The rationale behind non-alignment

Published : Nov 24, 2001 00:00 IST

Non-Aligned Movement: Extending Frontiers edited by Pramila Srivastava, Kanishka Publishers, New Delhi; pages 211, Rs.495.

THE essays in this volume have been written in memory of Dr. Govind Narain Srivastava (1950-1999) who was the founder-Director of the Institute of Non-Aligned Studies, New Delhi. The institute is 21 years old and has offices in New York, Geneva and Vienna. Well-known scholars and diplomats have contributed to this book - K.P. Mishra, N. Krishnan, M.S. Rajan, H.S. Chhabra.

This book could not have appeared at a more appropriate time. The relevance of non-alignment and the Non-Aligned Movement is being vigorously questioned by a host of superficial, shallow, pseudo-intellectuals who have not bothered to or are incapable of comprehending the meaning of non-alignment and the rationale behind it. Indira Gandhi once said:

The Non-Aligned Movement is not a mere or casual collection of individual States. It is a vital historical process. It is a commingling of many historical, spiritual and cultural streams.

One of the contributors, N. Krishnan, has provided the most solid and satisfying argument for non-alignment. Krishnan was a highly regarded member of the Indian Foreign Service and an expert on multilateral diplomacy and international organisations. In his essay he highlights the problems the Movement faces in a world in which globalisation is the new mantra. With almost clinical objectivity he tells us that India did not come to non-alignment as some other countries did on account of their differences with either of the two superpowers. It is silly to ask, non-aligned against whom? We were and are non-aligned - ab initio. One has only to read what Nehru said at the Haripura Congress session in 1938 or on becoming vice-president of the interim government in September 1946. Our non-alignment predates Bandung (1956), Brioni (1956) and Belgrade (1961). The term non-alignment was not used by India in the earlier years. Our approach was to keep out of military alliances and blocs and be with the liberated peoples of Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe.

The Cold War has ended but, as N. Krishnan reminds us, "peace in the world is still threatened by forces of extremism, discord, aggressive nationalism and terrorism and large stocks of weapons of mass destruction." He further tells us that the "dynamics of globalisation have produced a whole set of new problems which the Non-Aligned Movement must take note of". The trends are not encouraging:

While the developing world is largely supportive of mutually beneficial global integration, it has major concerns which are not being addressed in the (new) global agenda. These are equitable balance between rights and obligations of investors, particularly multinationals, extra-territorial application of domestic laws, intrusive and calculated invoking of human rights, and conditionalities of environmental protection and preservation and opening up of national economies tied to grant of aid and trade concessions. Non-aligned countries are increasingly exposed to pressures to conform to an agenda which is being defined and driven by others.

Here, for the past decade India has not been doing its bit. NAM provides the ideal forum to oppose inroads being made - disregarding the U.N. and diluting the authority of the Security Council by ignoring or simply bypassing it. Insidious theories of curtailed sovereignty are being hawked by (we know whom) to justify humanitarian intervention to restore civil order inside sovereign states. Some have been termed "rogue states" by some of the greatest rogue states in history. Just listen to Professor Noam Chomsky and you will see what I mean. This is where India should take the lead and revitalise NAM, give it direction, coherence and efficiency. The NAM leaders should "close ranks" and articulate unitedly their common concerns and not let a handful of industrialised countries try to run the world.

This is not to suggest that all is well with the non-aligned countries. Far from it. Several non-aligned countries are in a mess, others are destroying weaker neighbours. AIDS is rampant in Sub-Saharan Africa. Corruption is a way of life in many countries. 'Ethnic cleansing' is the euphemism for mass murders, just as 'collateral damage' is for killing innocent women and children. Democracy is distorted and misused. All this needs correcting. It can be, it must be. If it is not, then NAM will be in trouble. We must put our houses in order.

NOW, to the relevance part. It has become fashionable in certain pernicious quarters to be dismissive of the importance and relevance of NAM. These unworthies are the chattering, nattering, shady individuals, who when asked, "Why is NATO relevant; the Cold War is over, the Warsaw Pact has packed up?", just melt away. They have no answer. There is no answer. I have seen this uninspiring sight with my own eyes. All countries have their fair share of dedicated frauds, but India's metropolitan cities have an excess of this tribe. They hang around Western embassies and consulates, singing praises of the insidious market, all the way to Chanakyapuri in New Delhi. It is not a pretty sight.

Non-alignment is not a doctrine. It is not a dogma. It is a process. It is a way of looking at issues in a particular way. It is a need, not a creed. It is against hegemony, against arm-twisting by the powerful ("if you are not with us, then you are against us") and the mighty. No, India cannot and will never be a client state or a camp-follower, the Jaswant Singhs and the George Fernandeses notwithstanding.

This is a useful book. And it has come out at the right time.

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