Most of the western scholars take non-alignment as a negative concept because of the existence of the word. In this respect, they consider it as something comparable to neutrality.
Lefebvre, for instance, regards this concept as equivalent to neutrality because it is primarily a response to the cold-war, and only a part of a product of rising nationalism. Afro-Asian nationalism is a function of bipolarity. Let us, however, discuss its true nature.
1. Non-alignment is not Neutrality:
The concept of non-alignment is altogether different from the concept of neutrality. Neutrality is an attitude of non-participation or refusal to take sides on any issue irrespective of its merits.
Alignment is an attitude of openly declaring in advance that the country will be on the side of another country aligned with it irrespective of the merits of the case. Non-alignment, on the other hand, does not decant in advance.
A non-aligned country will judge each case as arises on its merits as it sees it and not as others see it. It is a concept of liberty and freedom at State level. Neutrality is a concept relevant only in times of war.
Neutrality means to keep aloof from war. Non-alignment, on the other hand, is a concept relevant both in peace and war. Non-alignment has thus little to do with neutrality or partiality.
Neutrality imposes certain limitations and confers some rights. A neutral country has to prove in practice its neutrality in war. Non-alignment, on the other hand, believes in furthering one's own interest in the light of the prevailing circumstances according to one's own independent judgment, both in peace and war.
Non- alignment means freedom from obligations and commitments. Non- alignment does not debar alliance with a country to advance national interests. Even Nehru declared that, "We are free to join an alliance."
Speaking before the U.S. Congress in 1949, Nehru said, "India cannot and shall not be neutral where freedom is threatened or justice denied. To be neutral would be a denial of all that we stand for."
The conclusions of the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation and the treaty of Friendship between India and Bangladesh do not detract India from the path of freedom of choice to adjudge her own interests.
Secondly, neutrality is different from non-alignment in the sense that neutral countries acquired this status through or as a result of the provisions contained in either their respective municipal laws, or by international treaties and agreements.
This means the commitment of those countries to neutrality continues irrespective of governmental changes in those countries. The status of Switzerland as a neutral country stands even though the Government changes.
But in case of non-alignment, the commitment of a country may change with change in Government. We find that India under the Janata Government opted for what they termed 'genuine non-alignment' which stressed policy of equidistance.
2. Non-alignment is not an ideology:
So, non-alignment is not an ideology or a dogma. It is not a fixed or static philosophy. It is dynamic and adjusts itself to reality and reconciles between the interests of one's own country and that of other countries of the world.
Non-alignment does not favour intervention but non- aligned States sometimes do interfere in the internal affairs of others as India did with respect to Nepal, Bhutan and Sikkim.
The aid given by India to Burma during the Civil War in 1949 is nothing short of interference in the internal affairs of Burma. The opposition of India to the acceptance of arms assistance by Pakistan from U.S.A. is also an instance to illustrate India's interference into the internal affairs of Pakistan.
3. Non-alignment is a means:
Non-alignment is a means, a method through which peace and progress not only in a particular country but throughout the world is sought to be achieved. It is not a negative approach.
It is definitely positive. In areas where India's vital interests are involved, especially in neighboring countries like Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan, India cannot afford to sit idle. India cannot watch merely as a spectator. In case where distant countries are involved, a non-aligned country must give moral and political support.
What non-alignment stand for
As a concept and movement, non-alignment upholds certain values- while opposing certain other values. Let us discuss them in detail.
1. Dissociation from Military Alliances:
Non-alignment stands- for dissociation from military alliances that came into existence as a result of rivalry between the super-powers. Military alliances attempt to create spheres of influence, promote arms race and thus increase tension in the world.
It was on account of the membership of military alliances such as SEATO and CENTO that India opposed that entry of Pakistan into non-aligned movement at the time of the Colombo Conference held in 1976.
It is now after having given up membership of military pacts that Pakistan could be admitted as a member at the Havana Conference held in 1979.
Rather, the alliances of which Pakistan was a member, have disintegrated. This has proved the truth of the contention that non- alignment is gaining ground against military alliances.
2. Achievement of National Interest:
In spite of the fact that non-alignment aims at ushering in a just and peaceful international order, it is not blind to the fact that the existence of a nation depends upon seeking its own national interest.
It is in this context that Nehru stressed that your relations with a particular country can be more cordial and friendly.
3. Synthesis of National Interest and Internationalism:
Promotion of national interest keeping in view the achievement of peace in the world means that non-alignment is a synthesis of nationalism and internationalism. The ideals of the leaders of the high priests of non- alignment were shaped by the traditions of their ancient civilisation as also the Western liberal education in which they were brought up.
The Indian leaders were in particular influenced by the moralist traditions of Buddha, Ashoka and Mahatma Gandhi. It is the Gandhian concept of non-violence at the national level that was extended by Nehru to the international plane through the police of peaceful co-existence and non- involvement with military rivalry of big powers.
Just as non-violence was based on courage and conviction and the best and most peaceful way of achieving independence so was non-alignment born out of conviction and sheer necessity of survival of the newly independent countries.
4. Concern for World-Peace:
Non-alignment is concerned with the maintenance of peace in the world. This is but natural in a world where nuclear holocaust can destroy the whole of the world within no time. Moreover, the non aligned countries are against the use of force in settling international disputes.
They are of the view that war instead of solving problems, tends to aggravate them. Their concern for peace so much over-shadows other things that at times they do not bother for their own national interest. Peace is considered necessary for the eradication of poverty and squalor from the world.
5. Seeking Economic Assistance:
All the new nations that joined non-aligned movement were under-developed. Their primary job was to develop their countries at the earliest possible. Development could be possible only through economic and technological assistance from the industrialised and developed countries.
This assistance was sought from countries of both the blocs. But this assistance was given with certain conditions and had therefore, politico-economic implications. Moreover, the moral and psychological effect of this end was also not in the interest of recipient country.
This made certain countries like India to receive aid in sectors which are critical for creating national know-how and infrastructure for future development in a way that the need for future assistance would end. In addition, efforts have been made by the non-aligned countries to evolve self-reliance.
It is sought to be achieved through pooling of resources and reducing dependence on the developed countries. India is taking a leading position in creating self-reliance and self-confidence among the non-aligned countries.
In spite of the fact that India is a poor country, its food position is satisfactory, its foreign exchange reserves are enough and it is without exaggeration one of the most advanced countries in the field of science, technology and industry. She is rather helping countries of South, South East and West Asia in many ways.
6. Independence of Judgment on International issues:
The roost characteristic feature of the non-aligned is the independence of judgment which the non-aligned countries enjoy on international issues. They judge every issue on its own merit without any dictation from any other country. This has been asserted by many leaders of the non-aligned countries.
Nehru declared that non-alignment is "a policy of acting according to our best judgment. P.M. of Burma wanted to retain his "freedom of action in foreign affairs." Nkrumah of Ghana pointed out that "we must be free to judge issues on their merits."
7. Democratic approach to International Relations:
Non- aligned countries believe in a democratic approach to international relations by all the countries of the world. Vice-President Nixon and Secretary of State Dulles used almost abusive language for the concept of non-alignment in 1956.
Nehru urged upon them neither to suppress discussion nor give up tolerate in discussing external relations of the new nations. Nehru said, "I submit for consideration that Mr. Nixon and Mr. Dulles are saying something that is opposed to the democratic way of life. The very basis of democracy is tolerance for differing points of view."
8. Opposition to Colonialism and Racialism:
Non-aligned countries are opposed to racialism and colonialism in any form. It was to condemn Dutch action on Indonesia and plead for the freedom of Indonesia that Nehru called a conference in New Delhi in 1954. It was at the Bandung Conference held in 1955 where the representatives from Asia and Africa condemned racialism and colonialism.
Sukarno and Nehru were in particular concerned about the possibility that anti-colonial struggle would become institutionalised. Concern for the freedom of Zimbabve (Rhodesia) was expressed deeply by the non-aligned countries particularly India. Non-alignment is also opposed to racialism as practiced in South Africa.
9. Opposition to Power Politics:
Morgenthau and Schwarzen berger regard international relations as a struggle for power. Power implies a particular man's control over the minds and actions of other men.
Non- alignment rejects at least in theory, this game of power politics. Instead, it believes in influence politics. Influence politics differs from power politics in the sense that influence believes in persuasion while power lies in compelling other by the use of force to do what he would not have done otherwise.
10. Establishment of New International Economic Order:
In spite of the fact that the new nations have obtained freedom, they are still dominated by the highly developed countries in the economic sphere. They are tied in the economic system that believes in exploitation of the poor and underdeveloped countries.
In spite of the fact that these new nations have made developmental plans, they have not been able to make a little progress. The produce of the poor, underdeveloped, countries is bought by the affluent nations at a very low rate, while the finished goods prepared from that very stuff imported from the underdeveloped countries is exported to them at very high prices. This leads to deficit in balance of payments.
The aid given by the developed countries to the underdeveloped nations is eaten back by the former to meet balance of payments gap. The non-aligned countries plead for the replacement of this old system by a New International Economic System.
Concern for the new economic system was expressed for the first time at the Conference held at Algiers in 1970. Consequently, many of the new nations providing raw-materials decided to come together and act in unison to increase the prices of their commodities.
It was this strategy at Algiers that gave birth to the demand for a New International Economic Order. This strategy which was later used with great effect by the OPEC (Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) provided a major threat for world capitalist powers.
The radical departure in the realm of economics gave the non-aligned movement a new structural meaning in world politics. They became in effect a powerful bargaining groups within the context of international economic relations. The bargaining power gave a new meaning to their political demands, especially racialism and national liberation.