Unfortunately for the Union of Burma, her emergence as an independent State coincided with the onset of that product of the nuclear age, the cold war. Since the cold war has dominated the international scene, either by drawing other international issues into its orbit so completely as to make them lose their original identity, or by reducing them to relative insignificance, it is not surprising that Burma's foreign policy, like that of every other State, should today tend to be judged by its attitude towards the cold war. Applying the terminology of war to the cold war, the States which, like Burma, refuse to take sides in the cold war have come to be known as the "neutrals." Later, when it became clear that the terminology of war did not quite fit the circumstances of the cold war, attempts were made to find a more apt description. Hence the evolution of the terms "uncommitted" and "unaligned." But these are only slight refinements of the original term "neutral." None of them provides a completely accurate description of the foreign policy of the Union of Burma—which is far more than a more attitude, or a series of unrelated reactions to successive international issues.
The basic content and continuity of Burma's foreign policy has its roots firmly embedded in the nation's past history. It must be recalled that Burma was one of the very last countries in Asia to fall under foreign domination. Although the piecemeal absorption of Burma in the British Empire began in 1823, the Burmese Kingdom remained as an independent political entity until 1885. The territorial losses of 1823 and of 1852, though extremely large, were regarded as temporary in nature, and had nothing like the same effect on the Burmese people as the liquidation of the Kingdom in 1885. This date, 1885, is significant. It points up the fact that Burma did not lose her independence until a hundred years after the United States had won her freedom, and that it was lost at a time when anticolonial forces were already stirring in the world, and when Burmese nationalism was already being kindled. The loss of independence was therefore particularly keenly felt by the Burmese people, and its restoration became an immediate objective. Thus the entire period of British rule after 1885 was in effect a continuous fight for independence. As the struggle intensified, so developed the yearning for independence—independence from the British in the first instance since they were the controlling power, but as later events with the Japanese proved, independence from any and everybody. When therefore, on January 4, 1948, Burma once again became a sovereign independent state, the people were united in the determination that they should never again lose the precious independence which they had just regained. Today, ten years later, the feeling is no less strong.