A new NAM for the new norm


  • From all accounts, the Cold War is breaking out again. The United States has identified both China and Russia as adversaries, whose leaders, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, are strong and determined to stand up to a faltering Donald Trump, who is desperately clinging on to doctrines of ultranationalism and nuclear hegemony.

The Russia dare:

  • Russia has invincible doomsday machines like an underwater drone armed with a nuclear warhead powerful enough to sweep away coastal facilities, aircraft carriers and a hypersonic vehicle impossible to intercept as it flies in a cloud of plasma “like a meteorite”.

A three-cornered Cold War:

  • Cuba is in the dog house again and the “axis of evil” has emerged once again under Iran’s leadership. This time it is a three-cornered Cold War, without any corner having committed countries to act together as military allies.

NAM has lost its relevance:

  • NAM is anathema today even to those who helped shape it and revelled in it for years. India was one of its leaders, if not the leader. India had a stake in its integrity and India toiled tirelessly to keep it on the middle road, not to be hijacked by Cuba to the left or Singapore to the right. Had it not been for India, NAM would have been wound up at a ministerial meeting in Ghana in 1991 soon after the collapse of the Berlin Wall.
  • Since the essence of nonalignment was freedom of thought and action, India insisted that it was valid whether there was one bloc or no bloc. 

Nonalignment 2.0:

  • An effort was made in 2012 to craft a ‘Nonalignment 2.0’ in the context of the new global situation, India’s growing importance and the rivalry between the U.S. and China.
  • The report moved the concept of nonalignment away from its origins.
  • It reiterated that India needed to move quickly to extend its global role and influence.

Prevailing conditions

  1. As a close defense partner of the U.S. and a member of the “Quadrilateral”, India is right in the U.S. camp
  2. Both China and Russia, which have been identified as adversaries in the U.S. worldview, have their problems with India
  3. Doklam and the Maldives have shown that China is in no mood for a compromise

Reviving NAM

  1. A movement conceived in the context of a bipolar world may not suit a tripolar world, which could become a multipolar world
  2. A partnership of near equals like IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa) with similar interests without any ideological conflict is probably the best model to follow
  3. Something along the lines of the G-15 organized by India and like-minded countries some years ago could be put together
  4. The forum could discuss issues like climate change, terrorism, and protectionism
  5. The members may have links with the U.S., China, and Russia, but should be able to work together without the undue influence of the three

Way Forward:

  • Given the present impasse in international relations with little leeway for game-changing initiatives, India will do well to move away from being a camp follower of one of the emerging poles to create our own fourth pole.

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