The non- aligned movement has grown in popularity and strength with the passage of time- This movement which started in the Asian Relations Conference held in New Delhi in 1947, gained momentum at the Bandung Conference held in 1955 and finally took shape at the summit Conference of non- aligned countries held at Belgrade on 1st September, 1961.
The membership at the seventh summit reached 100 with the inclusion of four new members. One member, Kampuchea, which was not allowed entry has not been included in membership.
Attended by 100 Heads of State and Government and 3,000 delegates and 1,000 media men, the seventh summit represented half of the world population and majority of U.N. members. The seventh conference was scheduled to be held at Baghdad. But its venue changed to New Delhi because of Iran-Iraq War.
India is one of the leading members of the non-aligned movement. In fact, the credit for the popularity of this movement is shared by the trio of non-alignment—Nehru, Nasser and Tito. There were other leaders such as Sukarno, Nkrumah and U Nu who also played leading role for a limited period.
The continent of Africa as a whole has come to play a significant role in the movement. The Colombo summit of 1976 recorded “The identification of the African continent as a whole with non-alignment was a development of significance in the history of non-alignment.
Africa gave a numerical strength to the movement which contributed to making it a powerful force in the United Nations.
“Africa gave a firm anti-colonial and anti-racist content to the movement. As a continent which has suffered from big power rivalry and from the worst ravages of slavery and colonialism. It brought out most sharply the pre-requisites of a new international order.
“As the continent with the largest number of past developed countries and one which suffered the enormous Sahel famine, it gives impetus to the demands for a new international economic order”.
There should be no surprise that Africa has hosted the summit for the fourth time—the latest at Harare in Zimbabwe.
The criterion of membership of non-aligned movement was laid down at the first Belgrade Conference held in 1961. It is :
1. The country should have followed an independent policy.
2. The country concerned should have supported the movement for national independence.
3. The country concerned should not be a member of the inter-national military alliances concluded in the context of Super-power conflicts.
4. If the country concerned is a member of the regional defense pact, this pact should not be deliberately concluded in the context of superpower conflicts.
5. If the country concerned has allowed military bases a foreign power, these bases should not have been allowed in the context of superpower conflicts.
Changing Concept of Non-alignment. In spite of the fact that non-alignment believes in keeping away from super power rivalry, it has grown in content and nature with the passage of time.
To begin with, non-alignment represented the urges and aspirations of millions of suppressed people for freedom, peace, equality, co-operation and a just international order. From a concept of non-partisanship with either of the two power blocs, non-alignment has now become synonymous with real national independence.
From the stage when it was mistaken for a kind of neutrality or fence-sitting, it has attained the political character of a dynamic involvement in world affairs.
Non- alignment is no longer looked upon as a teams of protecting one’s own interests and a way to overcome bloc divisions but rather as a policy which advocates democratisation of international relations—both economic and political. Non-alignment thus stands now for national independence and democratisation of international relations.
However, we must bear in mind that emphasis on each concern varied at various summits depending upon the circumstances.
First Stage. During the first stage of its development which lasted upto 1953, non-aligned countries laid stress on the rejection of power politics so that newly-won freedom and independence is not put in danger.
The Asian Relations Conference called by Nehru in 1947 was the first indication of independent India’s desire to evolve a fraternity (brotherhood) outside military blocs of great powers.
The emphasis in that conference was more on finding an Asian personality and evolving a sort of Asian solidarity against imperialism and colonialism than on other aspects of non-alignment.
The failure of the Dutch to keep Indonesia as a colony and the convening of the conference on Indonesia in New Delhi in 1949 vas the first test of this growing concept that gave it added strength.
However, in its military aspects of keeping aloof from the military blocs of great powers, the concept aroused the wrath of the USA and the West, the suspicion of Stalin’s Russia and the disapproval of Mao’s China.
Second Stage. The second stage of non-alignment that lasted from 1953 to 1959, was marked by the emergence of bipolarity and balance of terror. The concern of the newly independent countries centered around efforts to avert the danger of nuclear war.
The Sino-Indian agreement of 29 April, 1954 emphasised the concept of peaceful co-existence. The ten- principles adopted at the Bandung Conference widened the scope of the concept and extended its support to anti-racist and anti-colonial struggle in Asia and Africa.
The Prime Ministers of Burma, Ceylon, India, Indonesia and Pakistan showed anxiety about their newly won political independence
in a world of Cold-War and military pacts. They were concerned about the nuclear catastrophe and discussed Peace, Colonialism and Racism.
It was at Bandung that Nehru attempted to prepare the world to accept the reality of China’s existence. He argued that a particular ideology of a country should not stand in the way of its membership of the world community and China, though Communist, should be an equal member of the world community.
It was during this stage that the non-aligned countries contributed significantly to the success of liberation struggles all-over the World especially in Africa both by extending material support and by maintaining constant political pressure on the colonial powers at the U.N. and elsewhere. The emergence of a large number of independent countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America was facilitated by the anti-colonial struggle waged by the non-aligned nations.
Third Stage. During the third stage of its development which lasted from 1959 to 1964, there was a setback to the process of friendship and solidarity among the newly-emerged nations of Asia and Africa due to a change in Chinese stand. As a result of this change, there was Sino- Indian conflict of 1962 and Sino-Soviet split.
In addition, there were regional wars in Asia and the rise of autocracies in the developing world. A number of new African nations were born and the rise of autocracies the developing of UN membership increased. During this phase, non- alignment acquired a significant strength.
If. was in this phase that the first non-aligned Conference were he’d at Belgrade in 1961 which was attended by representatives of 25 Governments. Emphasis on disarmament and in particular on nuclear disarmament was added to the concept at this conference. It was at the Cairo summit held in 1964 that attention was drawn to the rights of the Arab people and especially the rights of Palestinians.
Fourth Stage. During the fourth stage of its development which lasted from 1964 to 1970, there was a decisive shift in favour of Socialism in the world.
Non-alignment came forward in defense of the newly- independent sovereign ties in Asia and Africa. It was during this phase that a summit of the non-aligned nations was held at Lusaka in 1970. At Lusaka, emphasis shifted to the concern, with crisis that was emerging in South Africa, especially the rights of the black Africans.
In addition, there was a break-through in the realm of international economics. It was as a result of the initiative of the non-aligned countries that a Declaration on the New International Economic order was adopted by the U.N. in 1974.
This began to reflect from UNCATAD held at Geneva in 1954 to UNCATAD II at New Delhi. It was at the Lusaka summit that economic aspect was also highlighted in addition to political.
The Fifth Stage. Non-alignment is currently passing through the fifth stage that began in 1971. During this phase, China made a complete rapprochement with the USA and complete break with Soviet Russia.
So, the Soviet Union came under sharp criticism especially by those sympathetic towards China. They described Russia as a hegemonic power and placed it on footing along with the USA.
By the time, Algiers summit was held in 1973, situation had completely changed. Non-aligned countries were concerned about the struggle in Vietnam. Egypt had suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of Israel.
It appeared that racist Africa would continue for some time without disruption, the policies of apartheid. Thus, at Algiers, the non-aligned countries were on the non-aligned countries were on the defensive.
Moreover, the non-aligned countries realised that they were becoming persistently dependent upon the West. So, they wanted to develop an economic strategy to get rid of this situation.
Many of the countries producing raw-materials decided to band 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, provided a major threat for the capitalist countries.