7 PM Editorial |The foreign Policy Tenet After Non-Alignment| 9th September 2020

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The foreign Policy Tenet After Non-Alignment

Overview – The relevance of non-alignment as a foreign policy and future Indo-US relations.


The Foreign Minister said recently that non-alignment was a concept for a specific era and a particular context. He however also said that independent decision making which stemmed from NAM, remained a factor in Indian foreign policy. This is as explicit as saying that NAM as a foreign policy concept is dead.

Non-Alignment: It was a policy fashioned during the Cold War, to retain an autonomy of policy between two politico-military blocs- the Soviet and the American. It provided a platform for newly independent developing nations to join together to protect this autonomy. It broadly united around NAM’s flagship campaigns for de-colonisation, universal nuclear disarmament and against apartheid.
Why does the NAM seem irrelevant now?
  1. The soviet bloc was disbanded at the end of the cold war. This meant that there is no middle ground between two poles.
  2. Decolonisationhas been almost complete by the time of the disbanding of Soviet.
  3. The apartheid regime in South Africawas also dismantled.
  4. The campaign for universal nuclear disarmamentis going nowhere.

Freed from the shackles of the Cold War, the NAM countries were able to diversify their network of relationships across the erstwhile east-west divide. Non-alignment lost its relevance, and NAM its original raison d’être.

What after non-alignment for India?

A universally accepted successor to non-alignment policy has not been found. Successive formulations have been coined and rejected. This includes:

  1. Strategic autonomy: It soon acquired a connotation similar to non-alignment, with an anti-U.S. tint.
  2. Multi-alignment: It conveys the impression of opportunismwhereas India seeks strategic convergences.
  3. Issue based Partnerships: It is a description that has not stuck.

Advancing prosperity and influence” was a description the foreign minister settled for, to describe the aspirations that our network of international partnerships seeks to further. However, the recent clashes with China has broken the strategic stand of India.

What change does the recent China clashes call for in the foreign policy?

To counter China, there have been calls for India’s foreign policy to shed its inhibitions and make a decisive shift towards the United States. However, the foreign minister rejected saying India will not rush towards an alliance.

Why is alliance not an option?
  1. Alliance is as much a cold war concept as non-alignment. Ideological convergence and an existential military threatserved as factors for alliance.
  2. Disintegration of the Warsaw pact meant that the international options of alliance partners widened, just like those of NAM countries.
  3. The strategic interests of alliance partners are no longer congruent. The strains in NATO over the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, for example, or on policy towards Russia or West Asia have periodically surfaced.

Alliances in the Asia-Pacific face a bigger definitional dilemma. They were originally forged to deter the USSR. The threat to the alliance partners today is from an assertive China, which they are reluctant to define as a strategic adversary, because of their economic engagement with it and the huge military asymmetry.

Where does India’s interests lie among these?
  1. India’s geostrategic imperativecalls for securing the economic and security interests in Indo-Pacific. Act East policy, engagement with East Asia and shared India-US interests in the maritime domain are manifestations of the imperative.
  2. Indian and U.S. perspectives are less convergent in India’s continental neighbourhood in the near term. Connectivity and cooperation with Afghanistan and Central Asia need engagement with Iran and Russia.
  3. Also strong India-Russia relations may deter strong Russia-China relations where China stands the adversarial neighbour.
So where does the future of Indo-US relations lie?

A group of U.S. strategic analysts had suggested that the U.S. should see ties with India as a joint venture (not an alliance), in which they could pursue shared objectives to mutual benefit and accept that differences of perspectives will have to be addressed. This could be the template for wider applicability in bilateral relations.


The world order of today has been described as militarily unipolar, economically multipolar and politically confused. COVID-19 may scramble the economics and deepen the confusion further. India will acquire a larger global profile next year, when it commences a two-year term on the UN Security Council. The strategic choices that it makes in its bilateral partnerships will be closely watched.

Source: The Hindu

Mains Question:
  1. What is the relevance of non-alignment as a foreign policy for India? Discuss. Also how far do you think that India should shed its non-alignment and ally with the US?
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