Egypt, under Nasser, played a pioneering role in the formation of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and even now continues to be an important member of the NAM. Egypt has played a key role not only in founding the NAM at the first summit in the Yugoslav capital Belgrade in 1961, but its role started even before the birth of the movement as well, when Egypt played a leading role in developing the idea of its establishment, and then converted this idea into a significant entity on the ground since the very beginning at the 1955 Bandung Conference. In this, Nasser’s vision of afro-Asian solidarity played a prominent role.
After the 1952 Egyptian revolution and the rise of Nasser as an influential figure, his policies affected the entire Arab world. When Nasser adapted Egyptian foreign policy to nonalignment, other Arab radical governments also became neutralist.
Revolutionary Egypt’s neutralism was held by Arab nationalists to free the Middle East from Western domination, although to Western diplomats Nasser’s policies often seemed to be moving precariously close to those of the Soviet bloc. Increasingly, Nasser and his Arab supporters have articulated neutralism as a positive doctrine which gives the Arabs a major voice among non-aligned nations in Asia and in Africa. The revolutionary Arab governments, together with other nonaligned or neutralist governments in Asia and Africa have become an influential political factor in international affairs by virtue of their non- aligned policies.
Increasingly after 1955, Nasser and the Egyptian press emphasized neutralism or nonalignment with either of the world-power blocs as the foreign policy most suitable for the newly liberated colonies of Africa and Asia.
At the Bandung conference, President Gamal Abdul Nasser one of the dynamic leaders of the resurgent Africa observed as follows: “It is my deep conviction that the co-operation among the Asian – African Nations can play a dominant role in the lessening of the present international tension and the promotion of world peace and prosperity. At this time when the United Nations passes through what I may call a crisis, the conference bears a special responsibility, that is to restore to the people of the world by practical steps and concerted action their faith in the reality of international justice and the workability of international cooperation All over the world there is a growing sense of insecurity the fear of war has been aggravated by the development of mass destructive weapons capable of effectively to annihilation”.
President Nasser, in a speech at the Belgrade Conference in September 1961, explained the objectives thus: “There is no power to serve peace like the community of states following the policy of non-alignment. These states which live with the problems of their world, and do not isolate themselves therefore, and which do not submit in their stand vis-a-vis these problems to the pressure of one of the blocs dictating a certain attitude or a line action, these states, inspired by the urge of peace based on justice, irrespective of any other consideration, are more able to place at the service of peace – justly and without bias -all their material and moral potentialities.
In this way, we are in a better position to act freely, with integrity, and without bias, between the two blocs to shorten the gap separating them and consolidate the possibilities of understanding, particularly that the policy of non-alignment has earned the respect of all world powers, including the states within the spheres of the great blocs” Nasser’s vision of a Non-Aligned grouping entailed a collective gathering of the developing South where they could secure their full liberty whether in reviewing the problems, in analysing their details or in finding logical solution to them. In other words, Nasser advocated least interference of power blocs in the foreign policy making of newly independent states of Asia and Africa.
Ruling Egypt from 1954 until his death in 1970, Nasser remains a symbol of dignity, anti-Zionism, anti- colonialism, pan-Arabism, and above all social justice for many. The sentiment expressed by President Nasser and his vision for solidarity of developing countries is relevant even today.
By Dr. Ankit Srivastava, Editor