The Testing of Non-Alignment

AuthorCecil V. Crabb
Published date01 September 1964
Date01 September 1964
Subject MatterArticles
Vassar College
20, 1962, after nearly five years of mounting border tensions
between India and Red China, Mao Tse-tung’s Himalayan battalions
opened a massive military offensive that brought Chinese penetrations far
into India’s northern provinces. As the Himalayan crisis deepened, American com-
mentators were inclined to interpret events not only as a military debacle for Nehru’s
government, but as a shattering and far-reaching diplomatic defeat as well. &dquo;The
most poignant spectacle in today’s political world,&dquo; one observer concluded, &dquo;is the
Government of India in the wreckage of its whole body of policy and doctrine
An influential journal assured its readers that &dquo;the Chinese attack on India is bring-
ing non-alignment into question throughout the free world.&dquo; 2 Prominent citizens
like former Presidents Truman and Eisenhower reached the same conclusion. Early
in 1963 Eisenhower stated that he was favorably impressed with &dquo;how India has
changed&dquo; diplomatically. In his view, India was &dquo;now forgetting non-alignment.
It is now a different
policy which prevails in that area.&dquo; 3 Four months later, at
a meeting of the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) in Karachi, American
Secretary of State Rusk discussed the Chinese attack upon India. In emphasizing
that no nation militarily &dquo;aligned&dquo; with the West had suffered a comparable attack
by Communist forces, Rusk officially expressed the dominant American conclusion:
India’s foreign policy of non-alignment had induced Communist Chinese aggression.
The logical inference was that the Himalayan crisis demonstrated the bankruptcy of
this policy for India and, pari passu, for other nations who espoused this philosophy.4
NOTE: The author is greatly indebted to the Rockefeller Foundation and to the Faculty Re-
search Committee and administration of Vassar College for supporting the research on
which this article is based. The author bears sole responsibility for its contents.
Joseph C. Harsch in the Christian Science Monitor, November 3, 1962.

Christian Science Monitor, November 10, 1962.
"Interview with Former President Eisenhower," U.S. News and World Report, 54 (January
14, 1963), 61.

New York Times, May 1, 1963. Throughout this article, the terms "neutralism" and "non-
alignment" are used synonymously to describe the foreign policy orientation of Afro-
Asian-Arab countries that remain uncommitted militarily and diplomatically to either the
Western or Communist power blocs. While there are obviously differences in both the
meaning and application of this doctrine as identified with particular countries, broad
agreement nevertheless exists on its most essential element. This is, according to Nehru’s
formulation of the policy as early as 1947, to "avoid foreign entanglements by not joining
one bloc or the other." Stated positively, in the Indian view, it is "to act according to our
own lights and according to the merits of the dispute as they seemed to us." Thus, it is
the determination to conduct an "independent policy" and to avoid the temptation "to
align ourselves with this great power or that and become camp followers in the hope that
some crumbs might fall from their table." For Indian conceptions, see India’s Foreign
Policy (Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, 1961), pp. 26-
28, 31-32, and passim. Indian and other neutralist spokesmen have repeatedly insisted
upon the distinction between a "neutral" and a "neutralist" position in foreign affairs, as
when Nehru stated, "We try to express our opinion with entire independence" : this did
not mean India was a "neutral" country. "India remains non-aligned so far as military
blocs are concerned. But it is not neutral in its search for truth and freedom for all."
Times of India, November 12, 1961. For analagous Egyptian and Indonesian views, see
the Egyptian Gazette, November 17, 1961, and the Times of Indonesia, August 19, 1960.

From the inception of the Himalayan conflict, officials and commentators within
India, and throughout the neutralist world, offered their assessments of its long-run
diplomatic consequences. Spokesmen for Nehru’s government insisted that - in
spite of certain other modifications in governmental programs -
the policy of non-
alignment would continue to guide New Delhi’s approach to global issues.5 Mao
Tse-tung’s treachery, Prime Minister Nehru confessed, &dquo;has shocked us, as it has
shocked a large number of countries.&dquo; He conceded that as a result of Peking’s
aggression, history &dquo;has taken a new turn in Asia and perhaps the world....&dquo; 6 Yet
early in November, Nehru declared in Parliament that the military assistance re-
ceived from Western countries &dquo;is unconditional and without any strings. It does
not, therefore, affect directly our policy of non-alignment which we value. Those
countries which have helped us have themselves recognized this and made it clear
that they do not expect us to leave that policy.&dquo;
A few weeks later, Nehru reiterated that India had &dquo;followed a policy of non-
alignment, and, I believe firmly that this is the right policy.&dquo; 7 This appraisal was
echoed by President Radhakrishnan, who stated on December 19 that in its en-
counter with Communist China, India’s national &dquo;principles&dquo; had been tested &dquo;and
found adequate.&dquo; Among these basic principles, he cited belief in democracy, social-
ist planning, and a foreign policy of non-alignment between cold war power blocs.’
Such affirmation of faith in the neutralist credo were vocally endorsed in other non-
aligned countries. The Yugoslav journal, Borba (reflecting the views of Tito’s gov-
ernment), commended India’s &dquo;consistent position&dquo; in foreign affairs and noted that
New Delhi’s determination to remain non-aligned was a significant decision &dquo;for
international relations as a whole.&dquo; A period of kaleidoscopic change, Borba stated,
was &dquo;not the time to doubt the value of non-alignment; on the contrary, the entire
world development shows that peaceful co-existence [of which non-alignment was
viewed as a corollary] is becoming more and more the dominant expression in inter-
national life.&dquo; 9
This dichotomy -
the wide discrepancy between American and neutralist ap-
praisals of the future of non-alignment after the Himalayan crisis -
provides the
central focus of our analysis. To the American mind, the collapse of India’s northern
defenses symbolized a more basic diplomatic breakdown, requiring drastic and long
overdue modifications in New Delhi’s world view. Officials in Nehru’s government,
on the other hand, together with advocates of non-alignment from west Africa to
east Asia, believed that Peking’s expansionism in no way vitiated the over-all policy
of non-alignment, however much changes might be made in India’s application of it.
Indeed, proponents of this philosophy became convinced that the Himalayan episode
furnished new and even more compelling reasons for remaining uncommitted to
See Indian Express, November 10 and 12, 1962.

Prime Minister on Sino-Indian Relations, Vol. 1, Part 2 (Ministry of External Affairs: New
Delhi, 1963), 139-40.

Foreign Affairs Record, 8 (November 1962), 284-85; Prime Minister on Sino-Indian Rela-
tions, op. cit., p. 205.

India News (Embassy of India: Washington, D.C.), 1 (December 28, 1962), 1.
Quoted in the Statesman, February 1, 1963.

cold war power blocs than formerly-&dquo; By early 1963, for example, Nehru asserted
that events in the Himalayas &dquo;enhanced our prestige in the ~n~orld.&dquo; 11 This develop-
ment was attributed in no small measure to India’s continued attachment to the
neutralist credo.
Prevailing American and neutralist interpretations of the diplomatic conse-
quences of the Himalayan fighting were thus largely antithetical. Whatever else the
Sino-Indian crisis had achieved, it had focused attention sharply upon an increas-
ingly grave and recurrent problem in American relations with governments espous-
ing non-alignment, currently representing one-third of the human race. For the
predominant response in the United States to the Himalayan conflict demonstrated
incontestably that Americans had a most imperfect understanding of the neutralist
mentality, of the major connotations of non-alignment as a foreign policy credo, of
the forces attracting and holding countries to this doctrine, and -
above all - of
the extent to which the doctrine accorded both with the achievement of neutralist
policy goals and with the objectives of the United States in global affairs. In their
crudest, least sophisticated manifestations, American appraisals equated non-align-
ment variously with deliberate or indeliberate appeasement of communism, diplo-
matic myopia, or sheer opportunism in foreign relations. Even among more knowl-
edgeable American observers, non-alignment was frequently held to derive chiefly
from a persistent lack of realism in neutralist capitals in assessing the Communist
danger, to the operation of a double standard when neutralists assessed Western and
Communist diplomatic behavior, or to a Machiavellian indifference in neutralist
circles to crucial global issues, manifested by the tendency of non-aligned states to
seek the best of both worlds in the acquisition of Western or Communist economic
and military assistance. Secretary of State John...

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