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Jyoti Kataria asked: Was there any contribution of Vietnam in the Non-Aligned Movement?

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  • Udai Bhanu Singh replies: The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) formally began some 60 years ago with the first summit at Belgrade in 1961 but Vietnam joined it only in 1976. Vietnam, like the other developing countries of Asia and Africa, used NAM to raise its voice for safeguarding national sovereignty, protesting against imposition and intervention from outside and pushing for world peace, and improving the international environment for cooperation and development. NAM (and working with it, Vietnam) sought the resolution of international conflicts by working within the UN system and its various bodies. It also helped that Vietnam has had (non-permanent) membership of the UN Security Council (UNSC) intermittently over the years (Vietnam is again a non-permanent UNSC member since January 1, 2020).

    With the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, Vietnam began to re-examine its foreign policy and NAM was also required to repurpose and reinvent itself in the light of the changed international environment especially on how it should respond to regional conflicts involving nonaligned states. Vietnam which hitherto had a special relationship with the Soviet Union still needed to counterbalance Chinese pressures and to that end opted for an omnidirectional foreign policy in the 1990s. Besides the intimations of a new United States-China Cold War, NAM is also confronted with new challenges relating to the environment and the pandemic in recent times.

    Vietnam’s non-alignment policy was built around the ‘Three Nos’ principle: no participation in military alliances, no foreign bases on Vietnamese territory, and no reliance on any alignment with a second country against a third. However, Vietnam has made some changes to its policy in its latest defence white paper released on November 25, 2019. This happened in the wake of China’s aggressive actions in the South China Sea and pursuit of its Belt and Road Initiative on the one hand and the emerging concept of Indo-Pacific on the other. Vietnam has stated its readiness to participate in security and defence mechanisms in the Indo-Pacific region, including cooperation with the United States “depending on circumstances and specific conditions”. Thus, Vietnam indirectly has presented strategic opportunities for the United States.

    Posted on February 25, 2021

    Views expressed are of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manohar Parrikar IDSA or the Government of India.