The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is a forum of countries that emerged during the context of decolonization and the Cold War, refusing to align with either of the two power blocs. It provided India with a strong ideological basis, promoting peace, self-determination, and strategic autonomy in its foreign policy.

Ideological Basis for India’s Foreign Policy through NAM:

  • Balancing Dichotomy: NAM helped India, a democratic nation with a socialist economic system, navigate the complexities of the Cold War by avoiding alignment with either the USA or the USSR, thus maintaining its non-aligned status.
  • Example: India’s socialist economic policies and commitment to democracy were compatible with NAM’s principles, allowing it to avoid ideological confrontation with either superpower.
  • Defense of Democracy: NAM emphasized the defense and consolidation of democracy, ensuring the free will of all states and safeguarding their independence from external pressures.
  • Example: India, as a democratic nation, found common ground with NAM in advocating for the protection of democratic principles on the global stage.
  • Recognition of Equality: NAM promoted the equality of all races, religions, cultures, and nations, irrespective of their size or power, aligning with India’s commitment to inclusivity and respect for diversity.
  • Example: India’s pluralistic society and commitment to secularism resonated with NAM’s emphasis on recognizing the equal worth of all nations.
  • Promotion of Tolerance and Freedom: NAM encouraged dialogue between different cultures, civilizations, and religions to foster tolerance and freedom of belief, reflecting India’s secular and pluralistic ethos.
  • Example: India’s history of embracing various cultures and religions found commonality with NAM’s goal of promoting understanding and harmony among nations.

Strategic Basis for India’s Foreign Policy through NAM:

  • Sovereignty and Territorial Integrity: NAM upheld the principles of sovereignty, sovereign equality, and territorial integrity for all states, regardless of their size or geopolitical influence.
  • Example: India, as a nation deeply valuing its independence, found support in NAM’s stance on respecting the sovereignty of all nations.
  • Right to Self-Defense: NAM recognized the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense, in line with the United Nations Charter, providing India with a strategic platform to safeguard its security interests.
  • Example: India’s focus on maintaining a strong defense capability and its commitment to non-aggression aligned with NAM’s principle of self-defense.
  • Peaceful Conflict Resolution: NAM emphasized the peaceful settlement of international conflicts, in accordance with the United Nations Charter, enabling India to advocate for diplomacy and dialogue in resolving disputes.
  • Example: India’s role as a promoter of peace and mediation efforts found support within NAM’s commitment to peaceful conflict resolution.
  • Strategic Autonomy: NAM offered India a strategic space to pursue actions in its national interest independently, avoiding entanglements in great power rivalries during the Cold War.
  • Example: India’s decision to maintain non-alignment allowed it to pursue policies based on its own interests, irrespective of the pressures from major power blocs.

Points of Convergence between NAM and India’s World View:

  • Non-adherence to Military Pacts: NAM countries avoided joining multilateral military pacts to prevent being drawn into power struggles between superpowers.
  • Example: India’s refusal to join military alliances and its pursuit of strategic autonomy resonated with NAM’s stance on avoiding military entanglements.
  • Independence from Power Politics: NAM nations sought to remain independent from influences of major power blocs and assert their own interests.
  • Example: India’s commitment to non-alignment and its pursuit of an independent foreign policy aligned with NAM’s objective of avoiding power politics.
  • Pursuit of Disarmament: Both NAM and India emphasized the importance of disarmament and the establishment of zones of peace.
  • Example: India’s calls for nuclear disarmament and support for arms control mirrored NAM’s commitment to disarmament initiatives.
  • Opposition to Colonialism and Foreign Occupation: NAM and India shared a common stance against colonialism, neo-colonialism, and foreign occupation.
  • Example: India’s historical struggle for independence and its support for decolonization found resonance within NAM’s anti-colonial principles.

Controversies and Challenges with NAM’s Utility:

  • Accusations of Bias: India faced criticism from the West, particularly during the Cold War, for allegedly using NAM as a platform to favor the Soviet Union.
  • Example: The India-USSR Friendship Treaty was seen as evidence of India’s pro-Soviet tilt, drawing objections from the United States.
  • Weakness in Afro-Asian Unity: The 1962 Sino-Indian war revealed some weaknesses in the concept of Afro-Asian unity within NAM, as some member countries supported China against India.
  • Example: Indonesia and Ghana’s support for China during the conflict showcased divisions within NAM’s solidarity.
  • Violations of NAM Principles: In the 1965 India-Pakistan war, Indonesia supplied arms to Pakistan, contradicting NAM’s principles of non-interference and peaceful conflict resolution.
  • Example: Indonesia’s actions highlighted challenges in enforcing NAM’s principles uniformly among member nations.
  • Divergent Positions: During the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war, certain NAM countries, like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Kuwait, took a pro-Pakistan position, demonstrating disagreements within NAM.
  • Example: Differences among NAM members during a crucial international event raised questions about the movement’s effectiveness in achieving collective goals.


Despite controversies and challenges, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) served as a crucial ideological and strategic basis for India’s foreign policy during the Cold War era. Its principles of peace, self-determination, and strategic autonomy resonated with India’s values and objectives. While the relevance of NAM has been questioned post the collapse of the USSR, in the face of contemporary global challenges, movements like NAM retain significance, providing avenues for countries to cooperate horizontally on critical issues such as migration, pandemics, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and global warming.

Legacy Editor Changed status to publish February 21, 2024