A fresh strategy has gained some currency as a part of new discourse and practice in international politics. It is being called ANA – Active Non-Alignment promoted and pursued so far by Latin American countries. India, as the founder of NAM – Non-Alignment Movement, seven decades ago, is expected to jump on the bandwagon and perhaps become one of its leading lights. Let us however, pontificate about the viability of the concept as NAM was dead long ago. The new concept is pre-fixed by the word ‘active’, which makes it vibrant, claim its proponents.
Understandably, NAM operated from a position of neutrality, not participating in the affairs of the world, led or instigated by either of the blocs, US and NATO on the one hand and Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact on the other. ANA enjoins its adherents to actively participate in global activities in a non-partisan manner. That is the moot point. Is it possible to create a new bloc of countries of the Global South in order to lead the world on some issues? Is it credible to envisage that it can mediate between the two competing powers or antagonist blocs? Say, for instance, as it is claimed by some that the war in Ukraine could be ended by deploying the strategy of ANA quite unlikely.
Generally, the proposition (ANA) is not supported by any tangible evidence in the history of international politics, or by the national political culture or structures. So, before we assess the workability of ANA, the new incarnation of NAM, let us trace its origin. ANA emerged in 2019 in Latin America and developed in 2020 in response to the US-China spar for supremacy. Latin American countries, caught in the middle, were to take a call on which side to turn. They seemed to have taken a leaf out of NAM and improvised on it by adding a key word, ‘active’. ANA takes world developments on a case-by-case basis manifested in a balanced approach.
Thus, Latin American governments could participate in China-Community of Latin American and Caribbean states in Mexico City, and the Democracies Summit in Washington D.C. They seem to emulate India, as New Delhi is a part of Quad with the US as well as BRICS and SCO which include China. They applaud India for its balanced (Non-Aligned) stand in the Ukraine war. They believe India could play a pivotal role in brokering peace in Ukraine as China may. ANA is not passive neutrality but is actively engaging in finding solutions to world problems. It will be historic if that happens. But it has a thin probability for the following reasons. And worse, it risks loss of credibility in being proverbially seen as, “running with the hare and hunting with the hounds”.
Quite apparently, ANA seeks to represent a ‘third force’ in international politics which obviously cannot influence the other two forces fiercely competing for world leadership. In the race for being the numero uno, one of the two may win or both settle one way or the other to share the space at the top. The world has always been largely divided into two blocs. Countries may join or opt out of any of these two groups. But they could not create a third power centre. History shows clearly the configuration of world powers into two groups. The First World War was fought between the ‘central powers’ – Germany, Austria-Hungry, Bulgaria and the Ottoman empire, and the Allied powers comprising Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Romania, Canada, Japan and the United States.
Likewise, the Second World War brought two groups into the contest: the Axis powers (Germany, Italy and Japan) and the Allies (France, Great Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States). In the aftermath of the Second World War, the Cold War began between USA and its allies, and the Soviet Union and its satellite states. This phase continued till the break-up of Soviet Union in 1991. Since then, we have been experiencing a uni-polar world led by the United States.
The proponents of ANA reckon that the world is on the verge of a second cold war, this time between US and China. It is not established yet. The United States and the Soviet Union were engaged in confrontation, collaboration and negotiation at several fronts. But there have been no US-China summits on world affairs so far, although there are bilateral interactions and transactions as all other countries do. Remember, the historic disarmament talks between US and the Soviet Union, which ironically escalated the arms race between them and across the world.
Admittedly, the mark of strength of a country has changed from military to economy. The rivalry in the past between two superpowers was militarily in nature focussing on security. Now the engagement is economic. Yet, the US and China as two world powers, between themselves, have not negotiated the nature and structure of the economy of the world. There is no single major event in the world which has been influenced only by these two countries; either US has done it alone or through a multilateral forum.
Secondly, at national level, the political power is shared between two major political forces (parties) or two coalitions forged by parties. The Communist political system and autocracies are run by a single party whereas democratic politics is played out by two parties or two alliances. Democracies are so structured as to necessitate the constitution of a majority in the legislatures. So, the ‘third force’ has to go with either of the coalition to be effective in governance. It could, however, remain a voice of Non-Alignment without any impact on policy making. The same is the story on international politics. The third bloc has remained marginal.
Things could change. India could, through ANA, bring an end to the pathetic and devastating war in Ukraine and restore a rule-based world order. China could do the same. But it is not Non-Aligned. So, in the current formulation, China is out. The success of India and ANA could create history but as the proverbial dictum goes, “the proof of pudding is in the eating”. At any rate, more power to the new concept! —INFA