Rajya Sabha MP and Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi tweeted that Foreign Minister S Jaishankar’s comments on the GLOBSEC 2022 forum on Friday (June 3) were “Pandit Nehru’s nonaligned movement succinctly explained”.
The Non-Aligned Movement is irrelevant to India’s current geostrategic situation and position in the world. A comparison between Jaishankar’s comments and something said by India’s first prime minister would be superficial. There is, however, a certain similarity in the words and stances of both leaders, which underscore a common thread in India’s foreign policy that has endured over the decades.
Comments from Jaishankar
The Foreign Minister took part in a discussion on India’s foreign policy. He referred to the government’s decision to continue purchasing oil and gas from Russia, saying: “Europe must grow out of the mindset that Europe’s problems are the world’s problems, but the world’s problems are are not Europe’s problems.”
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Jaishankar’s comments showed India’s unwillingness to join the US and Europe’s strategy of sanctions against Russia. When asked where India fits into the picture where there will be two power camps led by the US and China, Jaishankar disagreed with the idea that India should choose an axis to join.
“This is the construct you are trying to impose on me and I do not accept it,” he said, rejecting the need for India to take a side. “I’m one-fifth of the world’s population, I’m the fifth or sixth largest economy in the world today, I mean forget about history, civilization, everyone knows I, think I’m entitled to my own side,” he said.
The minister’s comments take on significance as both Russia and the US and its allies in Europe have looked to India for its close ties to countries on both sides of the conflict. India has maintained a delicate balancing act, taking positions based on principles and its national interests, refusing to be forced to choose one side over the other.
speech of Nehru
It is not clear which speech of Nehru is being compared to the statements of Jaishankar in this case. However, Nehru spoke about Europe at the United Nations General Assembly in November 1948 – this was at a time when India had recently gained independence and it had only been three years since the UN had been established.
Nehru’s speech began with a comment about Europe: “As a representative of Asia, may I say that we honor Europe for its culture and for the great advances in human civilization it represents?”
He added some criticism: “Can I say that we are equally interested in solving European problems; but may I also say that the world is something bigger than Europe, and that you will not solve your problems by thinking that the world’s problems are mainly European problems? There are large parts of the world that in the past, for a few generations, may not have participated much in world affairs. But they are awake.”
Nehru pointed to the problems of hunger and basic necessities that hit third world countries most severely. He said: “It is strange that when the world lacks so many things, food and other necessities for the world and people are starving, the attention of this Assembly of Nations is only concentrated on a number of political problems. There are also economic problems. I wonder if it would be possible for this Assembly to take some time off from some of the acute political problems it faces, and allow the minds of the people to settle down and watch to the vital and pressing economic problems, and to look at places in the world where food is lacking.”
The first prime minister also noted that while India was not directly involved in some of the issues discussed, its representation mattered.
“I feel strongly about this matter and that is why I would like to put forward the views and wishes of the Indian people. And the people of India happen to number three hundred and thirty million; it’s good to remember that,” he said.
The context in which Nehru spoke
Nehru’s speech was intended to explain the own position of an independent India in an era when competitions for supremacy would soon take place between two superpowers – the USSR and the US. , as the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) was founded in 1961.
Under non-alignment, India and other recently independent countries that emerged from colonial rule tried to be truly independent in their decision-making and foreign policy. They jointly decided to support each other and not choose one side over the other in the crises and conflicts that arose at the time as a result of the Cold War.
The USSR and the US were often engaged in indirect wars at the time, as in Korea and Vietnam, but countries like India supported the cause of the independence of colonized countries instead of taking sides with one of the two superpowers.
Over time, the movement began to lose importance with the collapse of the USSR, as more and more countries began to develop closer ties with the US. However, India has continued to follow the underlying principle of non-alignment by not joining military alliances or blocs to date.
‘The India Way: Strategies for an Uncertain World’, written by Jaishankar in 2020, mentions the non-aligned approach that India took: “It gave India the leadership opportunity to build its own constituency and brand over the years fifty. †
He wrote: “Hedging is a delicate exercise, whether it be non-alignment and strategic autonomy… or multiple obligations of the future. But in a multipolar world there is no escaping it.”
This belief in multipolarity was reflected in the comments he made on Friday, when he rejected the idea of two camps and affirmed India’s position.