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Foundation of India's Foreign Policy: Anti-colonial Movement NAM

Building upon a vast literature and Ministry of External Affairs Annual reports, this article argues that India's foreign actions through its 75 years are not only domestically generated. Analysis of India's foreign relations must include an assessment of changing global structures and how they affect domestic imperatives.

A 'inside-outside' perspective, with a focus on India's ideas and actions, must to be combined with an 'outside-in' analysis. Such an outside-in analysis places India's statecraft in the context of global structures across four phases: 1947-1989, 1999-2000, 2000-2014, and 2014-2021, while also exploring the domestic foundations of changing foreign policy interests.

Foreign policies reflect the orientation of nation towards the rest of the world the goals means attitude and approaches are:
The decisive ingredient for the formulation of the foreign policy of the India the status Sovereign state in 1947 it really needed the policy like NAM to ensure its sovereignty in the world anarchy to take middle path.

The foreign policy of India since the first day of her independence has been the creation of one man, the late Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.1 Permitted by Congress leaders to specialize in foreign affairs, he prepared for policy-making two decades before freedom. Since independence Nehru has created much of free India's foreign policy and has not simply restated or managed it. Five main factors produced this result:

his pre-eminent leadership in domestic politics; his full use of formal and informal authority; his dual role as prime minister and foreign minister; his function as a bridge from the past; and his skill in discussing international relations in terms of widely valued notions, for example, nonviolence.

The foreign policy of the: ancient civilization as well as a young republic � India: reflects deep-rooted historical traditions and memories which are embodied in philosophical and spiritual non-materialistic values. India recounts her folklore and sagas in her religious philosophy and literature, but especially does she revere her heritages of nonviolence from Gautama Buddha, Emperor Asoka, and Mahatma Gandhi.

Panchsheel was a response to a world asking for a new set of principles for the conduct of international relations that would reflect the aspirations of all nations to co-exist and prosper together in peace and harmony.

In a speech at Colombo on 28 April 1954, Jawaharlal Nehru coined the phrase "non-alignment" to describe India's foreign policy.

Panchsheel, or the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence, come from the five ancient precepts of Buddhism relative to personal behavior,6 were first formally enunciated in the Agreement on Trade and Intercourse between the Tibet region of China and India signed on April 29, 1954, which stated, in its preamble, that the two Governments have resolved to enter into the present Agreement based on the following principles:

"Mutual respect for each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty,
Mutual non-aggression,
Mutual non-interference,
Equality and mutual benefit, and
Peaceful co-existence."

To Nehru and many Indians, the principles of Panchsheel have real meaning; they constitute a standard of international ethics under which, in return, she hopes for reciprocal affirmations from her neighbor nations.

Panchsheel principles call for no heavy military expenditures. Notwithstanding the barbed gibes of the scoffers, India uses these principles as a powerful moral force for peace in her foreign policies within the United Nations and without, Nehru told Nikita Khrushchev and Nicolai Bulganin in Calcutta that India would co-operate with all nations in the search for peace.

Panchsheel principles of co-operation and coexistence, Nehru said, are as old as Indian thought, and since there is no other way today for survival he hoped the spirit of them would fill all the world, India had hoped through Panchsheel to preserve the peace and independence of lands about China by making aggression so odious that the regime of Mao Tse-tung would not dare to chance it.

In Nehru's view, the concepts of Panchsheel constitute the ethical alternative to war: the choice is between Panchsheel and the hydrogen bomb. These concepts not only give Nehru the courage to stand alone, and the feeling of security when he does stand alone, but they virtually give him no other choice than to chart an independent course in world affairs.

He recognizes that consistency forbids India's joining alliances that imply armed rival camps, and forbids India's favoring one nation above another- at least the major rival powers -in her friendships.

This policy of independent action, which often infuriates diplomats who would like to have India's support, has earned for India the label of "neutralism", but the traditional sense of this word provides no explanation for India's behavior. "I do not think we are neutral", says Nehru, explaining that neutralism in its relation to war and belligerency means the opposite of belligerency.

In Nehru's sense of the term "neutralism," India has adopted a policy of nonalignment, and independent action in her diplomatic relations vis-�-vis her bipolar world.

Nonalignment as India lives it does not mean submission to evil, passivity of mind, lack of conviction, a listless desire for noninvolvement: it means a "positive and dynamic approach" to world problems, as evinced in her leadership of the Afro-Asian world toward independence, in her exemplary participation in the spectrum of international organs of peace. Meanwhile, there is also an ideological factor in India's nonalignment that is often overlooked.

In answer to the question, "In what sense is Nehru neutral?" this answer is proposed: in the cold war between the free world and Sovietize, India is strictly neutral, that is, nonaligned; but ideologically, in the cross fire between democracy and totalitarianism, India is definitely unnatural, that is, pledged to the democratic processes.

Panchsheel was incorporated into the Ten Principles of International Peace and Cooperation enunciated in the Declaration issued by the April 1955 Bandung Conference of 29 Afro-Asian countries.

The universal relevance of Panchsheel was emphasized when its tenets were incorporated in a resolution on peaceful co-existence presented by India, Yugoslavia and Sweden, and unanimously adopted on 11 December, 1957, by the United Nations General Assembly.

The Panchsheel, provided the ideological foundation for the establishment of the Non-aligned Movement. In 1961, the Conference of Non-Aligned Nations in Belgrade accepted Panchsheel as the principled core of the Non-Aligned Movement.

Together with Gamal Abdul Nasser and Marshal Josef Tito, Nehru was one of three leaders who created the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in 1961 in order to make it possible for nations to cooperate with each other and offer a broad framework for collective dialogue and collective action against the developed countries.

Nehru's non-aligned foreign policy was an attractive model for most developing countries because it was based on the principles of non-involvement in either of the two alliance systems and an active and independent participation in world affairs. Furthermore, Nehru saw non-alignment between the superpowers at the time of the Cold War as a vital precondition to protecting national interest. Thus, his nonalignment strategy by no means precluded an active stance in Indian self-interest; it became the dominant ethos of India's foreign policy in international affairs.

Nehru promoted the idea of non-alignment to prove that India was an independent country and had a right to play an international role. However, the Sino-Indian war of 1962 was a watershed for Indian defense planners.

In the aftermath, India abandoned its cherished non-alignment policy; cast off the Menon defense strategy, which had left the Indian army helpless before the Chinese invasion; and set out a comprehensive program for military modernization with the help of the U.S. and the Soviet Union. New Delhi's military weaknesses had been exposed and in military defeat the country's international prestige declined. Nehru's foreign policy based "on global influence without military power" was shattered and India's position and influence among the new non-aligned nations were also affected.

Nehru categorically wrote in April 1963 that India's responses would inevitably be affected by the policies that others adopted toward it. He argued that protection of the country's interest, by force if necessary, was the first charge on its foreign policy, though to the outside world his rhetoric of peaceful coexistence and mutual respect caught the headlines. However, it is obvious that India's concepts of the manner in which international relations should be conducted, amassed of: Panchsheel, nonviolence, nonalignment, neutralism, cooperation with the United Nations, and compassion for freedom and equality for the peoples of Asia and of course the World.

More about NAM:
[Non-Aligned Movement ]
Non-Aligned Movement Summit is to be held in Azerbaijan in June 2019.

The Non-Aligned Movement was formed during the Cold War as an organization of States that did not seek to formally align themselves with either the United States or the Soviet Union, but sought to remain independent or neutral.

The basic concept for the group originated in 1955 during discussions that took place at the Asia-Africa Bandung Conference held in Indonesia.

The first NAM Summit Conference took place in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, in September 1961.

It has 120 members as on April 2018 comprising 53 countries from Africa, 39 from Asia, 26 from Latin America and the Caribbean and 2 from Europe (Belarus, Azerbaijan). There are 17 countries and 10 international organizations that are Observers at NAM.

The Non-Aligned Movement was founded and held its first conference (the Belgrade Conference) in 1961 under the leadership of Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, and Sukarno of Indonesia.

The purpose of the organization was enumerated in Havana Declaration of 1979 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 subjugation.

During the cold war era the NAM played a vital role in stabilizing the world order and preserving peace and security. Non alignment of NAM doesn't mean the neutrality of state on global issues, it was always a peaceful intervention in world politics.

As J.L Nehru was founding members, the principles of NAM was largely guided by Panchsheel principles, some of them are:
  • Respect for the principles enshrined in the charter of the United Nations and international law.
  • Respect for sovereignty, sovereign equality and territorial integrity of all States.
  • Peaceful settlement of all international conflicts in accordance with the charter of the United Nations.
  • Respect for the political, economic, social and cultural diversity of countries and peoples.
  • Defense and promotion of shared interests, justice and cooperation, regardless of the differences existing in the political, economic and social systems of the States, on the basis of mutual respect and the equality of rights.
  • Respect for the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense, in accordance with the charter of the United Nations.
  • Non-interference in the internal affairs of States. No State or group of States has the right to intervene either directly or indirectly, whatever the motive, in the internal affairs of any other State.
  • Promotion and defenses of multilateralism and multilateral organizations as the appropriate frameworks to resolve, through dialogue and cooperation, the problems affecting humankind.


NAM has sought to "create an independent path in world politics that would not result in member States becoming pawns in the struggles between the major powers." It identifies the right of independent judgment, the struggle against imperialism and neo-colonialism, and the use of moderation in relations with all big powers as the three basic elements that have influenced its approach. At present, an additional goal is facilitating a restructuring of the international economic order.

NAM in Cold War Era:

  • Against Apartheid: The evil of apartheid was massively prevalent in African countries like South Africa, it was on the agenda of NAM right from the first conference. During the 2nd NAM conference at Cairo, the government of South Africa was warned against the discriminatory practices of apartheid.
  • Disarmament: The Non-aligned Movement repeatedly comes out for maintenance of peace, 'the cessation of arms race and the peaceful coexistence of all States. In the General Assembly, India submitted a draft resolution declaring that the use of nuclear weapons would be against the charter of the United Nations and crime against humanity and should therefore be prohibited.
  • UNSC reforms: Right from its inception NAM was in favor of UNSC reforms, it was against the domination of US and USSR. It wanted the representation of third world countries to make UNSC more democratic. Members echoed with the same demand at 17th NAM conference at Venezuela.
  • Failed to resolve regional tensions: In the era of cold war the tension in South Asia escalated due to regional conflict between India- China and India-Pakistan. NAM failed to avoid tensions in the region, that further led to the nuclearization of the region.

India's Position
India being a founder and largest member in NAM was an active participant in NAM meetings till 1970s but India's inclination towards erstwhile USSR created confusions in smaller members. It led to the weakening of NAM and small nations drifted towards either US or USSR.

Further disintegration of USSR led the unipolar world order dominated by US. India's New Economic Policy and inclination towards US raised questions over India's seriousness over non alignment.

Prime Minister of India skipped the 17th Non Aligned Movement (NAM) summit held in Venezuela in 2016, it was only second such instance when Head of a state didn't participate in NAM conference.

Moreover, NAM continued losing relevance for India in a unipolar world, especially after the founding members failed to support India during crisis. For instance, during 1962 War with China, Ghana and Indonesia, adopted explicitly pro-China positions. During 1965 and 1971 wars, Indonesia and Egypt took an anti India stance and supported Pakistan.

India in particular, but also most other NAM countries, have integrated themselves to varying degrees within the liberal economic order and have benefited from it.

India is a member of the G20 and has declared itself as a nuclear weapons power and has for all practical purposes abandoned the call for global nuclear disarmament.

India has also engaged itself with new and old global powers. India joining the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, a coalition seen by many as a counterforce to China's rise in the Indo-Pacific and Shanghai cooperation organisation led by China shown India's balancing approach in new world order.

India is striving hard for a multipolar world order and asserting itself as one of the player. Multi polar world order is very much closed to NAM principles.

Emerging Global Order:
  • World has again moved towards bi-polarity, one led by US and other by China-Russia. The war torn Syria is prime example of this, where both US and Russia are asserting power.
  • The escalating tension in Indo-Pacific region due to China's assertion and US acting as a counterweight to check the Chinese expansionist policy.
  • The large scale migration in Europe and Asia due to the unstable regimes and ethnic conflict in different parts of the world.
  • Issue of global climate change and occurrence of catastrophic disasters raising demand to form global consensus to deal with it.
  • Changing US policies, protectionism, prevalent terrorism, and nuclearization of the Middle East.
  • Formation of multiple regional economic groupings like TPP and RCEP and fading away of multilateral bodies WTO from the global arena.

Relevance of NAM

NAM continues to hold relevance as a platform and due to its principles.

World peace: NAM has played an active role in preserving world peace.It still stands by its founding principles, idea and purpose i.e. to establish the peaceful and prosperous world. It prohibited invasion of any country, promoted disarmament and a sovereign world order.
  • Territorial integrity and sovereignty: NAM stands with this principle and proved its repeated relevance with the idea of preserving the independence of every nation.
  • Third World nations: Third world countries fighting against socio-economic problems since they have been exploited for a long time by other developed nations, NAM acted as a protector for these small countries against the western hegemony.
  • Support of UN: NAM's total strength compromises of 118 developing countries and most of them being a member of UN General Assembly. It represents two third members of general assembly, hence NAM members act as important vote blocking group in UN.
  • Equitable world order: NAM promotes equitable world order. It can act as a bridge between the political and ideological differences existing in the international environment.
  • Interest of developing countries: If disputes arise between developed and developing nation at any point of a concerned topic for example WTO, then NAM act as a platform which negotiates and conclude disputes peacefully securing the favorable decisions for each member nation.
  • Cultural diversity and human rights: In the environment of gross human right violation, it can provide a platform to raise such issues and resolve the same through its principles.
  • Sustainable development: NAM supported the concept of sustainable development and can lead the world toward sustainability. Can be used as larger platform to make consensus on global burning issues like climate change, migration and global terrorism.
  • Economic growth: The countries of NAM has inherent assets, such as a favourable demography, demand and favourable location. The cooperation can lead them to higher and sustainable economic growth. Can be an alternative to regional groupings like TPP and RCEP.

Way Forward:
  • NAM as a concept can never be irrelevant, principally it provides a strong base to foreign policy of its members.
  • It should be seen as "Strategic Autonomy", which is the need of the hour of today's world. The principles of NAM still can guide the nations towards it.
  • NAM is a platform where India can assert its soft power and provide an active leadership and by being a torchbearer for smaller countries at multilateral platforms.
  • The conference of Heads of the State or Government of the Non-Aligned Countries, often referred to as Non-Aligned Movement Summit is to be held in Azerbaijan in June 2019. Platform should be used for consensus making on spectrum of global issues.
  • It should be used as a platform to raise global issues like terrorism, climate change and trade protectionism and others.
  • NAM platform can be used to garner support by South-East Asian countries like Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines against Chinese assertion in South China Sea and related island and border disputes.
  • NAM can provide a platform for Afro-Asian cooperation and a strong position for poor African nation to have healthy negotiations with China and US for economic development without compromising the sovereignty of their land.

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