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Ukraine crisis: Nehru’s Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) doctrine beckons India

Date: 4th March, 2022

Publication: Times of India

Representatives of twenty-five countries and three observer nations assembled in the city of Belgrade in erstwhile Yugoslavia now Serbia for the Summit Conference of Heads of State or Government of the Non-Aligned Movement on the first day of September in 1961. India was led by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru who along with his counterparts Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito, Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah, Indonesian President Sukarno, and Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser founded the Non-Aligned Movement. Post the end of World War II and the start of the Cold War pushed countries were forced to pick up sides between the grouping led by the US (Western Bloc) or the formation led by the Soviet Union (Eastern Bloc). A handful of countries that were caught between the two global power blocs and were unwilling to side with either, formed a fresh grouping that was non-aligned.

This formation helped India to be equidistant from power games played by superpower nations yet take benefit for both sides for her own needs in agriculture, education, military, and food grains. The end of the cold war and the collapse of the Soviet Union fizzed out the core concept of the NAM as the United States of America became the only superpower post-1991. As India started to become more self-reliant it still needed both the powers to invest in the country’s future. Though the USA has been skeptical of India from the beginning, the Soviet Union has proven to be a staunch supporter of India. Nehru and later Indira Gandhi cultivated a special relationship with the Soviet Union which helped India strategically.

 

The tactical collaboration with the Soviet Union during the 1971 India-Pakistan war cannot be forgotten. After the end of the Soviet Union, Russia continued its warm relationship with India though it did show concern about India’s growing partnership with the United States. Russia watched from the sidelines as a trusted friend as the USA signed the nuclear deal with India in 2008 while Russia became one of India’s largest arms suppliers. The arrival of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin onto the world stage continued India’s partnership with Russia and never hampered India’s dialogues with the successive presidents of the USA, be it Obama, Trump, or Biden.

Russia’s expansionism into the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 was recognized by the then Manmohan Singh government and became the first Asian power to do so. Cut to 2022, India is in a rock and a hard place with Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. India has abstained from voting for 3 UN resolutions to date, effectively supporting Russia in its invasion of Ukraine. Being the largest democracy in the world, India has so far refused to condemn Russia for its illegal adventure. India’s tight rope walk to please Russia gets unsustainable by the day as innocent women, children and citizens continue to be butchered by Russia. However, siding with the United States will only anger Russia which is left with very few friends in the world.

 

Abstaining from the UN-sponsored resolutions against Russia was the only way out to keep relations with the USA, Russia, and Europe balanced (US, UK & EU may not be very pleased with India’s stand on Ukraine). India needs Russia’s backing against its dual-threat of China and Pakistan and it’s hoping to benefit from the spoils of the Ukrainian war by leveraging its support for Russia on a later date. Point to note that Pakistan and China have also abstained from voting against Russia thereby neutralizing the benefits India could claim. Russia’s unwavering support for India’s stand on Kashmir remains ambiguous for now. China is closely watching the Russian invasion and the reaction of other countries to Russia’s invasion as it has its sinister plans in Taiwan, the South China Sea, Ladakh, and Arunachal Pradesh.

The core principles of Nehru’s Non-Aligned Movement beckons India again to remain independent, non-aligned to any established or emerging superpower but be friends with all countries who reciprocate friendship. One-sided alignment with either world power will only be counterproductive for India since superpowers tend to manipulate for self-interest. What was held in 1961, remains valid for 2022 with equal force. India can now see the benefits of Nehru’s non-aligned policies.

As India recovers from demonetization, rising unemployment, rising income disparity, and poverty Covid-19, she will need all friendly superpowers to collaborate in science, information technology, military, agriculture, nuclear technology, etc. USA, UK, EU, and Russia have their respective expertise to help India grow into a $10 trillion economy.

 

Taking sides will only hamper the milestones India has set itself to achieve.