Neutrality is an attitude of non-participation or refusal to take sides on any issue irrespective of its merits whereas alignment implies advance declaration of the sides disregarding the merits. Whereas a non-aligned country will judge each case as arises on its merits as it sees it and not as others see it. It is a concept of liberty and freedom at State level.
Neutrality is a concept relevant only in times of war; being aloof from war. Neutrality imposes certain limitations and confers some rights. A neutral country has to prove in practice its neutrality in war.
Non-alignment is a relevant both in peace and war. Non-alignment, on the other hand, believes in furthering one’s own interest in the light of the prevailing circumstances according to one’s own independent judgment, both in peace and war. Non- alignment means freedom from obligations and commitments. Non- alignment does not debar alliance with a country to advance national interests. Even Nehru declared that, “We are free to join an alliance.”
Speaking before the U.S. Congress in 1949, Nehru said, “India cannot and shall not be neutral where freedom is threatened or justice denied. To be neutral would be a denial of all that we stand for.”
The conclusions of the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation and the treaty of Friendship between India and Bangladesh do not detract India from the path of freedom of choice to adjudge her own interests.
Secondly, neutrality is different from non-alignment in the sense that neutral countries acquired this status through or as a result of the provisions contained in either their respective municipal laws, or by international treaties and agreements.
This means the commitment of those countries to neutrality continues irrespective of governmental changes in those countries. The status of Switzerland as a neutral country stands even though the Government changes.
But in case of non-alignment, the commitment of a country may change with change in Government. We find that India under the Janata Government opted for what they termed ‘genuine non-alignment’ which stressed policy of equidistance.