Non-Alignment, 1946–1965: Its Establishment and Struggle against Afro-Asianism

The President and the Prime Minister desire to proclaim that the policy of non-alignment adopted and pursued by their respective countries is not “neutrality” or neutralism and therefore passivity as sometimes alleged, but is a positive, active and constructive policy seeking to lead to a collective peace.

—Text of joint statement by Marshal Josip Tito and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, December 23, 19541


For many observers both then and now, the famous meeting of Yugoslavia’s Josip Broz Tito, Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser, and India’s Jawaharlal Nehru on the Adriatic Island of Brioni in mid-July 1956 stands for the foundation of the Non-Aligned Movement. Yet much of the event remains shrouded in mystery, largely because primary documentation is either inaccessible or lost.2 The Brioni myth mainly rests on the charisma of the three leaders and the stunning beauty of the location, which both overshadow the substance of their conversations. Nehru later complained about the advance publicity given to the trilateral meeting that he himself considered just a “friendly call.” He also bemoaned Tito’s and Nasser’s propensity of having strong opinions and promoting empty slogans.3 In the absence of a clear purpose for the talks, it was the Indian prime minister who proposed to issue a communiqué that included, among other issues, the endorsement of the “ten principles” of the final statement that the Bandung Conference of the Afro-Asian Movement had adopted in April 1955.4 Nehru left Brioni without the impression or the expectation that the meeting had spawned a movement. In the following four years, he also consistently opposed Tito’s and Nasser’s repeated calls for a conference of a larger number of like-minded states.

The Cold War–era historiography on non-alignment is vast but tends to be politicized and inaccurate. It is responsible for the many myths that surround a group of states whose activities filled newspapers around the globe in the late 1950s and the 1960s. The movement has outlived the superpower conflict, although it no longer attracts much political or academic interest. In the two decades after the end of the Cold War, only a small number of academic works have been published on the topic.5 Two recent books—an English-language edited volume and a Serbian-language monograph—that both exploit some of the recently opened archives have helped to refocus scholarly attention.6 Several publications explore the foreign policies of non-aligned India, Yugoslavia, and Egypt in general on the basis of newly available archival material.7

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