other forms. It was called the cold war.

So why did NAM have to come during cold war?

The newly independent ex-colonies of the world with mass poverty could not afford to take sides and antagonise the adversary and get militarised ignoring developmental expenditure. Therefore, they had to come together and forge a global movement to resist militarisation of world politics. In short, they needed independence in their foreign policy which is termed as `strategic autonomy’.

The purpose of the organization was to ensure "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.

As can be seen from above, many of the above themes are outdated: imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism etc.

But that era is long since gone. Why NAM now?

Yes, the world has changed and so has India. Cold war ended almost 3 decades ago. USSR has dismembered. Russia is a fraction of what the USSR was. Ideological warfare is a matter of past. Globalisation and inter dependence has grown. 

India also has changed dramatically. We are a nuclear weapon country. Our GDP is almost $3trillion. We have far wider interests geographically. We are members of BRICS, IBSA, G-20, SCO, BIMSTEC and so on. 

The vulnerabilities of the cold war era for India do not exist anymore.

But the world continues to have many challenges. Terrorism, democratisation of UNSC, global inequities; retreat of multilateralism; climate change; cyber threats; non-state actors of the violent kind as in Pakistan and so on.

Therefore, we need NAM.

How often does it meet?

There is a summit held every three years. The 18th summit was held in 2019 October in Baku, Azerbaijan. The 17th summit was held in Venezuela. 

Who functions as the President of NAM?

The country that hosts the summit. Azerbaijan took over the presidency of the movement from Venezuela for a three-year term from 2019 to 2022.

What was the theme of the Baku summit?

The theme was “Upholding Bandung Principles to ensure concerted and adequate response to the challenges of the contemporary world.”

What are the Bandung principles?

In, 1955, representatives from twenty-nine governments of Asian and African nations gathered in Bandung, Indonesia to discuss peace and the role of the Third World in the Cold War, economic development, and decolonization. It was the first large-scale Asian–African or Afro–Asian Conference—also known as the Bandung Conference.  The core principles of the Bandung Conference were political self-determination, mutual respect for sovereignty, non-aggression, non-interference in internal affairs, and equality. These issues were of central importance to all participants in the conference, most of which had recently emerged from colonial rule.

The conference was an important step towards the eventual creation of the Non-Aligned Movement.

The relevance of these principles is self-evident in today’s world.

What did the Baku Declaration say?

The 18th Summit of the heads of state and government of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) called for strengthening multilateralism with the United Nations (UN) at the core.

In the final Baku Declaration, the group stressed the need to revitalize the UN General Assembly and strengthen its authority "as the most democratic, accountable, universal and representative body of the organization, including in the area of international peace and security".

It affirmed commitment to make efforts to strengthen NAM's solidarity in combating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations in accordance with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, international law and relevant international conventions.

The Movement also expressed concern about "the increased adverse impacts of climate change, particularly on developing countries, which are severely undermining their efforts to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development".

Is India de-emphasising the NAM as PM Modi did not attend the last two summits?

India was represented by the Vice President of India.

How is Non-Alignment different from Multi-Alignment?

In the cold war world where the international politicas was bipolar, NAM meant not to join either ideological-military camp. The world is multipolar presently with China, Japan, Russia, France and EU compelling the USA to share power. In this changed world, India has to associate with all the countries- big and small for security, development and stability. Thus, NAM becomes MAM in the post-cold war world.