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Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)

The Non-Aligned Movement is a Movement of countries representing the interests and priorities of developing countries.

  • The Movement has its origin in the Asia-Africa Conference held in Bandung, Indonesia in 1955.  
  • The meeting was convened upon the invitation of the Prime Ministers of Burma,  Ceylon, India, Indonesia, and Pakistan and brought together leaders of 29 states, mostly former colonies, from the two continents of Africa and Asia, to discuss common concerns and to develop joint policies in international relations.  
  • Prime Minister Nehru, the acknowledged senior statesman, along with Prime Ministers  Soekarno and Nasser, led the conference.
  • At the meeting, Third World leaders shared their similar problems of resisting the pressures of the major powers, maintaining their independence, and opposing colonialism and neo-colonialism, especially western domination.
  • The first Conference of Non-Aligned Heads of State or Government, at which 25  countries were represented, was convened at Belgrade in September 1961, largely through the initiative of Yugoslavian President Tito. 
  • At that stage, his biggest concern was that an accelerating arms race might result in war between the Soviet Union and the USA.
  • The Non-Aligned Movement was formed during the Cold War as an organization of  States that did not seek to formally align themselves with either the United States or the  Soviet Union but sought to remain independent or neutral.
  • It has 120 members as of April 2018 comprising 53 countries from Africa, 39 from Asia,  26 from Latin America and the Caribbean, and 2 from Europe (Belarus, Azerbaijan).  There are 17 countries and 10 international organizations that are Observers at NAM.
  • The Non-Aligned Movement was founded and held its first conference (the Belgrade  Conference) in 1961 under the leadership of Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia, Gamal Abdel  Nasser of Egypt, Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, and Sukarno of Indonesia.
  • The purpose of the organization was enumerated in the Havana Declaration of 1979 to ensure “the national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of non aligned countries” in their struggle against imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism,  racism, and all forms of foreign subjugation.
  • During the cold war era, the NAM played a vital role in stabilizing the world order and preserving peace and security. Nonalignment of NAM doesn’t mean the neutrality of state on global issues, it was always a peaceful intervention in world politics.


  • The founders of the Non-Aligned Movement and their successors recognized that the  Movement would probably be best served if it operated without a formal constitution and a permanent secretariat.
  • The practice of a rotating Chair was instead created which at the same time place the onus of an administrative structure on the country assuming the Chair.
  • The Summit Conferences are the occasions when the Movement formally rotates its Chair to the Head of State or Government of the host country of the Summit.
  • The Foreign Ministry and Permanent Mission in New York of the Chair at the same time assume the responsibility of the administrative management of the Movement.


  • The founders of the Non-Aligned Movement and their successors recognized that the  Movement would probably be destroyed if they created such formal structures for the  Movement as a constitution and internal secretariat.
  • A multilateral transnational organization made up of states with differing ideologies and purposes could never create a rational administrative structure to implement its policies that all could accept.
  • The Non-Aligned Movement has created a unique form of administrative style. Non Aligned administration is non-hierarchical, rotational, and inclusive, providing all member states, regardless of size and importance, with an opportunity to participate in global decision-making and world politics.
  • The Summit is the occasion when the Movement formally rotates its Chair to the Head of  State of the host country of the Summit, who then holds office until the next Summit.
  • The Chair is at the same time also delegated certain responsibilities for promoting the principles and activities of the Movement.
  • The Coordinating Bureau is the focal point for coordination. The Bureau reviews and facilitates the harmonization of the work of the NAM Working Groups, Contact Groups,  Task Forces and Committees.
As J.L Nehru was a founding member, the principles of NAM was largely guided by Panchsheel  principles, some of them are: 
  • Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
  • Mutual non-aggression.
  • Mutual non-interference in domestic affairs.
  • Equality and mutual benefit.
  • Peaceful co-existence.

Requirements for membership of the Non-Aligned Movement coincide with the key beliefs of the United Nations. The current requirements are that the candidate country has displayed  practices in accordance with the ten “Bandung principles” of 1955

  • Respect for fundamental human rights and for the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
  • Respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations.
  • Recognition of the movements for national independence.
  • Recognition of the equality of all races and of the equality of all nations, large and small.
  • Abstention from intervention or interference in the internal affairs of another country.
  • Respect for the right of each nation to defend itself singly or collectively, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations.
  • Refraining from acts or threats of aggression or the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any country.
  • Settlement of all international disputes by peaceful means, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations.
  • Promotion of mutual interests and co-operation.
  • Respect for justice and international obligations.


  • NAM has sought to “create an independent path in world politics that would not result  in member States becoming pawns in the struggles between the major powers.”
  • It identifies the right of independent judgment, the struggle against imperialism and neo-colonialism, and the use of moderation in relations with all big powers as the three basic elements that have influenced its approach.
  • At present, an additional goal is facilitating a restructuring of the international economic order.

NAM in Cold War Era 

  • Against Apartheid: The evil of apartheid was massively prevalent in African countries like South Africa, it was on the agenda of NAM right from the first conference. During the 2nd NAM conference in Cairo, the government of South Africa was warned against the discriminatory practices of apartheid.
  • Disarmament: The Non-aligned Movement repeatedly comes out for the maintenance of peace,’ the cessation of the arms race and the peaceful coexistence of all States. In the General Assembly, India submitted a draft resolution declaring that the use of nuclear weapons would be against the charter of the United Nations and any crime against humanity and should therefore be prohibited.
  • UNSC reforms: Right from its inception NAM was in the favour of UNSC reforms, it was against the domination of the US and USSR. It wanted the representation of third world countries to make UNSC more democratic. Members echoed with the same demand at the 17th NAM conference in Venezuela.
  • Failed to resolve regional tensions: In the era of the cold war, the tension in South Asia escalated due to regional conflict between India- China and India-Pakistan. NAM failed to avoid tensions in the region, which further led to the nuclearisation of the region.

India’s Position  

  • India being a founder and largest member in NAM was an active participant in NAM  meetings till the 1970s but India’s inclination towards erstwhile USSR created confusion in smaller members. It led to the weakening of NAM and small nations drifted towards either the US or USSR.
  • Further disintegration of the USSR led to the unipolar world order dominated by the US. India’s  New Economic Policy and inclination towards the US raised questions over India’s seriousness over nonalignment.
  • The Prime Minister of India skipped the 17th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit held in  Venezuela in 2016, it was only the second such instance when the Head of a state didn’t participate in the NAM conference.
  • Moreover, NAM continued losing relevance for India in a unipolar world, especially after the founding members failed to support India during a crisis. For instance, during the 1962  War with China, Ghana, and Indonesia, adopted explicitly pro-China positions. During
  • during the 1965 and 1971 wars, Indonesia and Egypt took an anti-India stance and supported  Pakistan.
  • India in particular, but also most other NAM countries, have integrated themselves to varying degrees within the liberal economic order and have benefited from it.
  • India is a member of the G20 and has declared itself as a nuclear weapons power and has for all practical purposes abandoned the call for global nuclear disarmament.
  • India has also engaged itself with new and old global powers. India joining the  Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, a coalition seen by many as a counterforce to China’s rise in the Indo-Pacific and Shanghai cooperation organization led by China showed  India’s balancing approach in the new world order.
  • India is striving hard for multipolar world order and asserting itself as one of the players. The multipolar world order is very much closed to NAM principles.

Emerging Global Order 

NAM has to adapt and change itself to suit the newly emerging challenges and geopolitics such  as:

  • The world has again moved towards bi-polarity, one led by the US and the other by China-Russia. War-torn Syria is a prime example of this, where both US and Russia are asserting power.
  • The escalating tension in the Indo-pacific region due to China’s assertion and the US acting as a counterweight to check the Chinese expansionist policy.
  • The large-scale migration in Europe and Asia due to the unstable regimes and ethnic conflict in different parts of the world.
  • Issue of global climate change and occurrence of catastrophic disasters raising demand to form a global consensus to deal with it.
  • Changing US policies, protectionism, prevalent terrorism, and nuclearisation of the middle east.
  • Formation of multiple regional economic groupings like TPP and RCEP and fading away of multilateral bodies WTO from the global arena.

Relevance of NAM 

NAM continues to hold relevance as a platform and due to its principles.

  • World peace – NAM has played an active role in preserving world peace. It still stands by its founding principles, idea, and purpose i.e. to establish a peaceful and prosperous world. It prohibited invasion of any country, promoted disarmament and sovereign world order.
  • Territorial integrity and sovereignty – NAM stands with this principle and proved its repeated relevance with the idea of preserving the independence of every nation.
  • Third World nations – Third world countries fighting against socio-economic problems since they have been exploited for a long time by other developed nations, NAM acted as a protector for these small countries against the western hegemony.
  • Support of UN – NAM’s total strength compromises 118 developing countries and most of them being a member of the UN General Assembly. It represents two-third members of the general assembly, hence NAM members act as an important vote blocking group in the UN.
  • Equitable world order – NAM promotes equitable world order. It can act as a bridge between the political and ideological differences existing in the international environment.
  • Interest of developing countries- If disputes arise between developed and developing nations at any point of a concerning topic, for example, WTO, then NAM acts as a platform which negotiates and concludes disputes peacefully securing the favorable decisions for each member nation.
  • Cultural diversity and human rights – In the environment of the gross human right violation,  it can provide a platform to raise such issues and resolve the same through its principles.
  • Sustainable development – NAM supported the concept of sustainable development and can lead the world toward sustainability. Can be used as a larger platform to make consensus on global burning issues like climate change, migration, and global terrorism. 
  • Economic growth – The countries of NAM have inherent assets, such as favourable demography, demand, and favourable location. The cooperation can lead them to higher and sustainable economic growth. Can be an alternative to regional groupings like TPP  and RCEP.

Way Forward 

  • NAM as a concept can never be irrelevant, principally it provides a strong base to the foreign policy of its members.
  • It should be seen as “Strategic Autonomy”, which is the need of the hour in today’s world. The principles of NAM still can guide the nations towards it.
  • NAM is a platform where India can assert its soft power and provide active leadership and by being a torchbearer for smaller countries at multilateral platforms.
  • The conference of Heads of the State or Government of the Non-Aligned Countries often referred to as the Non-Aligned Movement Summit was held in Azerbaijan in June 2019. The platform should be used for consensus making on the spectrum of global issues.
  • It should be used as a platform to raise global issues like terrorism, climate change and trade protectionism, and others.
  • NAM platform can be used to garner support by South-East Asian countries like  Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines against Chinese assertions in the South China  Sea and related island and border disputes.
  • NAM can provide a platform for Afro-Asian cooperation and a strong position for a poor  African nation to have healthy negotiations with China and the US for economic development without compromising the sovereignty of their land.

This blog pertains to UPSC papers on GS 2, International Organisation, Political Science optional paper 2, and Essay Type Question. Also, do check our previous blogs on various topics. Subscribe today so that you don’t miss out on any important topics.


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