The war ceased, but hostilities did not end. Peace was no where near in sight. While Japan groaned under the fury of atom bombs, Germany was divided and humiliated, Spain and Italy licked their wounds completely subdued. The other European nations that had won too were not free from fear. They rallied round America while the Ease European Communist countries stood solidly behind Russia forming into another block. Thus the two great partners that had fought together against fascism parted company and set up camps on either side of the fence, each suspecting the other.
It is in these circumstances of the aftermath of the World War II, that India has emerged out as an independent nation, after centuries of servitude and suffering. Ironically enough, only during the final period of its servitude, the awakening came. Before that there had only been centuries of stupor, perplexity of mind and crisis of identity. The crisis was over; the stupor ended with the dawn of independence. So, to rediscover its identity in all its past glory, the effort needs to be there.
There is yet another problem. Hundreds of years of foreign rule have left the nation completely impoverished. The entire country cried for a square meal a day. The purpose of the caste system having become superficial, except for the segregation of the society into warring groups, highly skilled artisans like weavers, potters and sculptors, who had specialized in their crafts for generations together, have almost perished and the dying skills should have to be reinvigorated. The nation in short, has to be set again on the track to attain its ancient glory of spiritual splendor and material prosperity. That plethora of activity in every walk of life should again stage a come back.
This is a stupendous task. It needs every kind of resource available. It cannot afford to waste its energies in ventures that can be eliminated or avoided. At any rate, the first requisite for all this is peace, peace within and peace without. The country had already been groaning under the effects of partition. People who consciously watch the strides of history can never mistake who were to blame for all the unnecessary turmoil and bloodshed. It does not serve the cause if the blame is thrown on some one or other, nor can the past be completely wiped out, so as to make a fresh beginning. Wisdom lies in making the right choice. So, the choice has been made, out of historical compulsions, to join the British Common Wealth of Nations. It is done in the best of the traditions of the Christian forgiveness. Under no circumstance the country is to become the camp follower of Britain or toe the Americans.
Whatever its emotional affiliations with Russia be, India cannot think of conducting the Russian experiment. A country which sees God in every man cannot cherish the idea of extinguishing the divine glow in the heart of man. Nor can it think of material prosperity at the expense of individual freedom. It wants the progress of man in the material and spiritual spheres, neither one at the cost of the other. But journey is long and arduous. It takes years of hard work to root out the thick jungles of poverty and feed the millions of hungry mouths. But there is no other go. So the choice has been made. The path lies neither on the right nor on the left. It runs in the middle. The country cannot lean one way or the other towards one group or the other. It is pure non-alignment. The non-alignment which India wants to pursue does not mean the shutting of eyes and ears to what is happening around; nor is it camping beside a forest pond and leading the life of hermit or a recluse. It is not the nodding of the head passively indicating the acceptance of one thing or the rejection of the other. It is not the subdued silence, a camp follower is forced to adopt. It is a courageous policy refusing to join one group or the other. It is a solemn declaration to participate actively in the deliberations of the world community, voice its opinions without fear or favor and express judgments based purely on the merits of the issues.
Non-alignment means neutrality. But this neutrality is not a negative attitude. It is not running away from the scene of strife and watching it from a distance. It is a positive undertaking to pursue right actions at the right time in the right manner. Non-alignment is not pure idealism that transcends the interests of the land or the world. ‘India has to guard her newly won independence and solve many problems that have accumulated in the past; it becomes inevitable that she should follow a policy that will help, as best as it can, to maintain the world peace and also avoid as far as possible entanglement in world conflicts’. (Nehru, in one of his speeches in the Lok Sabha ) So the aim is peace with in and peace with out. And there cannot be lasting peace in the world unless there is an impartial force to draw a line between the two contesting parties and make them sit and talk. There can also be peace when, one of the two warring groups is completely vanquished. But it is the peace emanating from the elimination of the enemy but not from the elimination of the enmity. And in order to avoid this kind of peace a deterring force becomes essential. Even in a play field we need an umpire.
That is exactly what the UNO tries to do. But when the entire world is divided into two warring camps, the UNO too, which is but a shadow world, cannot but be divided and there can be no deliverance. So, in order to make the world body into a real and living force, there should always be a third power which should be strong and principled. And that is what India tries to do.
Pandit Jawaharla Nehru of India, Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia and Abdul Nasser of Egypt were the architects of the Non-aligned movement which was born on 1st September 1951. From a very humble beginning, it gained both in strength and popularity, now with a membership that crossed the 100-mark. Be it in the case of Korean war, Anglo-French action in Suez, or the Soviet intervention in Hungary, in the case of the apartheid in South Africa, or in the Palestine issue or in the war between Iran and Iraq, in the insurgency in Afghanistan or be it in the upsurge in China, India was never afraid to voice its independent and unprejudiced reaction, and without fear or favor to uphold the values it stands for and the principles of NAM.
NAM has become synonymous with the aims and aspirations of the developing nations – their opposition to the exploitation of the underdeveloped by the developed, to the discrimination on the basis of race or religion, and their fight against poverty and disease and nuclear proliferation. It has marched far and long from the days of its first summit meeting held in 1961. it is now a force to reckon with. Its voice is no longer a cry in the wilderness, even the super powers pause to listen to its opinions.
It is true that NAM is not a well knit organization like a political party with a clearly defined manifesto. It is a body of differing ideologies of nations coming from differing back grounds, treading on different paths, pursuing different policies. But they all have something in common-an earnest desire to build a better tomorrow, without losing their own identity, without being swept by one ‘ism’ or the other and to make the world a better and safer place to live in. Theirs is a body of equals where nobody is the leader nor a follower.
It is also true that none of the NAM members voiced their support to India either in its war with China or with Pakistan. Many might also say that India has no permanent friends to support it through thick and thin, while Pakistan has. Such people mistake one for the other and forget that Pakistan is also a member of the NAM. Any way a country has permanent policies, but not permanent friends.
There is also a criticism that the NAM has not done much. But such people too do not realize the real contribution the NAM has made by its very existence and presence. To prevent some one picking up a pocket, the presence of a policeman is not necessary. It is enough if the pickpocket realizes that someone who is not a fellow traveler is watching him. Now there are new alignments taking place. The cold war conditions have vanished. Russia is turning towards West and the Super Powers are shaking hands in a spirit of friendship. Does the new trend warrant the need of the NAM ask the critics and political pandits. But again these doubting Thomas’s forget that the aim of NAM is not limited to the cold war conditions. As long as there is exploitation of man by man, be it on the basis of race or religion, communism or colonialism, there is need for the NAM. ‘Have I not reason to lament for what man has made of man?’ said the bard 200 years ago. As long as we have such a reason to lament, we have the need of the NAM.