The emergence of the Third World
The independence movement led to the emergence of a series of countries that did not belong to the Western bloc or the Soviet bloc. These countries had various features in common, including underdevelopment and rapid demographic growth, and they became known collectively as the ‘Third World’, an expression coined by French economist and demographer Alfred Sauvy in 1952.
The term Third World has long served to describe countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America that have been seen to share relatively low per-capita incomes, high rates of illiteracy, limited development of industry, agriculture-based economies, short life expectancies, low degrees of social mobility, and unstable political structures. The 120 countries of the Third World also share a history of unequal encounters with the West, mostly through colonialism and globalization.
During the Cold War (1945–1991), Third World referred to countries that were relatively minor players on the international stage, strategic though they sometimes were to the United States and the Soviet Union as these superpowers sought to maintain their balance of terror. The tendency was to essentialize, oversimplify, and homogenize complex identities and diversities in the political systems of the Third World by focusing too narrowly on the politics of bipolarity. Yet the so-called Third World countries always had many more divergences than similarities in their histories, cultures, demographies, climates, and geographies, and a great variation in capacities, attitudes, customs, living standards, and levels of underdevelopment or modernization.
The concept of first, second and third world is outdated and a relic of the cold war. The first world was US & its allies, second world was USSR & its communist allies and third world was neutral, non-aligned nations. India is a third world country, and so is Sweden, Switzerland, Ireland, etc.
In the 1950s, five newly independent Asian countries (India, Pakistan, Ceylon, Burma and Indonesia) took the initiative to rally the Third-World countries to form a united front against colonisation. On 17 April 1955, the first Afro–Asian Conference was held in Bandung in a bid by Third-World countries to consolidate their position on the international stage.
The 1956 Suez Crisis illustrated these new international power relationships. In Egypt, on 26 July 1956, President Gamal Abdel Nasser, a champion of pan-Arabism, announced the nationalisation of the Suez Canal Company. The Suez Crisis directly threatened the interests of France, the United Kingdom and Israel, leading to a trial of strength that culminated in a joint military operation by the three countries against the former British protectorate in October 1956. The dogged efforts by France and Britain to safeguard their economic and financial interests at the expense of a developing country prompted the involvement of the international community.