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A view on new non-alignment movement, a version 2.0

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There is a belief that things of the past can remain relevant in the future, even if they need to be retooled a wee bit. Institutions, organisations, alliances, all of these of the yesteryears continue to have a relevance with a bit of retouching. Something a little more than a rouge job. In this there is an underlying assumption that says the forces which made a particular association, organisation, are still relevant decades down the line. In the world of politics, particularly of the international variety, there is a dynamism that can age even the most contemporary institutions. So it raises serious questions when some theorise on a new non-alignment movement, a version 2.0.

An independent India entered the world of diplomacy and international relations under the shadow of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister. His persona, intellect and world view, completely dominated Indian politics, even if it was not of the claimed stature. Indian politicians, at that period, remained enthralled by his extrapolations and hence, his word carried undue weight. A number of institutions that were created in that period continue to exist, long after their expiry date. Even as the Indian economy has opened up, modernised and integrated globally, the country continues to have a Planning Commission. An idea borrowed from the concept of centralised and planned economies, the Planning Commission has long outlived its utility. Similar is the story of India and Non-Aligned Movement.

In the post-independence era of the 1950s and 1960s, large parts of the newly liberated world joined together to create the NAM. The logic being that a country need not be a member of either of the two competing blocs, Warsaw Pact or the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Instead they would raise their own bloc and which would not be aligned to either.

Theoretically it meant that the NAM countries pursued an independent foreign and defence policy. But the reality was always different. And that was because the membership of NAM consisted of countries hardly akin in any sense of the word. Some were fledgling democracies, like India; while others were regional nationalist government, like Egypt and Arab nationalism; and then there were dictatorships, which meant most of the NAM members. Even in the peak period of NAM mobilisation member countries pursued policies that suited their interests rather than that of a disparate collective.

Which is really the current reality. With the demise of the Warsaw Pact, there is no cold war and NATO is currently engaged in out of area operations in Afghanistan. African Union troops are frequently called upon to engage in peacekeeping operations in the troubled continent, as well as United Nations peacekeepers. The lines between alignment and non-alignment are long blurred. But some think it is still relevant for India, with a little tweaking. The bottom line being that India should pursue its core national interests without aligning with any bloc, or country. The stark reality of today is that the pursuit of national interests is all encompassing. In a globalised and integrated world not every country can pursue its policies in isolation. An understanding is required, over many issues. Then more countries will begin to join and create a coalition of likeminded.

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