It was Nehru who gave this voice a shape to the idea of non-alignment and an organizational cohesion through the non-aligned movement. The immediate context for emergence of this movement was the division of the world into two hostile blocs after World War II, one led by the US and the western powers and the other by the Soviet Union. Nehru's understanding was that newly independent, poor countries of Asia and Africa had nothing to gain and everything to lose by falling for the temptation of joining the military blocs of the big powers. Their interests lay in expanding the ‘area of peace’, not of war, or hostility. India, therefore, neither joined nor approved of the Baghdad Pact, the Manila Treaty, SEATO, and CENTO, which joined the countries of West and East Asia to the western power bloc. However, India went far beyond just neutrality or staying out of military.
A basic objective of Indian foreign policy that of extending support to colonial and ex-colonial countries in their struggle against colonialism was well served by the policy of non-alignment. Nehru constantly emphasized that peaceful co-existence of countries with different ideologies, differing systems, was a necessity, and believed that nobody had a monopoly on the truth and pluralism was a fact. To this end, he outlined the five principles of peaceful coexistence, or Panch Sheel, for conducting relations among countries. These were mutual respect for each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty, non-aggression, non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence.
In March 1947, at his inspiration, an Asian Relations Conference attended by more than twenty countries was held in Delhi. The tone of the conference was Asian independence and assertion on the world stage. While this conference concerned itself with general issues, the next one was called in response to a very specific problem: the Dutch attempt to re-colonize Indonesia in December 1948. Nehru invited states bordering the Indian Ocean, and most Asian countries as well as Australia came. The conference resolved to deny all facilities to Dutch shipping, and sent its resolutions to the UN. Within a week, the Security Council resolved that a ceasefire is declared, and the Indonesian national government be restored. The de-colonization initiative was carried forward further at the Afro-Asian conference called by India and other Colombo powers in Bandung, Indonesia, in 1955. The conference was also a precursor to the Belgrade Non-aligned Conference, as it passed resolutions on world peace and the dangers of nuclear weapons. The pinnacle of Nehru's efforts was reached in 1961 when he stood with Nasser of Egypt and Tito of Yugoslavia to call for nuclear disarmament and peace in Belgrade.
By not tying India to any one bloc, enabled her to develop economic ties with countries on both sides of the divide as and when she needed. She needed and got capital, technology, machines, and food from the western countries. She also relied, especially after 1954, on the Soviet Union for building up her public sector industries. For military equipment, India spread her net everywhere across the ideological divide. In the Nehru years alone she bought, for example, for the Air Force, 104 Toofani aircraft from France, 182 Hunters and 80 Canberras from UK, 110 Mysters from France, 16 AN-12s and 26 Mi-4 helicopters from the Soviet Union and 55 Fairchild Packets from the US. 230 Vampire aircraft were produced under licence from UK in India. For the Navy and Army as well, similar purchases were made. In addition, efforts were made to establish a defence production base and licences were obtained from various foreign countries to produce the following equipment: Gnat interceptor aircraft from UK, HS-748 transport aircraft from UK, Allouette Helicopters from France, MiG interceptors from Soviet Union, L-70 anti-aircraft guns from Sweden, Vijayanta tanks from UK, Shaktiman trucks from Germany, Nissan one-ton truck and Jonga-jeeps from Japan, Brandt mortars from France, 106 mm recoilless guns from US, Sterling carbines from UK, wireless sets from different countries.
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