Non-Alignment is a conception that sees formal association with any alliance as reducing the freedom of a third world nation. President Kenneth Kuanda of Zambia elaborated this conception in the following words:
¡°Non-Alignment is a determination to preserve independence, sovereignty and to respect that sovereignty and independence in other states and to decline to take sides in the major ideological struggles that rend the world¡¦¡¦¡¦¡¦. We will not hitch our carriage to any nation's engine and be drawn along their railway line.¡±
The Non-alignment concept preceded the birth of the movement by at least fifteen years. It was enunciated more than 40 years ago by Jawaharlal Nehru as a basic tenet of Indian foreign policy. The essence of Nehru Doctrine was steering clear of the two big power blocs. Judging each issue on its own merits and maximizing one's options by maintaining good relations with both superpowers.
Nehru's lead was soon followed by almost all other countries emerging from the slough of colonialism into the sunshine of freedom. During the era when thanks to the dynamics of decolonization, non-alignment was winning many Asian and African adherents there was a certain inevitable intertwining between non-alignment and the movement of Afro-Asian solidarity.
The major first attempt to promote joint action toward common goals among the Asian and African nations was made between April 18 and April 24, 1955, when the political leaders of 29 Asian and African nations met in the Indonesian mountain city of Bandung, 75 miles southeast of Jakarta, in an effort to formulate common aspirations. The meeting did not eventuate, nor was it intended to, in any new bloc, alliance or coalition. Nevertheless it did furnish an occasion for important contacts and new departures in world affairs and for an enhanced sense of solidarity among people recently liberated from colonial rule.
The non-aligned movement was formally launched in 1961 in Cairo with P.M Jawaharlal Nehru of India, President Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt and President Tito of Yugoslavia as its co-founders. NAM owes its origin to three main factors: The end of the colonial system of Imperialism after WW II which gave rise to a large number of new states. These new states became the charter-members of NAM. The onset of cold war between the USSR and the West and the consequent setting up of two power blocs. NAM was a forceful response to this bipolarity. The emergence of charismatic leaders in the new states who firmly believed in pursuing an independent policy in world politics.
NAM has been defined in terms of four ¡°Ds¡± that is Decolonization, Disarmament, Development and Détente. NAM is a struggle against imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, apartheid and against all kinds of aggression, occupation, domination, interference in internal affairs and against the policy of the big powers to consolidate the division of the world into blocs.
Ironically, non-alignment in the early years at least was not popular in the Soviet Union or China. Stalin thought it to be a ploy to side with the West, while Mao Zedong thundered that a
¡°Third road simply does not exist¡±.
The Soviet Union was the first to change its view and recognize non-alignment's popularity and potential. China ultimately came to the same conclusion but through a much longer and tortuous path.
US feelings towards the non-aligned states have alternated from bitter hostility to benign indifference and then back to disdain. Underlying US and Western antipathy to the movement is the complaint that it tended to be soft on the Soviet Union and hard on the West. The grouse, though often exaggerated cannot be dismissed out of hand. The cautious wording of the movement's criticism of the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan for example does contrast with the stridency of the movement's condemnation of the comparable US actions.
Next only to the UN, the non-aligned movement is the largest international forum with a character and modalities of its own. Though predominantly an Afro-Asian force during more than decades of its activity, the movement has been constantly expanding, maturing and gaining strength. Today it can claim to be the largest single force with a membership of 118. It represents more than half of the human race and two thirds of the world's sovereign states.
In the first decade (from Belgrade 1961 to Lusaka 1970) NAM was mainly preoccupied by issues of political independence and East-West tension. The non-aligned countries extended positive support to Nationalist movements throughout the third world. They acted as mediators and arbitrators in specific inter state disputes and as bridges between blocs. They acted as the spokesmen of the subject people and criticized their exploitation by imperialist powers. The examples of Congo and Indo-China are the cases in hand. The NAM received a severe blow with the Sino-Indian war in 1962 and death of Nehru 1964. With the near completion of the process of decolonization in 1970 and the phasing out of East-West Confrontation, NAM had to shift the focus of its attention to issues economic development. By the 1970s, it had become apparent that economic dependence affected political development and that place in global economy meant place in the world system as a whole. The third world demand for international development and democratization produced the new international order (NIEO) debate. The NAM advocated NIEO as it saw it as a goal for its own unity and effectiveness and as a mean to put pressure on the rich. The non-aligned countries pledged themselves to cooperate more actively among themselves and with other developing countries to improve their economic status and increase their bargaining power. and thus to enhance the political effectiveness of the third world.
The decades of 1980s had been marked by the twin crises of intervention and economic depression, besides the issues of underdevelopment. Of the 25 wars that raged in the 1980s at least 13 directly involved members of NAM. Two saddest examples of these conflicts had been the Iran-Iraq war and the Kampuchean-Vietnam war. The failure of NAM to halt those conflicts, not only underscored the rampant paralysis in the movement but also its ineffectiveness to ensure international peace. The Belgrade Summit 1989 focused more on the economic issues of third world debt, trade and technology. Its final declaration emphasized that a détente devoid of economic content is unlikely to endure. It also decided to create G.15 after G-7 and emphasized south-south cooperation.
Today, the movement is caught between contradictory pulls, the lofty ideals of peace and justice and the imperatives of the national interests of its leading members. One of the pioneer of the movement i.e. India voted against one of the NAM member i.e. Iran in the IAEA Board of Governors meeting, ostensibly to preserve its deal on the transfer of nuclear technology by a super power to whom NAM showed aversion during the Cold War era.
The problem of unity in the movement has been further compounded by the absence of strong charismatic leadership. It is a measure of the dilution of the movement that more than half of its members were directly or indirectly tied with either of the two super powers in the cold war rivalry. Its sermons on disarmament match poorly with the fact that some of the biggest arms importers are among its prominent members. Its image has greatly been damaged by the violation of international law by its own members. While the organization was intended to be as close an alliance as NATO or the Warsaw Pact, it has little cohesion and many of its members were aligned with one or another of the great powers. For example, Cuba was closely aligned with the former Soviet Union during the Cold War era. India was effectively aligned with the Soviet Union against China for many years. The movement fractured from its own internal contradictions when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979. While the client states of the Soviet Union fully supported the invasion, other members (particularly the Muslim states) of the movement found it impossible to do so. The Non-Aligned Movement has struggled to find relevance since the end of the Cold
War. The successor states of Yugoslavia, a founding member, have expressed little interest in the NAM since the country's break-up, and in 2004, Malta and Cyprus ceased to be members of the NAM when they joined the European Union. Malta and Cyprus now have the status of observer.
One other problem of the NAM is that it has become too large and unwieldy, and since it has no institutional mechanism like UN, it is a poor second as a force in world politics.
In view of these conditions, the onset of new millennium could well mark the acceleration of the process of political decay that had already beset the movement. The need of the hour is to resolve political and economic strife, to stop the use of coercion among the members and not to acquiesce the use of force against the NAM members.
The post-cold war era, particularly the period after 9/11 is important for NAM for it has to justify its existence. Now when the world is no longer bipolar, NAM is looked upon many as an anachronism. The same problem was a matter for concern for the leaders of NAM when they met at Nicosia in 1993. Besides, third world debt, economic issues and the changed geo-strategic environment were discussed. They clamoured for NIEO more vociferously than ever. The Durbin Summit Meeting 1998 was important for many reasons. Firstly, South Africa once the epicenter of apartheid policy got the honor of hosting the meeting, secondly the legendary Nelsen Mandela was the belle Donna of the entire proceedings and thirdly the meeting was being held after the nuclear explosions of the two South Asian neighbours. It was against this backdrop that Mandela served a diplomatic blow to India by acknowledging the gravity of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan, and by expressing willingness on behalf of the international community to extend every possible help in order to help resolve this issue.
It was at Durban that the idea of Bandung II was conceived. It is true that NAM played a key strategic role in galvanizing the third world countries to pursue on an independent course during cold war but now they faced the prospect of becoming irrelevant in the post-cold war ear in the new uni-polar world of the 21st century. Thirteenth NAM Summit that was held at Kualalampur (Feb 20-25, 2003 was to deal with this big question and to justify its existence. Malaysia was the chair. Foreign Minster of Malaysia Hamidal Bar expressed concern at the obtaining situation in the Middle East and called for the deployment of an international situation to grapple with the situation. The big challenge before the member countries during the Bandung II Conference 2005 was to revitalize NAM so that it can perform the role of new rallying point for the developing countries to protect their interests against the tide of globalization and seek structural reforms in the UN to allow the third world a voice in all political and economic negotiations. It must be countervailing force to the monopoly on power now exercised by G 8, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, each with a veto power, the Britton Woods institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank and the vastly enlarged NATO and the European Union.
The 14th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement Summit meeting in held at Havana in 2006 ended in consensus on all issues discussed in what is seen as a renewal of this group of nations of the South, with Cuba as its president for the next three years. The defense of international law was to be its main task over the next three years. According to statements made by Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque in a press conference held at the closing ceremony of the Summit, ¡°Havana Summit has revived the organization¡±. The 14th NAM Summit brought together 56 heads of state and government of member nations, along with 90 foreign ministers, 8 representatives from observer nations - including the president of Croatia for a total of 118 nations. Of these, 84 took the podium during the summit.
The 15th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement will be held in Egypt on 11 to 16 of July, 2009. 118 country members of the Movement, that comprises the majority of the countries of the world, will discuss what have been accomplished since the 14th Summit Meeting in Havana, Cuba, and what they intent to achieve in the next three years under the Presidency of the Arab Republic of Egypt. It is time for NAM to reclaim itself. Its voice would be heard if it represents the united strength of its members. However to make its voice heard and intervention effective NAM needs to be institutionalized. It has no Secretariat, no HQs, no Secretary General and so no institutional mechanism