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From Non Alignment to Multi Alignment

  • 03 Aug 2022
  • 10 min read

This editorial is based on “Decoding India’s new multi-alignment plan” which was published in Hindustan Times on 02/08/2022. It talks about the India’s shift from non-alignment to multi alignment and International North-South Transport Corridor.

For Prelims: Non Alignment Movement, India’s Foreign Policy, BRICS, Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, Bandung Conference 1955, International North-South Transport Corridor, Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, Neighbourhood First Policy

For Mains: History of Non-Alignment in India, India’s Current Foreign Policy, Contemporary Challenges for India’s Foreign Policy

While the Cold War (US-USSR) was raging and shaking international politics, in the initial two decades following India’s independence, India’s foreign policy was heavily determined by the policy of non-alignment, which later became a full-fledged movement and forum of discussion in 1961 (Non Alignment Movement).

But today, India skillfully maneuvers between China-led or Russia-led groupings such as the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), along with its involvement in US-led groupings such as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), in which Japan and Australia are also members.

In order to understand the practicality of multi-alignment, we need to flip back a few pages of history to understand the non-alignment approach first.

What is the History of Non-Alignment in India?

  • The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) was created and founded during the collapse of the colonial system and the independence struggles of the peoples of Africa, Asia, Latin America and other regions of the world and at the height of the Cold War.
  • In 1960, it was at the fifteenth ordinary session of the United Nations General Assembly that the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries was created, resulting in the admission of 17 new African and Asian members.
    • The then Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru also promoted the concept of ‘non-alignment’, or equidistance of the ‘third world’ from the two superpowers of the Cold War. These concepts found their way to the Bandung Conference of 1955.
      • The primary objectives of the non-aligned countries focused on the support of self-determination, national independence and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States, non-adherence to multilateral military pacts.
  • By the end of the 1980s, the Movement was facing the great challenge brought about by the collapse of the socialist block. The end of the clash between the two antagonistic blocks that was the reason for its existence, name and essence was seen by some as the beginning of the end for the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries.

What is India’s New Multi-Alignment Approach?

  • Multi-Alignment: It is a series of parallel relationships that strengthen multilateral partnerships and seek a common approach among the grouping towards security, economic equity and the elimination of existential dangers like terrorism. Below are a few forums where India's Multi-Alignment Approach is clearly evident:
    • International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC): A 7,200-kilometer multi-modal transport corridor that combines road, rail and maritime routes, connecting Saint Petersburg (Russia) to Mumbai.
      • International North-South Transport Corridor offers a platform for India to collaborate with Russia, Iran, and the Central Asian Republics towards fostering a Eurasian Free Trade Area.
      • Once fully operational, INSTC is expected to reduce freight costs by 30% and the journey time by 40% compared to the deep-sea route via the Suez Canal.
    • BRICS: BRICS is an acronym for the grouping of the world’s leading emerging economies, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, seeks for economic, political and security cooperation including people-to-people exchange through a well-planned mechanism.
      • India was instrumental in co-founding the New Development Bank (NDB), a new multilateral initiative expected to rival the World Bank.
    • Shanghai Cooperation Organization: SCO is a Eurasian political, economic and military organization aiming to maintain peace, security and stability in the region.
      • Membership: Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan.
        • Iran and Belarus are likely to be the two newest additions.
      • From SCO, China and Russia are looking to counter the West, especially the expansion of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization).
    • Quadrilateral Security Dialogue: QUAD is the informal strategic dialogue between India, USA, Japan and Australia with a shared objective to ensure and support a “free, open and prosperous” Indo-Pacific region and counter China.

What is India’s Current Foreign Policy ?

  • Sammaan: Respect for every nation’s sovereignty
  • Samvaad: Greater engagement with all countries.
  • Suraksha: Security; India is a responsible power-neither aggression nor adventurism exists in its DNA
  • Samriddhi: Shared prosperity
  • Sanskriti and Sabhyata: The persuasive reach of cultural values anchored in a philosophy which believes that the world is a family.

What are the Contemporary Challenges for India’s Foreign Policy?

What Should be the Way Forward?

  • Strengthening Ties with Neighbors: India should make valiant efforts to improve relations with some of its neighbors such as Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.
  • Thinking Beyond Geo-Political: It is imperative to expand the focus of India's foreign policy agenda beyond the traditional thinking of geopolitical boundaries to address issues such as regulatory oversight of trans-boundary digital giants, big data management, trade issues and disaster relief.
  • G20 in 2023: India's presidency of G20 in 2023 will give it the chance to weave geoeconomic themes with geopolitical interests. Until now, India has played the role of an emerging power trying to become a global power. The G20 summit of 2023 will allow India to articulate and be proactive on issues that matter to the world.


  • Therefore, a multi-alignment approach preserving certain prominent values of non-alignment is good for India's interests and advancing towards “Vasudeva Kutumbakam''.

Drishti Mains Question

“India’s foreign policy is shifting from non-alignment to multi alignment approach”. Comment.

UPSC Civil Services Examination, Previous Year Question (PYQ)

Q.1 Among the following Presidents of India, who was also the Secretary General of Non-Aligned Movement for some period? (2009)

(a) Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
(b) Varahagiri Venkatagiri
(c) Giani Zail Singh
(d) Dr. Shanker Dayal Sharma

Ans: (c)

Q.2 Consider the following statements: (2016)

  1. New Development Bank has been set up by APEC.
  2. The headquarters of New Development Bank is in Shanghai.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only 
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Ans: (b)

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