Non alignment vs realism

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Module Code: PP3014: India And the World.
Student Number: 0530868.

How far has India’s old and ineffective idealistic non-alignment position been swept aside by IR realism “balancing” imperatives?

“We believe…in nonaggression and noninterference by one country in the affairs of another and the growth of tolerance between them and the capacity for peaceful coexistence.” JawaharlalNehru- 1956[1]

“…our policy will continue to be not only to keep away from alignments, but also to try to make friendly co-operation possible.” Indira Gandhi- 1983[2]

India’s non-alignment as a foreign policy doctrine stems from both India’s experience in its independence struggle and the international environment of the early Cold War. The views echoed by India’s first Prime MinisterJawaharlal Nehru and his daughter and successor Indira Gandhi changed very little in terms of rhetoric. However, the conduct of India’s foreign policy under their respective regimes was far from similar. Furthermore, these dissimilarities are even more apparent between India’s foreign policy of the late 50s, and that of the post-Cold War era.

The origins of abandoning Non-alignment beyondrhetoric stem from both internal factors and the changing dynamics of the regional and international system. One of the biggest contributing factors was the defeat of India at the hands of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) during the 1962 Sino-Indian War, which exposed Non-Alignment as an idealistic and ineffective form of foreign policy. Nearly half a century later, the end of the Cold-Wardrove India further away from Non-alignment and raised further doubts about the relevance of non-alignment and the Non Aligned Movement (NAM). Before developing the views echoed above, an overview of non-alignment and its subsequent failure merits further mention.

Following independence, India’s foreign policy was driven by both the ideas of non-violence that shaped its independence struggleand a perceived destiny of playing a major role in Asian and the international arena equivalent with its geographic situation, and great power potential.[3] India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru conceived the means to achieve this status through the doctrine of non-alignment.

Non-alignment draws on the liberal tradition of international relation’s theory, and India’s experienceas a newly independent state emerging in a polarized world. Arun Prakash argues that the oversimplification of India’s non-violent independence struggle and its values meant that India adopted a flawed foreign policy based on morality. He states that: “our policies acquired a moralpolitik orientation as opposed to the realpolitik of our neighbors.” [4] however, this is a simplistic view ofnon-alignment.

Non-alignment and the formation of the Non Aligned Movement seems to be an attempt to create a united Third World Bloc in the bipolar structure of the Cold War aimed at maximizing the gains of these newly independent states, whilst avoiding the constrains of a client state relationship and the complications ensuing from a more active participation in the Cold War.[5] These policieswere counter productive, and made India weak and isolated on the international scene.[6] This was well illustrated by the victory of China over India in the 1962 Sino-Indian War.

The military defeat at the hands of the Chinese shook Indian foreign policy at its core. Fort this reason, India begins to ‘tilt’ towards the Soviet Union since it was the only superpower willing to supplymilitary aid. This tilt becomes more apparent Nehru’s death and replacement by his daughter. During Indira Gandhi’s time a prime minister, Indian foreign policy becomes more assertive, and drifts away from non-alignment. It adopts a new doctrine referred to as the ‘Indian Doctrine of Regional Security’ and often dubbed The Indira Doctrine.

The Indira Doctrine consisted of three main points....