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PSIR 2B-2 India and the Non-Alignment Movement – Previous Year Questions – Solved

Model Answers to PYQs (2018-2023)

1] “Non-alignment was little more than a rational strategy on the part of a materially weak India to maximize its interests with a bipolar distribution of global power.” Comment. [2021/20m/250w/6a]

Non-alignment is most often represented as either a counter-hegemonic critique of the contemporary world order or a justification for the maximisation of national interest, both describing India’s foreign policy behaviour at certain moments during the last 60 years.

The former viewpoint understands non-alignment as a product of the ‘Gandhian’ legacy in Indian foreign policy, the moral force of a political subjectivity grounded in the non-violent struggle. However, it is less effective in explaining India’s rational choice of building close relations with and support for the Soviet Union from the early 1960s onward, and other inconsistencies in Indian foreign policy.

By the logic of interest maximisation, a policy of non-alignment was the best way of gaining leverage, from competing superpowers seeking to attract newly independent countries to their side. While there are undoubtedly moments in the history of Indian foreign policy when the appearance of such a fence-sitting strategy paid great dividends, it would also be a mistake to reduce the complex history of non-alignment to such a narrow, if omniscient, perspective.

The rational calculation would assess that the uncertainties and costs of maintaining group cohesion of a heterogeneous and militarily weak group of countries, in a highly unequal international system, would far outweigh the benefits of going it alone – yet that is exactly what India did from 1955 to 1960s, taking the lead in helping to create a bloc of countries that have both grown and nominally continued this identification to this day.

This suggests that the core ideas constituting non-alignment were always more than a merely rhetorical cover for the free play of national interests, more to the point is to propose that the analytic choice of rationalist versus ideational arguments in understanding the emergence of non-alignment – as a national policy and as a grouping of countries – does not take us very far. [304 words]

2] Compare and contrast Non-alignment 1.0 with Non-alignment 2.0. [2019/10m/150w/5b]

Non-alignment 1.0 refers to the foreign policy India adopted just after independence. It was a policy to stay away from bloc politics, from both the superpowers.

Due to the experience of colonialism, the country had apprehensions about power politics. Further, there were chances that the east-west conflict may accelerate into war. Ravaged by the British, India was a poor country and could not afford a war.

Due to all these calculations, India had opted to stay away from strategic engagements with any of the Western countries.

Non-alignment 2.0 is a policy suggestion presented by Indian scholars. The document was presented in 2012 and it suggests India take advantage of the opportunities India enjoys in the international sphere. To identify the challenges and threats it is likely to confront; and to define the broad perspective and approach that India should adopt as it works to enhance its strategic autonomy in global circumstances. The purpose of strategic autonomy is that India will get more time and options for its internal developments.

We can put the present foreign policy of India in the words of Mr. Vijay Gokhale, former foreign secretary as ‘issue-based alignment’, rather than non-alignment. [194 words]

The post contains answers to the last 6-year papers i.e. (2023-2018). Answers to the previous year questions from 2013-2017 are a part of our book PSIR Optional Model Answers to PYQs (2013-2022)

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