Non-alignment: Non-alignment has been the central pillar of India’s foreign policy, which served its objectives and goals in international arena. Nehru realized that India was destined to aspire for its rightful voice in world affairs given its great civilization and gigantic geography in one of the prime regions of the world. Also, the recent hard-won freedom from colonial rule would be meaningless if India did not establish an independent voice among comity of nations. Thus, independent foreign policy was more of an imperative than a compulsion or a choice. Nehru’s understanding was that India and other poor countries of Asia and Africa would not gain anything but lose out miserably by joining either of the military blocks of that time. According to him, instead of focusing on fight against poverty, illiteracy and diseases, they would end up being used as pawns in the war of no relevance to them. India’s interests was in expanding ‘area of peace’ and not of war or conflicts. Therefore, India neither joined any of the military pacts of capitalist countries, such as SEATO, CENTO, Baghdad Pact or Manila Treaty; nor the Warsaw Pact of the socialist block. India provided leadership to newly independent Asian and African nations in denying joining any of the military blocks that would had been tantamount to compromising their sovereignty. Nehru proclaimed, “We propose, as far as possible, to keep away from the power politics of groups, aligned against one another, which have led in the past to World Wars and which may again lead to disasters on a very large scale.”
However, non-alignment was not merely staying away from the military blocks or ideological camps, but it was the freedom to decide each issue on its merits, to weigh what was right or wrong and then take a stand in favour of the right. To quote Nehru, “So far all these evil forces of fascism, colonialism and racialism or the nuclear bomb and aggression and suppression are concerned, we stand most emphatically and unequivocally committed against them ….. We are unaligned only in relation to the cold war with its military pacts. We object to all this business of forcing new nations of Africa and Asia into their cold war machine. Otherwise, we are free to condemn any development which we consider wrong or harmful to the world or ourselves and we use that freedom every time the occasion arises.” Nehru further explained, “…….. where freedom is menaced or justice is threatened or where aggression takes place, we can not and shall not be neutral….. Our policy is not neutralist, but one of active endeavor to preserve and, if possible, establish peace on firm foundation.” Thus, non-alignment was not a policy of isolation or inaction. In fact, it was a positive policy designed to promote national sovereignty and international peace.
There had been concrete instances where India adopted positions according to the merit of the concerned issue. For example, in recognizing West Germany and voting in the UN to declare North Korea as invader at the start of the Korean War, India looked like siding with the capitalist block. However, during the same period, India recognized the Communist government in China and disapproved the American-led counter-assault on
North Korean territories. Also, it stood in solidarity with freedom struggles in various Afro-Asian countries and severely criticized colonial powers for their oppressive rules. In such instances, it shared positions with the Soviet Block. Thus, on each occasion, India took a stand against those threatening international peace and dishonoring people’s wishes. The USSR was quick to shed its biases against India and comprehended its genuine positions based on principles of non-alignment. The Western powers took it a long to understand genuineness of India’s non-alignment policy. Nonetheless, India continued to develop relations with all the major powers and countries in both the camps. This has paved dividends in terms of receiving aid, military equipment and technological know-how from both the blocks. For example, India received all the technical assistance from the USSR in setting up its first steel plant at Bhilai, which was followed by German and British assistance respectively to set up next two Steel Plants. In arms purchases for its national security needs, India had spread its net wide open. Even though the USSR became India’s single largest defense equipment supplier by mid-1960s, it also purchased substantial arms from UK, US and France. While India received the USSR backing in the UN Security Council on Kashmir issue, the US had supported it in its endeavor to usher in the Green Revolution to solve the food crisis in the country. Thus, suspicion about India’s international positions eventually gave way to co-operation and friendship with countries from both sides of the divide.
The grand success of India’s non-alignment could be measured from the fact that majority of the poor and developing countries from all parts of the world adopted the similar policy and all of them joined hands to constitute the Non-Aligned Movement against the hegemony of both the ideological blocks during the Cold War period. In 1961 in Belgrade, Nehru stood in unison with Egypt’s Nasser and Yugoslavia’s Tito to provide leadership to non-aligned countries in the world.