Nehru’s foreign policy -Policy of Non-alignment

Ideals and Principles

Nehru’s foreign policy was based on the time tested Indian values like peace, peaceful settlement of disputes, on -violence, good neighbourliness as against domination, aggression, expansionism, violence and power politics.

The five principles enunciated by Lord Buddha formed the basis of ‘Panch Sheel’. The ideals cherished by leaders of India’s freedom struggle had their impact on the country’s foreign policy. The underlying principles are:

1) Foreign policy based on national objectives and interest

2) Non -alignment; Panch Sheel;

3) Opposition to imperialism,colonialism, neo-colonialism and apartheid;

4) Solidarity with third world countries;

5) Froendly relations wiyh neighbouring nations

6) Support to disarmament

7) Peaceful nuclear policy

8) Purity of means and

9) Support to U.N.O and world peace.

What is Non-Alignment?

Non- alignment simply means keeping out of military pacts or power blocks or cold war. Nehru’s concept of Non-alignment goes beyond this restricted meaning of the term. It is neither neutralism nor isolationism but assertion of India’s independence of outlook and approach to international relations; formulation and practicing of its own foreign policy.

What are its positive or negative aspects?

Non-alignment has both negative and positive aspects;

Negatively, it meant the rejection of military alliances;

Positively it cannot taking decisions on international problems on mercy. It also meant freedom you commend or condemn any event of International importance.

Essential Elements

The essential elements of non-alignment were

1) Independent foreign policy

2) Opposition to colonialism of any kind

3) Rejection of bilateral military alliance with any super power

4) Non-membership of power blocks

5) Not permitting military base on the territory of the state.

So, non-alignment was an important aspect of Indian’s foreign policy. It was “a policy, not an immutable principle, and it was only one aspect of policy, not the whole of it”. It was a cardinal principle, the corner stone of India’s foreign policy. In short, “keep above from power alignments and seem friendly cooperation with all” was the essence of Nehru’s non-alignment.

Working of Non-Alignment

India’s freedom coincided with the breakdown of war-time alliances between the USA and the U.S.S.R Europe had been divided into two distinct power blocks. Western Europe was under the domination of America and Eastrrn Europe under the control of Russia. Chinese revolution had altered the relationship of forces on a global scale. Korea and Indo-China became the battle ground of cold war. In such a situation the newly independent India was literally on the cross roads. The history of Non-Alignment during the Nehru Era may be divided into three phases.

  1. First phase: 1947 -1950:

The policy of non-alignment originated in the realization that the struggle against colonial exploitation did not come to a close with the formal withdrawal of alien powers. In fact, the policy of non-alignment is a continuation of the struggle of the colonial world against imperialism. The policy of non-alignment as a basic principle of Indian foreign policy was formulated in the initial years of Independence. Nehru firmly rejected UNO’s suggestion of a defense pact between India, Burma, Ceylon and Pakistan lest it would be an extension of Truman Doctrine to South East Asia.

During the formative period, India maintained strict neutrality and at the same time never hesitated to openly criticise the forces of western imperialism, in Asia and Africa, boldly accorded recognition to communist China; recognized West Germany instead of East Germany and declared North Korea as an aggressor. Thus, India had demonstrated that it could pursue an independent foreign policy based on non-alignment. It was a period of Indian neutrality in Cold war.

2) Second phase: 1950-1957

In the next seven years India conceptualized and codified its policy of Non-Alignment. It also enlarged and operationalised this policy during this period. Nehru endeavoured to demonstrate that India was not pro-West and dispel the suspicion of the Soviet Union about the credentials and credibility of India. The demise of Stalin in 1953 led to the liberalization of the Soviet foreign policy. India’s stand in the Korean War and Indo-China conflict, and her recognition of China convinced Russia about the conviction of India to be independent and non-aligned.

3) Third phase: 1957 – 1964

Indian policy of Non-Alignment faced new challenges during this period. Foods crisis of 1957, increasing influence of native communists, want of foriegn exchange and the threatened failure of the Five year plan and India-China border dispute placed India in a tight corner. The validity of the policy of Non-Alignment was questioned. When the Chinese aggressiom took place, the USSR and a number of non-aligned countries did not extend timely support to India. But Britain and America came forward to help India. There was demand for abandoning the policy of Non Alignment. But Nehru refused to abandon this policy at the time of grave crisis. He was amply vindicated when in 1963 Russia criticized Chinese aggression of India and accused her of attempting to drive India to Western camp. By mid-sixties both the super powers started accepting the relevance of India’s policy of non-alignment. There was, of course, a severe setback to Nehru’s policy of non-alignment but it was a fatal blow to its practice during the third phase.


With great foresight Nehru conceptualized, formalized and operationalized the policy of Non-Alignment. He consistently and persistently pursued that policy with hope, courage and determination. The policy not only helped India to keep away from Cold war and military alliances but also to protect and promote Indian economic interests. By staying away from the power blocks, India was in a commanding position to secure the friendship and co-operation with Afro-Asian nations and to develop ties with countries in both sides of the super-divide to suit her interests. The policy was neither immoral nor or opportunistic. Nehru never hesitated to condemn Anglo-French Israeli invasion of Egypt, criticize Soviet intervention in Hungary, disapprove Belgian action in Congo and censure the U.S. support for the “Buy of Pigs” incident involving Cuba.

Keywords: Foreign policy of Nehru

Umme Faheema