India’s Independence infused a great sense of “possibility” in the minds of the colonized nations. Jawaharlal Nehru, with his impeccable global personality, drew the world’s attention towards India. His vision of a socialist nation that runs on mixed economy was something that succeeded in grabbing eyeballs.
India was a young nation, forming policies that was pro-poor and of course, raring to make a mark in the global scenario, all driven by its first Prime Minister. The socio-political scenario provided the ground for the adoption of the policy of non-alignment. It was especially suited to the requirements of the newly independent Asian and African countries.
Around the 1950s, the world saw the emergence of new Asian and African and nations, freeing themselves from the colonial yoke. During the same period, the Cold War between the USA and the Soviet Union was getting more intense.
While the communist Soviet Union (Eastern bloc) and the capitalist USA (Western bloc) fought the Cold War with its set of allies, Jawaharlal Nehru was instrumental in bringing up the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). In 1961, NAM was founded by Egypt, India, Indonesia, Ghana and Yugoslavia in Belgrade. This was also called the “neutral bloc,” for it refused to side with either of the superpowers.
It was Nehru’s idealism that led to the birth of the Non-alignment Movement. Looking back in history, this international policy might seem naive and foolish to some, but it was the need of the hour then. NAM essentially meant not aligning with power blocs or making any commitments, and not taking decisions on pre-conceived notions.
For Jawaharlal Nehru, the policy of non-alignment was an indigenous product, something that was carved out from the experience of being a part of the Freedom Struggle. Following the Indian leader was but natural, because India had won a century-old bloodied battle to gain freedom from the colonial rule.
The sentiment was shared by the leaders of the Asian, African and Latin American countries, who were able to assert their national identities by adopting NAM.
In 1951, US President Harry Truman had said, “I thought India was pretty jammed with poor people, and cows around streets, witch doctors and people sitting on hot coals and bathing in the Ganges… but I did not think anybody thought it as important.”
It was Nehru’s vision of bringing India to the world map that led to a change in USA’s perspective. NAM was a way of telling the super powers: “We don’t need you.” Contrary to what many people believe today, Nehru’s NAM was not a negative policy of being neutral in great power disputes or staying away from the two super powers.
India didn’t have to offer its soil to America to station its bases, and avoided any active involvement in the Cold War.
Nehru was not averse to the American concept; he however put his foot down when it came to the US as a state. The pros of NAM were that India didn’t have to send its soldiers to Korea during the 50s fight their war. It also was not required to participate in the Gulf War in contemporary times, or fight America’s battle in Afghanistan.
The NAM vision hasn’t gone waste. Pakistan, an ally of the US is still fraught with its bloody internal wars: political and military coups, terror links and a slumping economy, India has made big inroads in all fields and is considered a great power to reckon with.