In the contemporary international circumstances non-alignment or to put it more precisely its
role and usefulness in general has become a highly controversial issue, certainly more so than
earlier. Thus, the movement is passing through a critical period in its life. It finds itself today
at the crossroad and seems to be finding it difficult to comprehend the path it has to rake. It is
trying to find its identity, reorient its perception and endeavor to determine the role it has
to play in the changed context of international relations. This has resulted in a heated debate
about the validity and contemporary relevance of NAM and non-alignment as foreign policy
behavior in this post cold war “unipolar world”.
According to the critics, NAM is no longer relevant because of the changed international
environment. It is engaged that the policy of Non-alignment had some utility in the period of
cold war bipolarity, because it was child of cold war in the reaction of certain countries to the
cold war. The two main contenders for political ascendancy had almost reached the point of
extermination. It was the desire to preserve independence as distinct from merely formal
sovereignty, which led some nation to resist absorption into one or the other power blocks.
Presently the international system is no longer bipolar and the cold war is over, so what is its
relevance today is a great question.
In spite all the above statements regarding its irrelevance, the relevance of NAM in
international affairs is unquestionable. As a matter of fact, the policy of Non-Alignment was
not wholly related to a bipolar world and the cold war between the two super powers and the
block they lead. It just happened that the Non-Alignment flowered in the immediate post-world
war. Therefore, whatever the world is bi-polar or multipolar or unipolar, non-alignment as a
foreign policy choice option of the small Third World countries will remain valid. In other
words the policy will last as long as the sovereign nation system last.
The declaration of the Jakarta Summit conference 1992 assured, NAM has contributed to the
ending of bipolar in the world and to the elimination of the cold war. These new developments
have in fact fully vindicated the validity and relevance of Non-Alignment. They affirmed NAM’s
role is ensuring” its full participation in the building of the new world order”. No wonder,
then that the membership of the NAM has more than quadrupled from about 25 states in 1961 to
The relevance of NAM continues as it looks after the interest of all Third World countries for
which the movement was created. The beginning of the Non-Alignment can be traced to
Afro-Asian resurgence as a reaction against European colonial systems and prior to that in the
struggle of underdeveloped countries against the hegemony of great European powers since the
birth of nation state system. Just when these countries begin to gain independence, they found
themselves in bipolar worlds. Seeking membership of either block meant compromised on
newly owned freedom by sovereign states, as well as an increased in international tensions,
which is turned threatened the prospects of development- socio-economic and political.
Although the term Third World has lost currency since the 1970s when other terms, such as
‘underdeveloped countries’, ‘developing countries’, and ‘South’ or ‘Global South’, became more
widely used, revisiting the term conveys a sense of the conceptual foundations on which nonalignment rests.
As Nehru’s brainchild, in essence non-alignment means the pursuit of equality in world
affairs through pooling the diplomatic resources of Third World states in international
forums. Equality should here be understood in political-economic terms.NAM was a front of
political solidarity by supporting liberation struggles and making abstinence from military
pacts or alliances a criterion of membership.
Nevertheless, NAM together with the Group of 77 (G77–largely made up of NAM members)
succeeded to keep Third World issues on the agenda in most UN forums and agencies due to
their numerical strength. In the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation
(UNESCO), NAM and the G77 promoted the New World Information and Communication
Order (NWICO) to rectify the perceived imbalances in information and communication
flows between the North and the South.
The end of the cold war has ended a period of strategic confrontations but an era of stable
global peace is yet to be created. In fact the cold war is dead but not the regional conflicts and
crises. The East-West conflict has dissolved but intense economic and technological
competition is emerging among several strong nations. The Non-Alignment countries have to
learn to maneuver among them and to successfully face the menace of new colonialism that is
sought to be imposed through various WTO rounds. Thus, the NAM continues to be
relevant so long as there is exploitation, war, hunger, poverty and disease on the earth.
The uniqueness of NAM lies in the fact that its goals do not merely serve the national interest of
member state but it stand to promote the cause humanity. They are universalistic in nature. It
would not be an exaggeration to say that recent positive developments on international scene
reflect the spirit of NAM.
NAM is progressively putting more emphasis on economic independence. The NonAlignment nations have been demanding for a legitimate share in world trades. The determination of the quality and quantity of foreign aid from developed to developing countries is also task for the Non-Alignment nation. Economic cooperation between developed and developing states forms part of the threefold strategy advocated by the NAM. These stands are:
reliance on their resources, promotion of cooperation among non-alignment states
themselves, fostering cooperation with the advanced states, with the subjects of promoting
self reliance as would restrict exploitation and contribute towards resolution of the problems of
world economy as a whole.
The fundamental concern of NAM has always been with global question of decolonization and
consolidation of freedom, disarmament and development of economies through mutual
cooperation as well as through a more equitable and just new international economic order. All
these are interrelated and to make the package of peace and prosperity for humanity.
Perhaps the most important role for NAM today lies in framing a concrete economic agenda
for a just and fair international economic order. The globalization and liberalization trends
worldwide have generated complex economic problems. The rich-poor divide has widened. The
WTO rules and procedures have failed to provide adequate economic gains to the Third World.
WTO summits have failed to reach a consensus on many issues. Its role in WTO negotiations to
advance and protect the trading rights and opportunities of developing countries and in muscling
up their negotiating position and skills would be the chief concerns. It should strive to reform
and reorient the globalization process through a strong developmental agenda. NAM has an
effective role to play in this regard provided member countries try to see the benefits from a
unified angle without any partisan considerations.
In 2007, Rejecting the US contention that Non-Aligned Movement has “lost its meaning”,
India quickly asserted that its relevance continues in promoting democratization of the
international system and New Delhi was committed to its ideals. External Affairs Ministry said
India’s “firm and abiding commitment” to non-alignment could not be questioned. “The NonAligned Movement played a significant role in ending apartheid and colonialism. Today, itsrelevance continues in promoting South-South cooperation and democratization of the international system.
NAM must play the positive role in making the globalization inclusive and must strive to
achieve a faire, just international economic order.