India on Friday defended non-alignment, saying there was "no question" it had a "firm and abiding commitment" to the concept that had moulded much of its foreign policy through the decades since independence.
"India remains committed to its ideals," spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs Navtej Sarna said, a day after US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice questioned the relevance of the concept. "Today, its relevance continues in promoting South-South cooperation and the democratisation of the international system," Sarna said.
Speaking at the 32nd anniversary celebrations of the United States India Business Council in Washington, Rice had said non-alignment "had lost its meaning" and "made sense during the Cold War when the world really was divided into rival camps."
She had asked, "As fellow democracies with so many interests and principles in common at a time when people of every culture, every race and every religion are embracing political and economic liberty, what is the meaning of non-alignment?"
While many analysts in India have privately questioned the relevance of non-alignment in formulating policy in today's world, no official was willing to come on record.
Rice's comments that India and the United States should align interests as democracies has also aggravated the UPA government's Left allies, while raising the hackles of sections in the foreign policy establishment, which viewed them as an attempt to mock the foundations of India's independent foreign policy and "infringe on" the country's sovereignty.
A CPI-M politburo statement said the fact that Rice had used the platform of the US-India Business Council to run down NAM and brand it irrelevant had a specific motive. "The US is signaling India not to play an active role in NAM, which has Cuba as its current chairman. The message is being conveyed along with the assurance that the nuclear cooperation agreement can be finalised provided India understands the parameters of the strategic alliance with the United States," the statement added.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said non-alignment was relevant in today's world and the 116-nation Non-Aligned Movement, of which India is a founder member, played a conciliatory role in today's "highly uncertain, insecure world".